Boisterous, intelligent, and athletic, Australian shepherds are incredible working dogs with tons of energy, huge personalities, and endless affection for their chosen people.
As they’ve become more and more popular as companion dogs in North America, more people are considering bringing this energetic breed home.
The question is, can you handle them? Are Australian shepherds good for first-time owners? Read on to find out!
Are Australian Shepherds Good For A First-Time Dog Owner?
No, Australian shepherds are not good for a first-time dog owner. They have a lot of needs and requirements that can make them challenging to care for, even among more experienced owners!
5 Reasons An Australian Shepherd Would Not Make A Good First Dog
1. Extremely High Intelligence
People often mistake high intelligence in a dog as a desirable trait for all owners, but that intelligence comes with a huge set of challenges!
As one of the world’s smartest breeds, Australian shepherds may be easy to train, but they’re also hard to maintain control over.
These dogs are very clever and can find ways to outwit inexperienced owners, even taking advantage of a lack of confidence from those training them.
In order words, you need to make it clear that you’re smarter than them, or they’ll perceive you as someone they can trick or workaround!
This high intelligence also lends itself to the breed’s tendency for escape artistry and breaking into places they shouldn’t get to.
They can learn to open doors, find weaknesses in fencing, and set off chain reactions to get what they want!
2. High Training Needs
Training is non-negotiable for all dog breeds, but it’s even more of a must-do for Australian shepherds.
When not trained, their aforementioned intelligence means they’ll act like they’re in charge and will focus on outsmarting you over following commands.
Even when they’re loyal to you and consider you their leaders, Australian shepherds can be overly destructive when not trained. This is due to boredom, a lack of proper companionship, and insufficient tasks to follow.
Basically, Australian shepherds need work. They need something to do. Just lounging around and performing a few “sits” and “stays” isn’t going to cut it.
Training while adding tricks and complex commands to the mix is crucial for Australian shepherds, and this is a tall order for new owners.
3. High Dominance
As you’ve probably already guessed by now, Australian shepherds have very dominant personalities.
First-time dog owners can be intimidated or overwhelmed by how in control they need to stay to manage an Australian shepherd’s personality. If left to their own devices, these dogs will rule the house!
4. Extremely High Energy Levels
Australian shepherds have boundless energy. These dogs need to get a lot of exercise every single day, or else they’ll begin to act out and behave destructively, exhibiting bad behavior due to the build-up of stress and energy.
Long walks or hikes are ideal for Australian shepherds. At the age of adulthood, these dogs also love being running companions. But if you live a sedentary lifestyle and don’t walk around outdoors much, Australian shepherds will completely wear you out.
These high energy needs also mean that Australian shepherds need a good amount of space to run around in, preferably for prolonged periods of time. Not all first-time dog owners are going to have that capacity.
Due to the breed’s intelligence, these spaces have to be carefully confined so that these expert escape artist dogs can’t easily break out to explore the wider world!
5. High Need For Attention
If you’re a special person to an Australian shepherd, it can become so attached at the hip to you that you struggle to draw some boundaries to keep the dog otherwise occupied.
First-time dog owners can be flustered trying to figure out how best to respond to this breed’s incessant need for non-stop affection and attention.
While they can be taught to be independent, these dogs are hard to separate from their owners and can exhibit severe signs of separation anxiety if not given enough attention.
3 Reasons Why An Australian Shepherd Could Be A Good First Dog
1. Eagerness To Please
The American Kennel Club considers Australian shepherds to be dogs that are extremely eager to please. This makes them highly trainable, which is good considering how much training these dogs often need!
These dogs are very smart and very loyal, so they’re happy to learn new things and follow commands, as long as you’re consistent about them.
2. Reasonable Grooming Requirements
Australian shepherds aren’t the easiest dogs to groom, but their needs are relatively simple. They don’t drool almost at all and, despite their double coats, don’t need excessive grooming, especially if they’ll be mostly outdoors.
Better yet, their coats are waterproof, so they don’t need baths very often unless they get very dirty!
Weekly brushings are often sufficient to keep an Australian shepherd’s fur in check. In shedding season, you may need to brush it every two or three days with a couple of different brushes.
But, overall, this type of care is quite minimal compared to other dogs with coats like this.
3. Eagerness To Work
Remember all those reasons Australian shepherds are not often a good first dog?
Well, if it turns out that you’re a first-time dog owner who is seeking a dog specifically for the sake of training a dog to work or do a job, you can overcome many of those difficulties!
The reason Australian shepherds are often such bad first dogs is simply that most people don’t have the capacity to provide them with the training, exercise, and engaging tasks they need.
If you will be providing those things, then while an Australian shepherd can be challenging, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog breed more eager to be put to work.
Many dogs aren’t naturally interested in working or performing time-consuming, energy-draining tasks. Australian shepherds, however, are eager to do these jobs and will thoroughly enjoy a busy life.
So if that’s the kind of life you have, an Australian shepherd can be a great dog to go on that journey with.
4 Tips For Owning An Australian Shepherd As A First Dog
1. Get The Dog As A Puppy
Australian shepherds are challenging to get under control as adults, so starting your ownership off at the age of puppyhood is crucial for a first-time owner.
You’ll get the chance to display your dominance and get into the swing of things early on, so your dog grows up knowing that you’re in charge and being devoted to you.
Training and socialization are also best done at as young an age as possible with Australian shepherds. This helps them to grow in an environment that fosters good behavior while teaching them the lessons they’ll need.
2. Prioritize Varied Energy Outlets
The most important part of owning an Australian shepherd well is catering to the breed’s extensive energy-related needs. Your lifestyle should focus on allowing as much activity as possible for your dog, preferably with you involved!
On top of that, try to vary these outlets so that your Australian shepherd feels engaged. Walks and hikes are one great outlet, for example, but they should be paired with other things like active play that involves running, outdoor yard time, training, puzzles, and games.
This will ensure that your Australian shepherd is always sufficiently entertained and won’t become bored and act out from pent-up stress.
It’s also a great idea to train your dog to perform various simple tasks, like fetching items for you or running an obstacle or agility course. This is a great form of enrichment for a dog as intelligent and athletic as an Australian shepherd.
3. Reinforce With Positivity
Punishing an Australian shepherd for poor behavior will quickly turn the dog against you, making it even harder to train. This is a surefire way to lose your dog’s trust and loyalty.
Instead, focus on rewarding behavior that you want to keep seeing. The intelligent breed will pick up on the cause and effect and continue performing the right behavior to get its rewards!
4. Never Stop Socializing
Australian shepherds can be overly protective of their loved ones, to the point of being aggressive or harsh with strangers and other animals.
Regular socialization should be a common part of this dog’s routine for its entire life to prevent complications in this vein.
How To Evaluate If An Australian Shepherd Is Right For You
To evaluate your suitability for the breed, begin by checking off the practical factors. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have enough space for a dog with this much energy to roam and run in your yard?
- Do you have the time to devote to extremely regular training, lots of walks, and tons of attention for your dog?
- Is your lifestyle suitably active for an Australian shepherd, and if it isn’t, are you willing to make big, permanent lifestyle changes for a dog?
- Are you confident in your ability to train a dominant dog and can you maintain that confidence so you stay in the dominant position?
- Will you be able to ensure that your home is entirely dog-proof in a way that keeps out the high intelligence of an Australian shepherd?
- Can you continually socialize an Australian shepherd so it is relaxed and accepting of other people and animals?
With Australian shepherds, there’s no room for negotiation. If you’re not absolutely sure that you can take on the mighty personality and many needs of this breed, it’s best to opt for other dogs instead.
If you’re an active, confident person seeking a dog to join you on your hikes and long walks, and if you can provide ample space and time to devote to a dog, Australian shepherds could be right for you. And if you need a working dog to train to perform tasks, this dog will certainly be a great choice, even if you’re a first-time owner!
But if not, stick to breeds that are more known for their first-time owner-friendliness. Australian shepherds are a wonderful breed, they just aren’t the best for most first-time dog owners.