Why the Australian Shepherd is the Best Adventure Dog

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Why the Australian Shepherd is the Best Adventure Dog

We take our Australian Shepherd, Sora with us everywhere, including a two-year bicycle tour across Europe and South America. With all that time spent together, we’ve come to appreciate her in so many ways, most of all, her adaptability. She is the quintessential best adventure dog and she’s seen it all. We have hiked in the Peruvian Andes, cycled over 10,000 km across two continents, stand up paddle boarded in Bend, Oregon, spent the night in a fire tower, and cross country skied in deep snow. Name the adventure, she’s likely done it.

But this wasn’t always the case. When I adopted Sora in 2008, from Family Dogs New Life in Portland, OR, I didn’t know what to expect. My only experience with dogs was with non-herding breeds, and it’s clear Sora has some Australian Shepherd in her linage.

As Sora settled into her life with my Rat Terrier, Maxwell and me, it was clear from the beginning that training was going to be key. Sora was so smart and teaching her basic training commands only took a few treats and positive enforcement. But left alone with her energy and smarts meant trouble. She suffered from separation anxiety and was destructive when I left. I was in over my head, I had no idea how to handle high energy herding breeds. With the help of a dog knowledgeable friend, I put together a comprehensive treat-based reinforcement training plan. After many months of training, both at home and professionally, she evolved into the ideal adventure companion. We eventually learned to take advantage of our proximity to nature living in Portland, OR and would spend weekends hiking, mountain biking, and exploring the woods. I soon knew that I found my best outdoor friend. 

As we’ve traveled through South America and Europe, we are often asked the same question.

Would you adopt an Australian Shepherd, again?

Without a doubt, absolutely!

We are are very much in love this breed after our experience with Sora. They’re a perfect match for active people who love to play outside.

We think the Australian Shepherd makes the best adventure dog because they’re:

  • intelligent
  • well-behaved
  • agile
  • adaptable
  • high energy  
  • athletic



Intelligent

Australian Shepherds are known for being one of the smartest breeds out there. Sora knows at least a dozen tricks and has little trouble learning new ones, even at 12 years old. Compared to other dogs we’ve had, it’s apparent that Sora has a strong appetite for learning. We have been able to teach her to “load up” into a bike trailer, “go potty” on command, to herd sheep (and squirrels), and even play reward-based puzzle games (like the Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy.

Of course, with intelligence comes responsibility. If left alone, an Australian Shepherd can become destructive as they’re easily bored when not provided a job. When I first adopted Sora, I solved her destruction issues through basic obedience training classes, agility classes, and taking her sheep herding. We started a series of regularly scheduled training classes at our local humane society. When those classes were done, I took her to an agility class and started sheep herding lessons with her. Within months, Sora went from a scared and nervous dog to one with the confidence of a well-trained working dog.

Sora’s intelligence enables her to pick up new tasks, routines, and activities with ease.  We recently took her stand up paddle boarding for the first time and she took to the sport like a pro. Because of her willingness to learn and ease of picking up new commands, she understood exactly what we asked of her and remained calm while we paddled. On cycle tour, she learned what we wanted when she ran  alongside our bikes on leash, understanding where we needed her to be so as not to knock us off balance or risk her getting caught in our wheels. Since the Australian Shepherd aims to please, particularly with exercise-based endeavors, training them to do what you need is usually a piece of cake. 

Pro tip: All dogs need training. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” dog and the individual training needs vary depending on their history, genes, and socialization. The more effort put into training, the better the dog’s behavior will be, regardless of breed.

Australian Shepherd Stand Up Paddle Boarding - The Best Adventure Dog

Personality

Australian Shepherds have a curious, yet playful personality. They’re loyal and want to please their humans. In fact, at home, Sora is like glue and will actually lay on our legs when we’re hanging out. When adventuring, having a dog that likes to be at your side important, especially in nature where there are loads of distractions, things to chase, and dangers like tree limbs, cliffs, and other animals. 

Similarly, the Australian Shepherd never runs out of gas, so when you’re outside and not active, it’s game on. They are herding dogs and like to work. Be prepared for an Australian Shepherd to want to “tame” skateboarders, horses, or anything that moves fast. In fact, while camping along the Croatian coast, Sora developed a love for “water sheep” (jet skis) and now barks excitedly from the shore in attempt to herd them in place despite the large stretch of water separating her and the aforementioned “water sheep.”

Australian Shepherds have endless energy.  - The Best Adventure Dog

Australian Shepherds have endless energy.



Athletic

We can run Sora all day long and she won’t get tired. We’ve run a  20-mile  race with her and she still had leftover energy after we crossed the finish line. The Australian Shepherd, is known for working in the fields and moving livestock for long periods of time without tiring. 

For adventures, the Australian Shepherd is always eager to get outside and exercise. They excel in running, hiking, and pretty much any outdoor sport. 

If anything, the Australian Shepherd, might like exercise too much. If you’re planning on adopting a younger Aussie or a rescue, be prepared for their need to burn energy. This means running, fetch, and anything that gets their heart rate up for long periods of time. Today, we ensure Sora receives daily energy burning exercise for at least 45 minutes, in the form of trail running or hiking, along with her regular walks. When she was younger and I worked long hours, I hired a professional dog runner to take her out during the day. I have been able to correlate her positive general behavior to how much regular exercise she gets. 

Pro tip:  When I adopted Sora, she could go for a two-hour run and still have plenty of fuel in the tank. It seemed like nothing could tire her out. After a series of training sessions at the Oregon Humane Society, I learned that Australian Shepherds need their minds worked as well as their bodies. With the help of a partner, I introduced doggy brain games like, hide and seek, find your toy, and taught her new obedience based tricks. She needed her mind actively exercised, not just her body. I found her behavior vastly improved and she was less destructive (I didn’t have to hide my socks anymore!) once I started tiring out her mind along with her body.

Bike 'n Hike: Rainbow Mountain |  - The Best Adventure Dog

Dave and Sora taking a break towards the top of the peak.



Adaptable 

The Australian Shepherd is versatile in their ability to deal with change. For Sora, this translates to feeling comfortable in new locations, settings, environments, and situations. From her trailer to trains to ferries and sitting squished at our feet in vans, Sora has encountered a variety of  strange experiences in Europe and South America and adapted comfortably. She doesn’t seem to mind whether we are sleeping in the tent or a comfortable hotel.

This has been beneficial for us when going on adventures, as we never know how things are going to turn out.  We have camped in remote locations, crammed into cars to hitchhike when our bikes can’t make it up the seemingly endless hills, shared a small rustic cabin with strangers, and Sora is always able to adjust without issue. This is made our travels much easier knowing we can put Sora in a variety of situations and it will always work out. 

Aussies have a medium length and water resistant coat. This has been beneficial with Sora as often our travels involve lots rain and/or long spells of cold. She excelled in the Bolivian altiplano where temperatures dropped well below freezing at night and somehow managed to stay relatively dry in the trailer during an Argentinian biblical rain storm. Equally, she does fairly well in the heat as her coat acts as insulation to the hot temperatures. Though, we’ve used a Ruffwear Swamp Cooling Vest when the temperatures become unbearable as it can cool her off rather quickly. It’s worth noting that Sora’s coat tends to be shorter than most other Australian Shepherds. An Australian Shepherd with a thicker coat may not do as well in the heat, but better in the cold. 

Adventure

If your’e into adventure and outdoor play, then an Australian Shepherd is a great breed choice. Like all dogs, they require training and mental stimulation, however, if you’re committed to putting in the time and energy, an Australian Shepherd can thrive. Their intelligence, personality, exercise, and adaptability make them candidates for best adventure dog. 

Sora tends to enjoy hiking as it allows her to smell stuff and roll in yucky dead things, but she’s not immune to wanting high energy fun like running in the woods or cross country skiing. The versatility of Sora’s physical abilities and comfort level gives us ample opportunities for endless adventure.  She is always ready to please and that means getting outside and playing.

Obviously, we love the Australian Shepherd, but know there are other great adventure dog breeds. Do you have the best adventure dog? If so, what breed is it?

Going on an adventure with your dog? We always take these items with us⟶

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With their intelligence, athleticism, and adaptability, the Australian Shepherd makes the best adventure dog.

 

With their intelligence, athleticism, and adaptability, the Australian Shepherd makes a stellar adventure dog.
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8 Comments

  1. What an entertaining article!
    You described my German shepherd / Appenzell mountain dog mix perfectly.
    Always up for crazy new adventures!
    He even went rafting with us.
    Yours sincerely, Nico & Kenai.

  2. Well, I believe that every dog is an adventure dog just waiting for their people to catch up! All of our dogs have enjoyed various adventures with us.

    But I have to admit, our golden retriever Honey has been pretty special. Recently I was wondering how I was going to train her to move to the low side of the sailboat when we changed direction when she taught herself. After 2 years of hearing the helms person calling out, “Prepare to tack” Honey learned it was time to move to the other side of the boat.

    Now I don’t have to worry about catching her before she slides off the seat. She has taken care of that little problem herself.

    Sounds like you and Sora are very lucky to have each other as adventuring companions!

  3. We are thinking about getting a dog and are not sure of which breed to choose. It is good to know that Australian Sheppards have a medium length and water resistant coat. It would be nice to be able to travel with your dog even when it is cold. I will share this information with my husband and then we will make our decision, thanks!

    • Hi Lauren. We think all dogs are great for adoption and we highly recommend getting a dog from a shelter/rescue. Saving a life is an invaluable gift. Even mixed breeds can be fantastic.

  4. I love all the activities and travel you do together. It truly shows the adaptability of the Australian shepherds. http://www.marlowinaussies.com

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