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5 Reasons Australian Shepherds are Great Adventure Dogs

5 Reasons Australian Shepherds are Great Adventure Dogs

As you know, I’m pretty partial to the Australian Shepherd breed, thanks to Sora. I had always been drawn to working breeds, but never thought I’d have an Aussie Shepherd in my life.

Sora immediately won me over with her beautiful blue eyes, devotion to her humans, and most of all her enthusiasm for outdoor adventures. Whether we wanted to take her trail running, paddle boarding, or camping, she was eager to be our adventure buddy.

I may be biased, but to me Australian Shepherds make one of the best adventure dog breeds. 

Before we dive into all the reasons Aussies are a perfect match for outdoorsy folks, let’s first learn a little about the breed.

About the Australian Shepherd Breed

Australian Shepherds are an intelligent and hard-working herding dog. Because of their intelligence, they can get into trouble at home if they do not receive the proper amount of exercise and brain work.

Fortunately, they are eager to please and easy to train.

This popular breed ranks 17 out of 191 breeds, according to the American Kennel Club.

A full grown female Australian Shepherd dog weigh between 40-55 lbs and males can weigh between 50-65 lbs.

Australian Shepherd Life Expectancy & Health Concerns

The life expectancy of the Australian Shepherd ranges from 12-15 years. 

All dogs have the potential to develop certain genetic disorders, however Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs. 

The most common health problems include:

  • Eye conditions like cataracts, iris coloboma. Aussies with blue eyes or pink eyelids are more prone to conditions caused by UV rays, like pannus and sunburn.
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Certain forms of cancer
Australian Shepherds come in a variety of color patterns, including blue merle.

Typical Australian Shepherd Colors and Markings

Australian Shepherds come in a variety of beautiful coat colors and patterns, lending to their popularity.

Just two gene pairs determine the color outcome for an Australian Shepherd.

The first pair decides whether the Aussie will be black or red, while the second indicates the pattern: solid vs merle.

There is also a double merle coloration, due to poor breeding. These mostly white dogs are the result of merle-merle breeding and can cause deafness and blindness.

Those two gene pairs can create a vast variety of coat colors and patterns, though the most common combinations are:

  • Red Tri
  • Black Tri
  • Blue Merle
  • Red Merle

My personal pick is the blue merle Australian Shepherd, for obvious reasons.

What’s the Deal with the Australian Shepherd Tail?

About one in five Australian Shepherds are born with a naturally-bobbed tail. The gene that causes bob tail results in different lengths and forms for Australian Shepherds. Many are born with long, beautiful tails.

Thus, the AKC and CKC (Canada) determined that the in order to comply with breed standards, the Australian Shepherd would have a docked tail.

On the contrary, European breed clubs permit Australian Shepherds with any length and shape of tail, as docking is banned in many parts of Europe.

Breeding specifically for a bob tail has lethal results for Australian Shepherd puppies, which die in utero on account of the mutant gene. Mating two naturally-bobbed tail Aussies can also cause spina bifida and other spinal diseases.

However, breeding two Aussies with normal tails produces dogs with a normal tail. Today, several breeders in the US are opting to leave the Aussie tail in tact.

Australian Shepherds make the best adventure dogs.

Where are Australian Shepherds from?

Contrary to what the name implies, Australian Shepherds were developed in the western United States. 

During the 1800s, Basque shepherds set sail to Australia with their talented and beloved Pyrenean Shepherds in tow, in search of rich land for ranching. While in Australia, these shepherds began cross breeding their dogs with British breeds like collies and Border Collies.

Eventually, these same herders sought even greener pastures, this time in California, bringing both their flock and their dogs along. California ranchers admired the breed and assumed they had originated from Australia.

American ranchers began using Aussies on their farms, further developing the breed for performance, as opposed to appearance. 

Australian Shepherd Temperament & Breed Characteristics

Like all breeds, the Australian Shepherd dog comes with a variety of traits that better suit them for some folks over others. 

With the right training, shaping your Aussie into the dog of your dreams is entirely possible. Sora was reactive much of her life until we finally learned how best to work with her fears.

More Desirable Traits

  • Adaptable
  • Protective
  • Can do well in apartments
  • Cat-friendly
  • Generally healthy
  • Affectionate
  • Intelligent
  • Playful
  • Easy to Train

Less Desirable Traits

  • Frequent shedding
  • Barking tendencies
  • Territorial
  • Weary of strangers
  • Require vigorous exercise daily
  • Can be hit or miss with other dogs
  • Strong herding tendencies can pose a threat to children
Blue merle Australian Shepherds are a favorite among breed lovers.

Feeding Your Australian Shepherd

Fortunately for training purposes, Aussies love food, which lends to their trainability. Of course, this means that they can also be susceptible to obesity if treat intake is not closely monitored.

Best foods for Australian Shepherds depend on your lifestyle and personal choices. They do well on a variety of diets, whether that means raw fed, home cooked meals, or a high-quality kibble

Why Australian Shepherds are the Best Adventure Dogs

Australian Shepherds were made famous in the American West for being ready to tackle the demands of rugged terrain and big mountains.

Now that you know a bit about the characteristics of the breed, it’s time to explain how some of these traits make them amazing adventure dogs.

Australian Shepherds make great running partners.

High Exercise Needs

Where some might balk at the thought of dedicating so much time ensuring your Aussie receives their required daily amount of exercise, these active dogs are a perfect match for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Australian Shepherds do best with one to two hours of heavy exercise per day.
  • They are optimal companions for endurance sports, like running, mountain biking, and hiking.

Sora and I ran the 20-mile Peterson Ridge Rumble together and she trained with me for many a marathon. I capped her at 20 miles because of her age, but I have no doubt that she could have gone farther.


Dave and I put Sora in frequent weird situations during our bicycle tour. From her trailer to trains to ferries and sitting squished at our feet in vans, Sora adjusted easily to new locations, settings, environments, and situations. 

When it came to our active adventures, Sora eagerly took to new sports.

She happily hopped onto a paddle board our first time, remaining still as we paddled. A born trail runner, I took her for an 11-mile run on our first outing and she wanted more. She endured long days in the bike trailer without breaking a sweat.

Further, their medium length weather resistant coat means built in protection for the rainy season or winter adventures

Australian Shepherds love to learn new tricks and train regularly for mental stimulation.


Australian Shepherds are among the smartest dog breeds. As they are a working dog, they require plenty of mental stimulation. Aussies need jobs like:

  • training
  • participation in dog sports, like agility
  • sheep herding
  • nose work
  • service work

Without a job, Australian Shepherds can become bored, resulting in destructive behaviors, incessant barking, and finding their own job, like herding the kids or the cat.

Their intelligence is advantageous for those who enjoy outdoor activities because they will easily pick up new tasks, routines, and activities with ease.

On the trail, this means better trail etiquette, sticking close by off-leash as you run or bike over technical terrain, and ignoring wildlife.


Australian Shepherds are true Velcro dogs, meaning they will develop a strong bond with their humans and stick to their sides. They love to go everywhere with their people, especially on hikes or trail runs.

This generally means they won’t venture off too far out of sight from their humans.


Since Aussies generally have good health genes, endurance challenges like backpacking, ultra running, and mountain biking mean they can go longer for longer.

Sora joined us for our excursions well into her senior years. Even after three rounds of cancer at age 13, she could still run 20 miles with me.

Australian shepherds make the best adventure dogs due to their endurance, high energy needs, and temperament.

Are you a good match for an Australian Shepherd?

One of the most frequent reasons Aussies are surrendered to shelters is because the owner didn’t realize just how much work they are. Choosing to get an Australian Shepherd is a big commitment, and they are not the right breed for everyone.  

If any of the following apply to you, consider a different breed that better suits your lifestyle.

  • You are a couch potato or only go for short walks. Aussies require vigorous exercise, like running, biking, and hiking. A 30-minute walk won’t suffice.
  • You like your personal space. Aussies love to be at their human’s side at all times and are known to follow them from room to room.
  • You don’t have the time to properly train them. Their intelligence means that they will become bored and act out if they don’t have mental stimulation. Regular training and brain games will keep them out of trouble.
  • You are a pushover. This breed requires an assertive leader who isn’t afraid to offer corrections for poor behavior. Australian Shepherds are bred to control and manage stock, and if allowed, they will find a way to do the same at home.
  • You don’t have a job for them to do. Aussies come from working lines and have a strong drive to perform. Ask them to fetch the paper, learn new tricks, go to agility classes, or become a therapy dog. 
  • You don’t have the time to socialize them. Without proper socialization with people and other dogs from a young age, this protective breed could develop undesirable traits like reactivity and aggression.
  • You don’t like dog hair. Aussies shed. A lot. Plan to vacuum or sweep regularly. 

Where to Find an Australian Shepherd

All right! You’ve decided that you’re a great match for the Australian Shepherd and you’re finally ready to get your best adventure buddy. 

No matter whether you adopt or buy from a breeder, meet the dog first and spend as much time as possible together to determine if you are a good fit for one another.


We personally choose to adopt our dogs and are here to tell you that there are shelters filled with Australian Shepherds waiting for their furever homes.

Unfortunately, due to their popularity and beauty, many people buy Australian Shepherds without realizing how much work they are, resulting in surrender.

There are plenty of ways to search for and find your next adventure buddy if you go the adoption route:

  • Set up a search on Petfinder or Adopt a Pet. You can choose the frequency of emails and they will send you updated available dogs as often as you like.
  • shows a map indicating how many dogs are available by state.
  • Visit shelters in your local area and let them know what you’re looking for. They may be willing to contact you if the dog of your dreams comes in.
  • Join breed-specific rescue groups on Facebook, like this one and this one. They post regularly with photos and updates. 
  • Join breed-specific Facebook groups for Australian Shepherd lovers, like this one.It’s not uncommon for someone to post about looking to adopt or needing to rehome a dog they have.

Keep in mind that if you adopt, you might be getting a project dog. If they were given up by a family, they may not be well-trained, reactive, fearful, or overly energetic.

Make sure to spend time with your potential family member and go for a walk, and ask plenty of questions to make sure that they are the right fit for you and your family.

Hiking in the Peruvian mountains with an Australian Shepherd.

Buy from a Breeder

If you prefer to get an Australian Shepherd puppy from a breeder, be choosy about where you go. 

Look for the following characteristics to identify responsible breeders:

  • Conditions where the puppies and the parents live is clean and spacious. They are not confined to cages for long periods of time.
  • Provides adequate enrichment and exercise for the dogs.
  • Is not constantly breeding puppies. Responsible breeders may only have one to two litters per year, with a wait list for availability.
  • Allows you to meet the parents. This will give you an idea of the size and temperament you can expect.
  • Knows the breed very well and can provide documentation about the health of the puppy’s parents and grandparents.
  • Provides references from others who have purchased their puppies.
  • Allows and encourages multiple visits to ensure good fit. Will take back the dog at any time in their life should a problem arise after purchase.
  • Provides a written contract that includes a spay/neuter mandate if you don’t plan to show the dog.
  • If the breeders of the dog you are considering are not willing to provide any of the information listed above, refuse to show you living conditions, or do not offer a contract, find another breeder.

Have you had or do you have an Australian Shepherd? What do you love most about them?

What tips do you have for those considering getting an Aussie?

Australian Shepherds are the Best Adventure Dogs Pinterest Image


Friday 19th of August 2022

How am I just finding this article now!?

FANTASTIC overview here on Aussies. I actually learned something new and I OWN an Aussie!

Question For You.... What's Your take on choosing mini/toy/standard Aussies (like i see talked about here, for example: Does it matter?

Jen Sotolongo

Friday 19th of August 2022

Glad you liked the article, Jack. I personally am not a fan of mini and toy Aussies. I think they look weird and I like bigger dogs, but to each their own!


Friday 17th of July 2020

We have a 4.5 month old blue-merle Aussie and chose him because of many of the characteristics you describe! Thanks for the article. Question for you. When did you start hiking/backpacking with yours? Our vet says to wait until full grown for trail running, but said walking and hiking is ok. We started early on with short hikes (~20-30 min) and have built up to occasional multi-hour hikes (with off days afterwards). Wondering what your experience was like? Thanks!

Jen Sotolongo

Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

Great question! I'm going to write a blog post about this very topic soon since I get a lot of questions. The quick answer is that you need to wait until your dog's bone have fully grown, otherwise they are at risk of arthritis, hip displaysia, and other ailments. It sounds like what you're doing is perfect for now and stay tuned for a blog post on the topic soon!


Friday 1st of May 2020

Great article Jen! My wife and I have 3 kids (12,10,7) along with a 14 year old chocolate lab who is now blind. She's still a great dog, but getting a bit lazy and really can't do a lot due to the blindness so we are looking for another dog that matches our kids energy level and animal affection, while also being able to live with an older dog. So I have a few questions: 1.) How does this breed cope with other (older) dogs? 2.) How easily can they be trained by multiple people in the household? I would be the main authority figure for the dog, but my wife and kids also want to help train. 3.) How bad is the shedding? It's not a deal breaker (I grew up with Goldens Retrievers) but it is something we are not used to since our lab doesn't shed much at all. 4.) Can/should they be crate trained? We did this with our lab for the first 2-3 years and it worked out very well for her and us. Thanks for your feedback!

Jen Sotolongo

Friday 1st of May 2020

Hi Brad! Glad you found the article helpful and how exciting that you're thinking about adding a new family member! To answer your questions: 1). There is no one answer for this question. I suggest introducing dogs slowly and first by going on a leashed walk together in a neutral space. Don't just let the dog rip through the house. This is your lab's space. A puppy is going to naturally be more energetic and will want to play more than your Lab. Some Aussies like other dogs and others are more reactive. I would suggest looking for a dog that you know gets on well with other dogs. 2). Aussies LOVE direction and will do just fine with multiple handlers. The key is (for any dog) that all family members train the exact same way and do not allow the dog to get away with anything that anyone else in the house does not. Make sure to use the same words, corrections, and rules across the board. 3). The shedding is real. Get a good vacuum, haha. 4). I am a big proponent of crate training. It allows my dog to have processing time after a training session or other mental work, teaches them to be on their own, with less tendency to have separation anxiety, and also prevents them from getting into things when you are not home. I crate my dog for several hours during the day and 100% of the time when I am not home. Dogs love crates!

Feel free to reach out with any further questions.


Tuesday 5th of November 2019

Although the breed might seem pretentious and even prissy the standard poodle shouldn t be overlooked when it comes to being a running companion. The breed has plenty of energy, but isn t short on intelligence or obedience, either. The poodle was bred as a gun dog and a water retriever, and the breed retains those athletic instincts, which will surely kick in on a long, slow run.

Jen Sotolongo

Thursday 7th of November 2019

Pretty sure we did include the standard Poodle in our list of best running breeds!

Drew Swomley

Tuesday 29th of October 2019

Hi Dave, Love your article. My wife and I got an Aussie; his name is Byron and he's 9 months old. I have a question, though, I hope you can help with.

"With the help of a dog knowledgeable friend, I put together a comprehensive training plan. After many months of training, both at home and professionally, she evolved into the ideal adventure companion."

Would you mind expanding on your training plan? I do a lot of training with him at home and when we go hiking / trail running. But, I wanted to see what kind of professional training you did and kind of the order you did things. Any additional info would be great! I'm working on making him my little adventure dog too.

Dave Hoch

Sunday 3rd of November 2019

Hi Drew,

Our training planned involved a relaxation protocol as well as herding with sheep on a farm. I found that I couldn't tire Sora out with running or playing. Once we brought sheep herding into the mix, a lot of her issues became easy to manage.