Is the Australian Shepherd Right for Me?

Assessing One’s Lifestyle is Important Prior to Dog Ownership

By David DelCollo, Attorney

With so many variations of dog breeds on the market today, it can become very difficult for one to determine which dog is the right fit.  While most people will choose a dog primarily because of its outward appearance, one should really take some time to consider what type of temperament will be most fitting with their own personality.  In making this determination, one should consider their overall lifestyle including, activity level, living conditions, work schedule, available resources, family structure, and ultimately, what type of experience you are seeking with a dog.  The ideal dog for a person who has a very demanding work schedule may be completely different for a person that is home all the time.  Similarly, the ideal dog may differ for a person who is very active and loves to exercise as opposed to a person who is less active and enjoys staying indoors.  It is important to perform a very thorough and honest assessment of one’s lifestyle in order to assure that both the dog and the owner have the most positive experience possible.

David DelCollo Attorney and Marley

David DelCollo, Attorney with his Aussie Marley and friends

Marley is my one-year old Australian Shepherd.  I actually was not out seeking a dog when I found her, I just saw her one day and thought she was an amazing puppy.  Prior to taking her though, I did some research on the Australian Shepherd to find out a bit more about the breed and temperament.

The Australian Shepherd is a medium size breed of dog that, unlike their name, was actually developed on the ranches of the western United States.  With the boom of the west and cattle work in the early 1800s, the breed quickly rose to popularity as their trainability, eagerness to please, and obedience skills made them the most effective cattle dog ever seen by ranch hands.  The Australian Shepherd was a particularly tireless sheep herder in the vast Rocky Mountains and it was here that the ranchers of Boulder, Colorado began breeding the dogs and touting them as legendary sheep herders that began to attract purchasers from as far west as California. The ranchers also found that the Aussie had the ability to handle extreme weather, have plenty of speed, athleticism, energy, and endurance; and are intelligent, flexible, and independent. The ability of the breed to adapt to any situation and think for itself makes it an excellent all-around worker.  While all of these characteristics really made the Australian Shepherd an exceptional cattle dog, there was one trait of the Australian Shepherd that truly distinguished it from the other breeds; its unparalleled loyalty.

Often referred to as “Velco Dogs,” Aussies have a strong desire to be near their owners and they often form an intense and devoted bond with no more than a few very specific people, as the Aussie tends to be very selective.  The Australian Shepherd is known for displaying reserved and cautious behaviors with those that are unfamiliar and it is often known for displaying guarding behaviors towards its owner and its property.  Having been bred to work, the Aussie does best when it is provided a “job” and given the ability to please its owner by doing that job well.  This often means that a bored, neglected, unexercised Aussie may invent its own games, activities, and jobs, which to an inattentive owner may appear to be hyperactivity.  Without something to keep the Aussie’s sharp brain stimulated, they can sometimes become destructive, however, this is often only due to lack of mental stimulation.

Keeping all of this research in mind, I then examined my own personal lifestyle.  I am a pretty-active person and I usually spend my free time outside.  I love going hiking and exploring in the woods.  I also enjoy working out and trying to keep a very active lifestyle.  Being that I am an attorney, I tend to work a lot of hours, however, besides being at work I do not have a great many things that require my time and attention.  While I do not live on a farm with lots of open land and space, I do have a great deal of dog parks and natural forests pretty close to my home.

So is the Australian Shepherd a good fit for me?  Well, it is a bit too late for that because I have had Marley for about a year now.  In a perfect world I would live on a ranch with lots of cattle and Marley would run and herd from sunrise to sunset as we would tirelessly work the land together, just like her breed was intended.  But I am an attorney living in a townhome in the suburbs of Philadelphia and the closest Marley gets to herding cattle on the ranch is chasing the squirrels in the park behind my home.  But I do give her all the love that I have to give and I cherish every moment I get with her and there is nothing else that makes her happier than to just be with me.