What to Expect When Considering Australian Shepherds for Adoption

Shepherds need lots of exercise.
Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

Australian shepherds are loyal, high-energy dogs that are unlikely to get the time, attention and exercise they need living in a shelter. Giving one of these dogs a home can give the dog a new lease on life, provided you’re prepared for the demands this breed will make on you and your time once you’ve liberated him from dwelling in a shelter.

Initial Wariness

While they're loyal and protective dogs, Australian shepherds can be wary of strangers and may become a little stir crazy living in a shelter and being exposed to numerous different handlers and caretakers. If possible, plan to make your pup’s transition to his new home low-key, and with a lot of your steady personal companionship to assure him he’s not going to have more people fleetingly in and out of his life. Ask shelter caretakers about any anxiety or behavioral issues to be aware of, and plan to devote the first few days and weeks to getting your Australian shepherd acclimated to your home.

Need for Exercise

Bred for herding cattle, the Australian shepherd has a lot of energy to expend. If you live in an apartment or are away a lot of the day, this might not be the best breed for you. The Australian shepherd is ideally suited to a home with a large yard and with an owner who's able to spend a good deal of time devoted to exercise and play. Plan to incorporate outdoor exercise into your dog’s post-adoption routine and combine it with basic obedience training, if necessary. It’s vital to show this breed who the boss is, or he’ll assume it’s him.


As high-energy pups, Australian shepherds must be not only well trained, but well socialized. This is especially vital for shelter dogs who have not had recent, regular interactions with other people, animals and places. If your new pup has forgotten his manners -- or never learned any -- use positive reinforcement to teach skills like following commands, sitting, staying, coming when you call, and not jumping. Boisterous Australian shepherds can accidentally knock down people by jumping on them and can play too roughly because of their energy levels. Teaching appropriate behaviors right away will make everyone happier.

Private Space

As much as your Australian shepherd will want to be part of his new family, like any shelter dog, he may be a bit shy or reclusive when he first gets home. Make sure he has a place of his own, like his own bed, toys, chew items and food bowls. Give him time to be alone if he seems overwhelmed, and don’t push bonding too fast, or you may make him anxious. Trust takes time to build. Once he knows he’s in his forever home, your relationship can begin to flourish.