Are Australian Shepherds Good With Kids? A Parent's Guide
If you are a parent looking to purchase a puppy, there’s probably one question you have asked yourself repeatedly: Is this breed good with kids? For some breeds, the answer to this question is obvious – an obvious no, like Chihuahuas, or an obvious yes, like Australian Shepherds.
The Australian Shepherd, called Aussie affectionately, is a wonderful working dog breed that is loving, caring, and considerate with kids. That said, as with any other dog breed, there are things you need to know and precautions you need to take. So here’s our rundown of Australian Shepherds, what makes them a fit for kids, what to keep in mind, and where to find an Aussie pup if you’re in search of one.
Australian Shepherd Breed Overview
Despite the name, the Australian Shepherd was first recorded in the newly discovered continent of America as early as the 1500s. These dogs were used to help colonists hunt. At the time, they were described as significant in size, almost wolf-like in nature. Around that same time, this breed added a new job to its resume: It began herding sheep and protecting flocks.
That’s a bit of a change.
Over time, this popular and helpful dog breed emigrated across the world, eventually arriving in Australia, where it earned its name. As times and people’s needs changed, so did the dogs' temperament – becoming more similar to the dog we know as Aussie today.
The Aussie's Kid-Friendly Temperament
As Australian Shepherds have become less job-oriented, they’ve become better and better known as family companions. The Australian Shepherd quickly became a popular pet choice, as the same attributes that made it a successful sheepdog also helped it serve as the perfect family and kid companion.
Here’s a rundown of the attributes that make Australian Shepherds excellent kid-friendly dogs:
Warm and Affectionate
The temperament of this breed is perfect for families: Aussies are warm and affectionate. They are great with children, people, and other dogs and usually work well as a second pet in a home.
Aussies love to play! This can make them an excellent playmate for your kids, keeping them active, social, and engaged. Whether fetch or frisbee, or spending time exploring outdoors, Aussies love play and exercise.
Loyal and Protective
Australian Shepherds will stay with your kids, watch them, and guard them. They are highly likely to “alert” (bark) when other animals or people are around, to keep your kids safe.
Sociable (with Proper Training)
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent, curious, and energetic, and do great with kids. However, you have to channel and control their energy. For example, if your Aussie is primarily a family companion, you should train them to control aggression and to reduce herding instincts.
With proper training, you can not only train this breed to be a safe and caring partner for your kids, but they'll also behave better with strangers and other pets this way.
Younger vs. Older Kids: Does It Make a Difference?
For some breeds, like Australian Shepherds, there can be some differences between younger and older kids. These are not deal breakers, of course -- but there are some additional cautions you need to take with younger children.
Younger Kids: Herding Instincts & Heel Nipping
For some dogs, it’s harder than others to get rid of the herding instincts. Some Australian Shepherds may treat children - particularly running, playful children - as if they are sheep. They may begin to herd children into specific locations, and in some cases, they may even nip at their heels.
Proper training can help get Australian Shepherds to stop this behavior. However, it's something your family should be prepared for. Don't leave an Australian Shepherd, particularly a puppy, unsupervised with children, and address this behavior before it becomes problematic.
In public settings, like a dog park, you may want to consider muzzling the animal if your dog is showing inappropriate behaviors.
As fun, playful, and energetic dogs, Australian Shepherds make the perfect companion for older children. As always, you’ll have to work with your children to ensure they know how to manage a dog, but they typically get along great with older kids.
Herding instincts and heel nipping are rarely an issue with older kids, and you can feel safer having your kids and pup play unsupervised.
Benefits to Kids Growing Up With Australian Shepherds
When considering getting a pet for your children, you may not have considered that there are likely extensive benefits to your kids, and some very specific benefits for them if you bring home an Australian Shepherd.
One of the reasons that an Aussie is an excellent choice for kids is that they're a boundless source of play and physical activity. This means a playmate for your kids who keeps them busy, happy, and engaged, with their days being spent playing outside.
But keep in mind that before having your kids play with your Aussie, it's important to teach them how to play safely with your dog.
When a child grows up with a pet, they learn to care for that animal and develop a desire to make their pet feel good, engaged, and loved. In doing so, your child learns to see the world from that dog’s point of view.
This experience can provide ample mental stimulation and broaden your child's thinking. Indeed, studies have found that mental stimulation is one of the key benefits of owning a dog. In our opinion, this is one of the biggest benefits of growing up with a pet for kids: That they gain empathy for other beings.
Of course, dog ownership is about so much more than just play. Kids can be involved in all the responsibilities of owning a dog, including feeding, cleaning, walking, being involved in dog-related errands, and more.
In doing so, your child will learn valuable lessons about responsibility, including how to manage her time, take ownership of specific tasks, and be responsible for another living being.
What Kids Need to Know
As with any animal, there are specific guidelines that parents should adhere to when getting a dog. Here are some key lessons your kids should learn when it comes to your new pet:
Respect Their Space
Australian Shepherds are among the more playful and energetic of dogs. However, one of the unintended consequences is that this could encourage kids not to recognize their boundaries. You must teach your children how to respect the space and boundaries of your dogs, and to recognize signs of discomfort.
Recognize Warning Signs
Dogs give off warning signs when they are playing but are unhappy. These can include:
Growling or teeth baring
A different form of barking than usual
A stiff tail
Raised hairs along the dog’s spine
We recommend you review these warning signs with your kids and help them understand what it means: That your dog is overstimulated and needs their space, and to disengage calmly.
Safe Play Guidelines
Playing with dogs can be an incredible time, and the odds are good that your kids will, at some point, play with the dog without you being present. In such cases, there are some things you should teach your kids about safe dog play:
Don’t wrestle or engage in rough physical contact; this can result in a loss of boundaries or an over-aggressive response from the dog.
Ensure your dog is trained and understands basic commands, like “stop” or “come”, to be used if play is no longer safe.
Always play in an area that is safe, secure, and limits the chances of the dog escaping.
Play with dog-friendly toys only. Doing so will limit the chances of accidental ingestion.
If the dog doesn’t want to play, don’t force them to! Doing so will only make your dog unhappy.
Getting an Aussie Puppy
As a popular dog breed, Australian Shepherds can be found in many rescue or breeding organizations. There are also many excellent breeders that focus on this breed.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
If you choose to buy an Australian Shepherd, it is absolutely crucial that you purchase from a breeder with years of experience in the area and who sticks to the highest professional standards and requirements. At Mawoo Pets, we’re deeply proud of our work to ensure that we help families find the best breeders for the pet of their dreams, including Australian Shepherds.
Interested in learning more? Check out our listing of Australian Shepherds, and see if a perfect pet is waiting for you. If you’re not sure that an Aussie is the right breed for your family, try our Breed Match Quiz instead to find the perfect match for you and your kids.
Despite the name, the Australian Shepherd can be found in many different locations worldwide. Numerous rescue organizations are dedicated exclusively to caring for this beautiful and popular dog breed, and you likely won’t have a problem finding a rescue organization in your area that can help you get this breed.
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