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Are Australian Shepherds Aggressive? Owners Must Know This…

If you’re considering owning an Australian shepherd, it’s important to do plenty of research beforehand.

Something most owners want to know up front is whether Aussies are an aggressive breed? Do they tend to show aggression towards strangers or other dogs? It’s an essential topic to understand, and this article explains everything you need to know.

You can take a sigh of relief because australian shepherds are usually not an aggressive breed, and by nature are friendly, social, and kind.

Of course, under certain circumstances, any breed is capable of being aggressive if provoked or threatened. I’ll explain everything further below!


Australian Shepherd Temperament

To understand potential aggression in Australian Shepherds, we should first discuss the history of the breed itself. The Australian Shepherd’s history directly impacts the personality traits seen in the breed today, so being aware of their background can help you better understand your furry friend. 

Australian Shepherds were originally bred to work alongside ranchers in herding livestock. Aussies are known for guarding livestock, herding livestock when needed, and even alerting their owners to livestock threats. 

It’s believed that the Aussie was created by breeding the Collie and some form of Shepherd, as these breeds were known for being hardworking and active. Once the Australian Shepherd made its debut in the late 1800s, you could find an Aussie on every ranch! 

Any time you have a breed that was created for work, this typically leads to a strong bond with their owner. Though not every modern Aussie will be used as a ranch hand, they will still possess many of the traits that make them such a reliable worker. This is key to remember going forward…

So Are Australian Shepherds Aggressive?

Australian Shepherds are not considered an aggressive breed by nature. Australian Shepherds are kind-natured, but their need to work can cause them to display challenging behaviors when they don’t receive daily exercise and stimulation. 

For example, Aussies are bred to herd livestock alongside ranchers. Herding often involves nipping at the heels of livestock and ‘bossing around’ their herd, and these ingrained behaviors can be difficult to manage in some cases. 

If an Australian Shepherd does not receive enough daily exercise to work off this energy, these ingrained traits can begin to shine through. An Aussie with pent-up energy may nip at their owner’s heels, attempt to herd you as you walk through your home, and may even bite at your hands and legs. Though this breed is not aggressive by nature, these behaviors can be seen as aggressive to an inexperienced Aussie owner. 

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Are Australian Shepherds Protective?

Australian Shepherds are known for being protective of their owners and their home. Just as Aussies were originally bred to protect their owner’s livestock, the Aussie will feel the need to protect the humans in their life. 

A need to protect their owner can be a wonderful trait, but it can lead to complications in some Aussie friends. 

Anytime a dog is protective by nature, this can lead to undesirable behavior when a dog is not properly socialized. A protective dog without proper training could display aggression in unfamiliar situations, ranging from excessive barking to actually biting other people and animals they don’t know. 

As long as you socialize your Aussie from the moment they enter your home, most Aussies will understand healthy protective behavior. Be sure to introduce your Aussie to other dogs, other people, new settings, and even unfamiliar sounds. 

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Do Australian Shepherds Make Good Guard Dogs?

Although Australian Shepherds can make excellent watchdogs, they cannot be relied upon as guard dogs. Aussies are not naturally aggressive and would most likely back down in a challenging situation, unlike a true guard dog breed.

While most Aussies are not aggressive by nature, they are professionals when it comes to alerting their owners when something seems off.

One of the main roles of the working Aussie is to let their ranchers know when potential predators lurk around your livestock, allowing the rancher to jump into action if needed.

They may not always defend the livestock head-on, but they will make the noise needed to get their owner’s attention. 

What Causes Aggression In Australian Shepherds?

Australian Shepherds are a wonderful breed, but they can develop aggressive tendencies if certain needs are not met. Avoiding these issues can not only help you avoid aggressive behavior in your home but can ensure that you are offering your Aussie the best life possible. 

Lack Of Exercise

A lack of exercise can lead to aggressive behavior in some Australian Shepherd friends. Pent-up energy can cause a dog to experience restlessness and increased anxiety, both of which can cause a dog to display aggression. If your aggressive Aussie is not receiving at least 45 minutes of exercise each day, this could be the source of their bad behavior. 

Improper Socialization

If an Aussie is not properly socialized from the moment they enter your home, they may become reactive to new people, animals, and even new surroundings. A dog without proper socialization lacks confidence in their own skin, causing them to lash out in inappropriate ways. If your Aussie is fearful of the world around them, they may be lacking proper socialization. 

Improper Training

Not only can socialization boost your Aussie’s confidence, but obedience training can as well. A well-trained Australian Shepherd is not only more secure in themselves, but they are more likely to listen to their owner’s direction in new situations. 

If your Aussie is struggling with aggression and they have not received obedience training at any point, they may benefit from specialty training. Just be sure to mention your dog’s aggression to your trainer, as this will allow them to choose the best program going forward. 

Stressful Environments

Our canine friends thrive in a reliable, structured environment. Changes within their home or schedule can cause severe anxiety in an Aussie, causing them to act out in unexpected ways. Some of the most common causes of stress-related aggression include new pets in the home, the sudden disappearance of an owner, severe separation anxiety, new people in the home, and any other drastic shift in a dog’s life. 

Pain Or Illness

Pain or illness can often lead to aggression in otherwise friendly Australian Shepherds. A new medical condition can cause a dog to experience anxiety, especially when being touched in painful areas. If your normally gentle Aussie is suddenly displaying aggressive behavior, we always suggest reaching out to your veterinarian for further guidance. 

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Preventing Aggression In Australian Shepherds

Australian Shepherds are typically friendly, but it is still best to prevent aggression when possible. Since we know the most common triggers of bad behavior in our canine friends, let’s list the most effective ways to help our Aussies become the well-rounded companions we want them to be. 

  • Socializing them from the moment they enter your home. This means introducing them to other dogs, people, sounds, and settings. 
  • Implementing obedience training from the moment you adopt them. This can just involve the basics, but Aussies are smart enough to pick up on an array of commands and tricks. 
  • Making sure your Aussie gets anywhere from 1-2 hours of exercise each day. This can include long walks, hikes, interactive games, and any other activity that gets them up and moving.
  • Even the most well trained of dogs will need those around them to respect their boundaries. This is even more important if you have children in your home. 
  • Maintaining a close relationship with your veterinarian is the best way to promote overall health in your Australian Shepherd. Because developing illnesses and other medical conditions can lead to aggression, this means regular exams can help to prevent behavioral struggles in the long run. 

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Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherds are a loyal breed with so much love to offer. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can help your Australian Shepherd become the best pup they can be!

Thank you for reading! Back to more Australian Shepherd articles >>


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.