Skip to Content
The Puppy Mag is an Amazon associate and earns a commission for qualifying purchases. Affiliate Disclosure

Why Your Australian Shepherd Is Small: 5 Reasons & What To Do

If you’re wondering why your Australian shepherd looks a bit smaller than average, you aren’t alone with that!

Many Aussie owners message me with the same question. Let’s run through the typical sizing for Australian Shepherds below.

Australian Shepherds may be small due to their genetics, breeding, not eating enough food, insufficient nutrition, receiving too much exercise as a puppy, health issues, or because they haven’t finished growing.


What’s The Correct Size of an Australian Shepherd

Something that’s interested me for a while is the fact that many people seem to think Australian Shepherds are bigger than they actually are…

I think this could be due to comparing them with German Shepherds or even Huskies to some extent (which are also often mistaken for being bigger than they are).

The truth is that Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs. Some may grow larger than average, but in general, they are a dog of medium size.

The average size of ADULT Australian shepherds:

Average range for MALES:
Height: 20-23 Inches
Weight: 50-65 lbs

Average range for FEMALES:
Height: 18-21 Inches
Weight: 40-55 lbs

The majority of Aussies will fit within this range once they are fully grown. Some may go on to be taller and heavier, and some will be at the very low end of this scale.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it can take up to 2 years before an Aussie finishes adding weight.

The Difference of Being Small Vs Being Skinny

Let’s also clarify the difference between Australian shepherds that are actually small, versus those that are skinny.

Read now: Helping Skinny Australian Shepherds Gain Weight

  • A “small” Australian shepherd will be shorter in height as well as being lower in weight. (but proportionate)
  • A “skinny” Australian shepherd will be excessively underweight for their age and height.

For those with Aussies that are obviously underweight for their age, you can see their ribs, or feel them extremely easily, then it’s recommended to see your vet for a health check-up.

Due to excessive weight problems being closely linked to health issues, it’s advised to rule out all potential problems with your veterinarian first before considering other reasons (like their diet and exercise).

So, before moving on, it’s worth reconsidering whether you are worried about your Aussie being small or being skinny.

Why Some Australian Shepherds Are Smaller Than Others

If you’ve checked the average ranges above and discovered that your Aussie is in fact smaller than average, let’s take a look at the 5 main reasons why.

  1. Genetics & breeding
  2. Diet & eating habits
  3. Too much exercise
  4. Health issues
  5. Still growing

1. Genetics & Breeding

It goes without saying that genetics and breeding have the biggest impact on your Aussie’s future size.

If your Aussie’s mother or father were particularly large or small, there’s a strong chance that the offspring will reflect this.

Sometimes there is an intentional effort from the breeder to only breed together the largest of females and males and vice versa. This is known as selective breeding. The reasons behind this can vary and isn’t something we’ll get into now. But engaging in such practices can result in abnormally large or small Aussies.

Surprising note: In some breeds, there’s a noticeable size difference between “show dogs” and “working dogs” but with Australian shepherds, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Unfortunately, as you already know, there isn’t much we can do about this one!

Oh, and a quick side note (myth-busting): Spaying or neutering a puppy does not stunt growth or impact growth plate closure.

2. Diet & Eating Habits

The next important area to consider is your Aussie’s diet, nutrition, and eating habits. In most cases, this will have more of an impact on puppies that are still growing compared to mature adults.

First of all, we have to consider many Aussies suffer from sensitive stomachs which results in poor digestion, intake of nutrients, and eating habits. If this is the case then your Aussie may not be receiving enough nutrients and calories to support proper growth.

Ultimately, your Aussie’s weight will be determined by how many calories they burn, versus how many calories they consume. Growing puppies obviously need to consume more than they are burning in order to gain weight and grow to their full potential. So any kind of food refusal or dietary issues should be taken seriously.

Even their overall height could be negatively impacted if they are lacking proper nutrition during their growth and development stage.

Again, as I mentioned at the start, a bad diet or eating habits will impact puppies that are still growing more so than mature adults.

What can you do about it?

Aussies need a high-quality diet that’s primarily based on high protein, medium to high-fat, and low carbs. This is the best macronutrient ratio that your pup and adult Aussie should consume. And of course, they actually need to be digesting it well!

Ensure your pup is consuming a kibble/diet that prioritizes “fresh and whole ingredients” closest to their natural state and stick with those that avoid preservatives, chemicals, additives, and flavorings.

For puppies (under 1 year):
ALWAYS opt for a formula that is made for medium to large, working breed puppies, which is what your Aussie is. Puppy formulas are a must and please avoid “all life stages”. Puppy kibbles contain far more calcium, vitamin D, protein, fat, and calories in general, all for the purpose of supporting growth.

3. Too Much Exercise

Like before, this affects puppies more so than it does adults. Although adults can still be negatively affected by too much exercise.

Puppies have fragile joints, bones, ligaments, and are still developing their muscles. Too much exercise may not only injure their body in the short and long term but could actually hinder growth in bad cases.

Exercise is still important and stimulating their muscles is a crucial part of stimulating growth… But too much of it, and the opposite will happen. And it’s worth remembering your Aussie will still have a relatively fragile body until 12-18 months old. So it’s a long time frame you need to be cautious of.

Additionally, too much exercise will burn too many calories, if your pup or adult goes into a calorie deficit then this will hinder growth and even cause them to lose weight.

What can you do about it?

All the while your Aussie is still a puppy, they should ideally follow the 5-minute method (Australian shepherd puppy exercise). This is an exercise routine created by experts to ensure you provide enough exercise but not too much.

Once your Australian shepherd is 12-18 months old, you can start exercising them more so an adult, and even this should only be 1-2 hours per day. If you go over this, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will involve dietary adjustments and extra joint care.

4. Underlying Health Issues

In the worst cases, underlying health issues could be contributing to a smaller frame, weight loss, or improper growth in general.

If your Aussie seems to be lethargic, unmotivated, or has other symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or displaying unusual behavior then it’s important to have a health check-up.

The truth is that there are a lot of health issues that can cause dogs to become weaker, frail, and hinder growth. So the only way to truly know is by seeing your vet.

The good news though is that this will not be the case for most Aussies out there.

What can you do about it?

The only time to be concerned is when you notice additional symptoms being displayed.

“Being small” on its own, is not a symptom of underlying health issues. So only if you notice your Aussie be lethargic, have diarrhea, vomiting, or generally under the weather, should you need to visit the vet.

And remember being skinny is different from being small. Weight issues should always be checked out by a vet.

5. Still Growing!

Finally, your Australian shepherd may just be still growing!

While full height is usually reached by 10-12 months, full weight can take up to 2 years! So it’s worth considering your Aussie’s age and how far along they are before worrying too much.

Full article: When do Australian shepherds stop growing & reach full size

It’s common for owners to become concerned about weight at around 12 months old because many aren’t away that their pup is still in fact growing.

This is especially true for males as they are able to put on more muscle mass, and muscles take time to develop.

What can you do about it?

Unless you’ve got a time machine we aren’t aware of, there’s nothing to be done! Ensure your pup is receiving a high-quality diet that they get along with it, keep taking their weight every week or two weeks, and let time pass by.

Can You Make Your Australian Shepherd Bigger?

Many of the emails I receive on this topic, also asks the question about “making their Aussie bigger”. So is it possible?

For adult Australian shepherds, you could make your Aussie gain weight and even a little muscle mass (with the right training/exercise), and this will give them the appearance of being a bit bulkier.

But when it comes to their height, there’s nothing we can do. And ultimately, it’s a dog’s height that determines their overall size and appearance.

If you still have a puppy, then ensuring they are growing sufficiently can have an impact on the future size, but for adults, there’s not really anything we can do to make them “bigger”.

And unless your Aussie is obviously skinny or underweight, it is not recommended to make them gain weight unnecessarily.

Popular article: Why isn’t my Australian shepherd eating? (and solutions)

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

Additional Info
PetMd Puppy Growth Info
AKC breed standard


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.