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American vs. Australian Shepherd: How Are They Different?

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

By Rachael Gerkensmeyer

American vs Australian Shepherd - Featured Image

American Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are herding dogs that are popular among ranchers, farmers, hunters, and pet owners alike. However, they are not the same breed. While there are similarities between the two, there are plenty of differences to take note of when deciding whether to adopt an American Shepherd or an Australian Shepherd. Here is everything that you need to know.

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Visual Differences

American vs Austalian Shepherd - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – LNbjors, Shutterstock | Right – Maud Slaats, Unsplash

As they are close relatives, the American Shepherd and Australian Shepherd do have many similar physical features, but there are a few visual differences too. First, the American Shepherd is smaller than the Australian Shepherd. American Shepherds weigh between 20 and 40 pounds and stand between 13 and 18 inches tall when fully grown.

Australian Shepherds weigh between 40 and 65 pounds and stand between 18 and 23 inches tall as adults. Some Australian Shepherds have two different colored eyes, while many American Shepherds do not.

At a Glance

American Shepherd
  • Average height (adult): 13–18 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 20–40 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–13 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate to hard
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Easy
Australian Shepherd
  • Average height (adult): 18–23 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 40–65 pounds
  • Lifespan: 13–15 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate to hard
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Easy
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American Shepherd Overview

The American Shepherd, or more accurately, the Miniature American Shepherd, is a lively and friendly animal. This working breed was developed by breeding the Australian Shepherd with smaller dog breeds until a “Mini American Shepherd” was established. From there, Miniature American Shepherds were bred with each other to create the dog that we all know and love today.

This breed is a true working dog that excels when put to the test. They enjoy spending time with humans and are usually good with kids. These dogs are smart too, which means training sessions are efficient and effective. Miniature American Shepherds are good at agility and can perform effectively as rescue and/or service dogs.

american shepherd dogs sitting
Image Credit: Sarune Kairyte, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

American Shepherds are intelligent, interactive, and social. They enjoy exploring new social situations, although they can be wary of strangers if they meet them in strange places or if they come upon your property. These dogs play fetch well, stick near their owners’ sides, and love outdoor adventures. They do not enjoy being left alone for long periods of time.


This dog breed is extremely smart and can catch on to training easily. It does take patience and persistence, though, and even after these dogs learn commands, it takes regular practice to ensure that those commands will be obeyed. Daily exercise and plenty of human companionship will help make the training process easier. It may even be a good idea to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or to invest in how-to DVDs if you’re new at dog training. You can also consult YouTube videos to help get you started.

miniature american shepherd running outdoor
Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

Suitable for

These dogs are best suited for ranch and farm life, but they can get along well and live a happy, healthy life in apartment and house situations if they get enough outdoor exercise each day. They must have an opportunity to go outdoors daily, which is why they are happiest on ranches and farms and in homes with fenced yards.

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Australian Shepherd Overview

Australian Shepherds are hard-working dogs that were bred for herding ranch animals from one place to another. This yearning to work is still front and center when it comes to their personality, even when living in a household situation. These dogs require daily exercise and plenty of it to maintain an obedient attitude. They have soft, fluffy fur that may require trimming during the summer months when it is hot outside.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

This dog breed is agile and fun loving, which makes them a joy to spend time with at the park, while camping, or when hiking a trail that’s off the beaten path. Australian Shepherds can be goofy and comical, yet they are happy to relax and snuggle up on a weekend afternoon while the family watches a movie. Like the American Shepherd, this dog prefers not to be left at home alone.


Australian Shepherds are excellent listeners and love to please their owners. Therefore, they tend to take well to obedience, agility, and service training. Training should be started early, while your Australian Shepherd is still a puppy. It can be done at home in a personal setting or at training classes in your community.

australian shepherd dog training for dog show
Image Credit: LRuss, Pixabay

Suitable for

The Australian Shepherd is suitable for most types of lifestyles. They are happiest where they have plenty of room to run, play, and work, like on a ranch. However, they can live a perfectly happy lifestyle in a home setting if there is a fenced yard to spend time in. They typically get along well with kids and other animals, making them a great pet choice for families of many shapes and sizes.

divider 9Which Breed Is Right for You?

Choosing between an Australian Shepherd and an American Shepherd all comes down to personal preference and lifestyle. American Shepherds tend to need less exercise than Australian Shepherds, although both breeds like active lifestyles. It’s a good idea to meet both breeds in person before deciding which is the right fit for your family and household.

Australian shepherd puppies outside
Image By: Julia Remezova, Shutterstock

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In Conclusion

Australian and American Shepherds are similar dogs, but they are two different breeds. It is important to learn about each dog and spend time with them if possible before deciding which one to adopt as a pet for your family, farm, or ranch. Take your time making a decision, and be sure that you have the capacity to keep your new pet happy and healthy throughout their lifetime.

Featured Image Credit: Left – MirasWonderland, Shutterstock | Right – RebeccasPictures, Pixabay

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