Spending time with an Australian shepherd has to be one of life’s greatest joys. Seriously, just look at that face! Or take in that spotty, shaggy coat. Or those sweet, sweet eyes. Or the perky ears, or… you get the picture. When a pup is this precious and playful, it’s understandable that you want as much time together as possible.
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the dog, the longer it lives. While there are always exceptions, the Aussie—an adorable mid-sized member of the canine crew—fits into this pattern like a pet grooming glove.
So, how long do Australian shepherds live? On average, you’re looking at 12–15 years.1
At over a decade, the average lifespan of an Australian shepherd is remarkable—think of all the adventures you can go on during that time! That’s more than 4,000 daily walks (and a near-infinite number of belly rubs). You and your new best pal are in for a lifetime of excitement.
How Long is That in Human Years?
After one look at the answer above, you’re probably pulling out the multiplication tables already. But before you rush to the 7s column, there’s something you should know: Multiplying your dog’s age by seven to find their human age is so last year.
A new study shows that your pup ages super quickly in the first few years, but slows down as they grow older.2So a 12-year-old Aussie isn’t 84, and a 15-year-old pup definitely isn’t 105.
If you want the true answer to how old Australian shepherds live in human years, you can check out our handy-dandy dog-to-human-years calculator. (Spoiler alert: It’s between 71 and 75.)
How to Keep Your Australian Shepherd Happy and Healthy
While 15 is at the top end of the Australian shepherd’s lifespan, it’s not a hard cutoff. Healthy Aussies can live even longer under the right circumstances. As an owner of this dog breed, it’s up to you to make those circumstances happen.
No canine can live forever (pass the tissues, will you?) but when you take proper care of your pupper, you up your odds of owning the next contender for “World’s Oldest Dog.” Here’s how to give your Australian shepherd the best (and potentially longest) life.
#1 Watch for Common Health Issues
It’s a sad, sad truth: Dogs have health problems, too. But the type and severity of these issues vary by breed, and each mutt has its own list of common illnesses and injuries.
By understanding the afflictions your Aussie is most likely to inherit—and learning the signs and symptoms of each one—you stand a better chance of catching the issue early and treating or managing it.
Some of the most common problems that can plague Australian shepherds include:3
- Autoimmune thyroiditis – This disease occurs when your lil angel’s thyroid underproduces essential hormones. If your Aussie gains weight, has frequent skin problems, or scrambles for the nearest heat source at every opportunity, autoimmune thyroiditis could be to blame. Luckily, treatment for the disease is inexpensive and widely available.
- Cataracts – Although all dog breeds experience a wide array of eye issues, cataracts are some of the most common—and that’s definitely true of Aussies. Cataracts lead to a slow loss of vision, and while they’re more prevalent among older dogs, they can occur in younger ones, too. You’ll know a cataract by the cloudy, milky appearance it gives to your pup’s pupils.
- Epilepsy – Seizures are relatively easy to spot in breeds, especially in a working dog like the Australian Shepherd. If your Aussie shakes or trembles uncontrollably, epilepsy may be the culprit. While the cause of canine seizures isn’t well understood—they can seemingly be triggered by anything from stress to medications—there is treatment available.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia – Dysplasia is a deteriorative condition that causes the joints to rub together. Hip and elbow dysplasia are most common in larger dogs such as the Bullmastiff, German Sherpherd, and Great Dane, but Aussies are also susceptible to the pain and discomfort of this affliction. Spotting dysplasia can be challenging, but if you notice that your bestie seems stiff, hesitant, or less active than usual, you could be looking at joint pain.
#2 Make Regular Trips to the Vet
The good news is that you don’t have to screen your Aussie’s health all on your own—there are professionals for that. Before you stress out about the lack of pep in your pup’s step, head to the vet for a second opinion on any sort of potential health problem. After all, they’re the one with the degree.
Vet visits aren’t just for sick or injured animals. Even when your Australian shepherd is the picture of perfect health, you should pop into the clinic at least once a year when they’re young, and every six months or so when they reach the age of 7 and up.4 Regular appointments are essential because they:
- Allow the vet to spot any early signs of heart disease and dental disease
- Help you stay up-to-date on your dog’s vaccines
- Provide an opportunity to ask an expert any pressing questions
- Give you an excuse to pet all the animals in the waiting room
Overall, the sooner you and your vet catch a health condition, the better chance you have to nip it in the bud. It’s important to mention that pet insurance is also a good investment to make as it can help manage the expenses your australian shepherd puppy produces.
#3 Feed Them a Balanced Diet
While an Aussie human might be happy with Vegemite and Tim-Tams, this australian herding breed needs a diet full of protein, fat, vitamins, and other nutrients—and low in fillers and by-products.
If you don’t have the time to whip up a five-course meal for your shep, your next best bet is 1.5–3 cups of the best dog food per day. You’re looking for something with chicken or fish as the first ingredient.
Purchasing a customizable meal plan like BARK Food allows you to accommodate your Aussie’s dietary needs without breaking the bank. With the ability to add in hip & joint helpers or skin & coat supplements, you can keep your Australian shepherd healthy and well-fed at the same time.
It may also be worthwhile to supplement your doggo’s diet with, well, supplements. You’ll want to verify with the vet first, but some add-ons can make a world of difference.
For instance, because Aussies are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, yours might benefit from glucosamine chondroitin supplements.5 Together, glucosamine and chondroitin—both structural components of cartilage—can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of bone and joint problems. Normally found in treat or chew form, these supplements can improve your aging animal’s life.
Always do your own research when picking the perfect food for your dog, but if you need a place to start, try BARK food for Australian Shepherds! Pro Tip: Get 25% off with code 25FOOD and free shipping!
#4 Exercise, Exercise, and More Exercise
As tempting as it is to curl up on the couch with your favorite show and a lazy lapdog, you and your pet both know that’s not the secret to healthy living. If you want to keep your Australian shepherd in tip-top shape, you need to hit the gym (AKA the dog park).
After all, these are powerhouse pups we’re talking about. Born in the mountains of Europe and bred for long days of cattle wrangling, Aussies aren’t the easiest to tire out. These lovable lightning bolts need at least two hours of moderate exercise each day.
If that sounds like too much for you, know that you don’t need to work out with your pup. Taking your Aussie to the park to run around with other dogs is a perfectly valid activity, as is tossing a super-fun toy around in the backyard.
No matter how you encourage your Aussie to stay active, make sure that you do. Regular exercise helps keep your best friend limber, mentally stimulated, and in shape—all important pieces of the long-life puzzle.
#5 Keep Up With a Grooming Routine
When you parade your gorgeous Australian shepherd around the neighborhood, you want all eyes on them—and let’s face it, it’s hard to convince people to look away from your dog. How do you ever get anywhere on time?
But grooming isn’t all about looks—it’s also essential to canine health. When you don’t take care of the basics, your pup can run into discomfort and health issues. Some of the most vital (and oft-overlooked) parts of caring for your pooch are:
- Cleaning the ears – Roughly once a week, you should peek at your Aussie’s ear canals. If they’re looking dirty or blocked, you’ll want to use some vet-approved ear-cleaner to eliminate all the gunk and bacteria. Because they’re not a floppy-eared breed, Australian shepherds aren’t as prone to dirt ‘n’ debris build-ups. Still, regular check-ins are a must.
- Brushing the teeth – If you can find a moment when your Aussie isn’t bouncing off the walls, take a few minutes to brush the outer surfaces of their teeth. Just like humans, dogs who disregard their dental needs can experience tooth decay, pain, and bad breath. Let’s keep those doggy kisses smelling fresh as daisies, shall we?
- Clipping the nails – When your canine’s nails grow too long, your hardwood floors aren’t the only ones that suffer. Unkempt nails can be painful for your Aussie. If a botched mani-pedi keeps your pup from running around, you could end up with other health issues on your hands. With that in mind, aim to trim those nails every three weeks.
Brushing and bathing also give you a chance to check your Aussie’s skin for irritation, rashes, ticks, and other unwanted occurrences. Think of it as a group spa date… that also involves a full physical.
Enjoy Every Moment With BARK
Even though your Australian shepherd won’t make the dog breeds that live the longest shortlist, you’ll still have plenty of time to spend together. And if you do everything you can to keep your dog happy and healthy, you might be able to spend just a little longer with your furry family member.
To squeeze every last drop of joy out of every day with your Aussie, consider spoiling them with a BarkBox subscription. Every month, you and your canine companion can enjoy unboxing treats, original toys, and delicious, meaty chews.
With BARK, every day can be the best day of your and your pup’s life. With an Aussie, that’s more than 4,000 awesome days—enjoy them all.
- PetMD. Australian Shepherd. https://www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/c_dg_australian_shepherd
- Cell.com. Quantitative Translation of Dog-to-Human Aging by Conserved Remodeling of the DNA Methylome. https://www.cell.com/cell-systems/pdf/S2405-4712(20)30203-9.pdf
- The Australian Shepherd Club of America. Diseases and Defects. https://asca.org/aussies/about-aussies/health-and-genetics/diseases-and-defects/
- Dunnellon Animal Hospital. How often should I take my pet to the vet?. https://www.dunnellonanimalhospital.com/site/blog/2021/06/30/how-often-to-take-pet-to-vet
- BARK Post. BARK Hip & Joint Supplements 101. https://post.bark.co/health/bark-hip-joint-supplement/