Your family has lots of love to give to a furry friend. But no matter how much you love dogs, your kids will always come first. So, you need to find a breed that will be a good playmate for your young children. If you‘re considering an Australian shepherd, you need to know: Are Australian Shepherds good with kids?
Most breeders and animal behaviorists agree that any dog can get along with young kids as long as they‘re socialized from puppyhood. In fact, socialization is the most important factor in raising a dog that loves children — dog breed is not a good predictor of an individual dog‘s personality.
And yet, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks Australian shepherds as a 5 out of 5 for kid-friendliness. That’s the highest possible ranking and matches the rankings for golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, Yorkies, and many other popular family dogs.
So, what‘s behind this ranking? We‘ll look at the pros and cons of choosing an Aussie for your children and explain what you can do to raise a dog that loves your little ones.
Are Australian Shepherds Good With Kids? The Pros
Australian shepherds have a reputation for being good family pets. These handsome working dogs are a convenient size and they learn quickly, which can make it easy to set boundaries and teach them how to behave around small children.
Here’s why this breed makes a good family dog:
- Sturdy build: Dog breed is a much better predictor of a dog’s looks than its personality. An Aussie is a medium-sized dog with a sturdy build. This breed is large enough they won’t get easily injured by uncoordinated children, and they’re small enough to not easily knock down a child.
- Easy training: Australian shepherds are intelligent dogs that excel in obedience training. With a little positive reinforcement, most Aussies will learn not to jump on children and to be gentle during playtime.
- High-energy levels: Aussies are active dogs that love to play games like fetch, frisbee, and agility. If you have playful children, this dog could be the perfect playmate. They‘ll keep each other entertained all day long.
Are Australian Shepherds Good With Kids? The Cons
While the Aussie’s convenient medium size sets it up to be a great playmate for kids, breed isn’t the greatest factor in a dog’s personality. According to a study reported on by the New York Times, a dog’s breed only affects about 9% of its behavior.
We can‘t predict an individual Australian shepherd‘s personality, but we can predict its physical features, instincts, and parentage. Based on those, here are the potential drawbacks you may encounter when you’re socializing an Australian shepherd with young kids.
- Herding instincts: Many Aussies still work as herding dogs on ranches across the U.S. So, many of these dogs still have strong herding instincts and may try to herd young children. You may need to train Aussies not to nip at children‘s heels.
- High energy levels: This attribute can be a double-edged sword. Australian shepherds need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, which makes them a great choice for active and outdoorsy families. But many busy families can struggle to give this breed the physical activity it needs. Without enough exercise, Aussies can become destructive or overly exuberant — potentially shredding toys and jumping on children.
- Skittishness: Skittishness occurs when a dog reacts with fear to anything new or strange, including new children. Breed shouldn’t affect this, so an Aussie is just as likely as any other breed to be skittish, especially if the parent dogs are reactive or the Aussie puppy doesn’t receive early socialization. Families with small kids should look for confident Aussie puppies.
- Shedding: The Aussie’s beautiful coat colors, including blue merle, red merle, and tri-color, make it a handsome family dog. But Australian shepherds will shed those coats all over your house. Because of their heavy shedding, Aussies are not hypoallergenic and should not share a home with children who have allergies.
How to Raise an Australian Shepherd That‘s Good With Kids
Picking an Australian shepherd that’s good with kids is less about the breed and more about the individual dog’s temperament and socialization. Here’s how to choose and raise an Aussie that loves kids:
- Find the right breeder: At a minimum, a responsible breeder should screen parent dogs for health issues such as epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and other genetic disorders. They should also raise puppies in their house and provide some early socialization. Look for a breeder that specifically breeds Aussies to be family pets, not working dogs, and ask if the puppies meet any children in their first eight weeks of age.
- Pick the right puppy: Meet the puppy’s parents and see if you like their personalities. Also ask your breeder about notable characteristics among puppies in the litter — even puppies from the same litter can have very different personalities. Choose a more confident puppy to reduce the chances that they’ll be afraid of kids.
- Start socialization early: The early socialization period lasts from three weeks to three months old. During this time, puppies decide what’s safe and what’s threatening. To prevent your puppy from viewing children as threatening, introduce them to as many different kids as possible as soon as you bring them home. Take the puppy with you to the playground, your kid’s soccer games, and other kid-focused events.
- Provide plenty of training: Teaching basic manners — like not to jump on people, not to use people’s hands as chew toys, and not to guard the dog food — will make your Aussie puppy better behaved around children and everyone else. Sign up for positive reinforcement training to help your dog learn good behavior.
- Get your kids involved: Bring your kids to dog training classes or have them practice training your dog at home. Your kids should give your dog commands, like sit, stay, and come, and they should provide the treat when your dog listens. If your Aussie doesn’t respond to your children at first, back them up by giving the same command immediately after your child. Allow your child to provide the treat when your dog responds.
So, are Australian shepherds good with kids? If you like this breed‘s convenient medium size and think their high energy level is a good match for your family, then an Aussie could become your kids‘ new best friend.
But the best dog for your family can’t just be bred — it needs to be raised. How you raise your Australian shepherd puppy will help determine how well-behaved it is with kids. Introduce your Aussie to kids of all ages as early as possible. Make its interactions with children positive by providing treats, and get your kids involved in training so your dog learns to respect all its family members.
With the right temperament, training, and socialization, any dog can be good with kids — especially a sweet and confident Aussie puppy.
For more information on your favorite breeds, check out the Native Pet blog.