Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: What are the Differences?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 1, 2022
Image Credit Maria Ulzutueva/Shutterstock.com
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Did you know that there are many differences between the Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog? Both the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are herding dog breeds- but what else do they have in common, and what differences exist between them?

You’ve probably noticed that the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog have different coat types and colors. But we can also help you tell them apart through their size, weight, trainability, or life expectancy. 

Let’s now take a closer look at how exactly you can identify these two breeds, with the help of some key differences that will come in handy both as a dog enthusiast and owner.

Comparing Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is taller and heavier than the Australian Cattle Dog.

A-Z-Animals.com

Key DifferencesAustralian ShepherdAustralian Cattle Dog
Size18-23 inches tall17-20 inches tall
Weight35-70 pounds40-55 pounds
ColorsBrown, red, black, grey, tanBlue, grey, red, blue speckled, blue mottled
CoatDouble coat; long, wavy, thickDouble coat; short 
TemperamentVery loyal and friendly, intelligent and protective, playful and activeIndependent, extremely intelligent, loyal, active, affectionate
TrainabilityEasily trained if starting from an early age; requires constant training and exerciseVery trainable; requires a training routine and rewarding techniques
Life Expectancy13-15 years13-15 years
Energy LevelsVery high energy levelHigh energy level

Key Differences Between Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog

australian shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is more eager to please its owner, while the Australian Cattle Dog is more independent.

Melounix/Shutterstock.com

There are many key differences between the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog including their different sizes and weights, coat types, and colors. They also have slightly different temperaments, energy levels, and training preferences. The Australian Shepherd is taller and heavier than the Australian Cattle Dog, while the latter has a more specific coat color and a longer life expectancy. 

Both are herding dog breeds, so their temperament and trainability are similar. However, we can still highlight some differences between the two. For instance, the Australian Shepherd is more eager to please its owner, while the Australian Cattle Dog is more independent and often takes the lead during training. 

If you’re willing to learn more about the key differences between the two breeds, we’re happy to provide you with detailed insights below.

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: Size and Height

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is slightly bigger (18-23 inches) than the Australian Cattle Dog (17-20 inches).

otsphoto/Shutterstock.com

Both breeds have similar sizes. The Australian Shepherd is slightly bigger (18-23 inches) than the Australian Cattle Dog (17-20 inches). In terms of weight, the Australian Shepherd can have up to 25-30 pounds more than the Australian Cattle Dog. 

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: Coat Type and Color

The Australian Shepherd’s coat is long, wavy, and thick, which means that it requires a lot of grooming, especially during the shedding session. This might be an important factor to consider if you’re thinking about buying a dog. What is special about the coat of the Australian Shepherd is that every dog has a unique variation of color. The standard includes blue merle and red merle, solid black or red.

The Australian Cattle Dog has a short-haired coat, making grooming easier and rarer. The curious thing about an Australian Cattle Dog is that it can be either a Blue Heeler or a Red Heeler. The Blue Heeler is a variation that has black hairs spread among the white hairs and, in turn, can be blue-speckled or blue mottled. These combinations make the dog’s coat look like it has a blue color. The Red Heeler is a variation that has brown hairs among the white hairs, which gives the coat a reddish appearance. 

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: Temperament

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is considered intelligent, loyal, active, and energetic and the Australian cattle dog is more aloof.

Alpeek/Shutterstock.com

Both the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are considered intelligent, loyal, active, and energetic dog breeds. They are both very affectionate and playful. Because they are a bit cautious around strangers or new situations, their owners should invest time in early socialization, helping them get used to new people and various places and sounds. The fact that they are cautious makes them a perfect fit for being guard dogs. 

These two dog breeds will get extremely attached to their owners and will defend them anytime, sometimes without even waiting for a command. 

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: Independence

The Australian Cattle Dog is much more independent than the Australian Shepherd, making this one of the key differences between the two breeds. If the owner doesn’t have much experience with dogs, it can take the lead in the household. This makes them a better choice for families that aren’t always at home because the Australian Cattle Dog doesn’t mind being left alone. They would still rather be around people, however. 

The Australian Shepherd is more keen on pleasing the owner and is less likely to take the lead, even though it is also known as an independent breed. It is also a very patient breed, making difficult situations bearable for the owner. Unlike the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Shepherd does not like being left alone. They can become anxious and develop destructive behavior. 

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog: Trainability

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is fond of running, jumping, and playing in open spaces, while Australian cattle dogs enjoy roaming.

Christian Mueller/Shutterstock.com

The two dog breeds have a lot of energy and always look forward to learning something new or executing a command. They are both willing to do almost any task they are given. 

The Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are herding breeds, so they are very fond of running, jumping, and playing in open spaces. They do, however, have herding instincts that have to be spotted early on, chasing or heel sniffing. If not properly trained, these instincts can grow, and it can be harder for the owner to train and teach the dog. 

Australian Cattle Dog Trainability

The Australian Cattle Dog is more independent and bossy around the house. This is the reason why it requires a training routine. If the owner doesn’t stick to the pet’s routine, the Australian Cattle Dog won’t even think about investing its time in the training session. Rewarding techniques will also help. 

According to Stanley Coren, the Australian Cattle Dog is among the 10 most intelligent dogs based on their obedience during training. A training routine will be pleasant for the owner as well. This is an important factor to take into account if you are considering adopting an Australian Cattle Dog.

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Shepherd is more reluctant when it comes to training compared to the Australian cattle dog.

Madelein Wolfaardt/Shutterstock.com

Australian Shepherd Trainability

The Australian Shepherd is more reluctant when it comes to training. Even though it’s also independent, its desire to please the owner is bigger. If the training starts at an early age, it will incorporate it into its daily routine. This is why the Australian Shepherd requires constant training and exercising, otherwise, it will easily get bored and will become destructive.

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