Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Published: June 4, 2022
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Australian Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are two well-loved family dogs. Before adopting, you might be curious about their differences.

Australian Shepherds tend to be a few inches shorter and live longer. Golden Retrievers are more affectionate and stranger-friendly.

Let’s explore more differences even further below!

Comparing Australian Shepherds vs Golden Retrievers

Australian Shepherds and Golden Retrievers differ in size, fur color, lifespan, temperament, energy level, barking tendencies, and shedding level.
Australian ShepherdGolden Retriever
Size18-23 inches; 40-65 pounds21.5-24 inches; 55-75 pounds
Fur ColorBlack, blue merle, red, red, merle; markings in white or tan pointDark golden, golden, light golden
Lifespan13-15 years10-12 years
TemperamentAffectionate, can be stand-offish with other dogs or strangers, and may struggle to adapt to new things.Extremely affectionate, great with other dogs and strangers, incredibly adaptable
Energy LevelExtremely highModerate
Barking LevelModerateLow
Shedding LevelModerateHeavy

The Key Differences Between Australian Shepherds and Golden Retrievers

The key differences between Australian Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are size, fur color, lifespan, temperament, energy level, barking tendencies, and shedding level.

We’ll dive into all of these further below so that you know what to expect from these pups.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Size

why do dogs drag their butts

Golden Retrievers are larger than Australian Shepherds.


There isn’t a huge difference in the size of these breeds, but it might matter if you’re looking for a dog that’s easier to pick up or control on a leash. The smallest Australian Shepherds are about 18 inches tall and weigh 40 pounds, though they can grow up to 23 inches and 65 pounds.

Golden Retrievers are larger, standing 21.5 to 24 inches tall and weighing 55-75 pounds. For dogs in the middle or even on the high end, there’s less difference between the two—but it’s still something to be aware of.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Fur Color

Group of Australian Shepherd dogs

Aussies have a variety of coat colors.

©Bonnie van den Born / Creative Commons

You likely won’t be surprised to learn that Golden Retrievers really only come in one color, though the breed standard lists it as three: light golden, golden, and dark golden.

With Australian Shepherds, there’s more variety. Their coats can be black, blue merle, red, or red merle. They may also have white markings and tan points.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Lifespan

If you’re looking for a dog that lives as long as possible, you might want to choose an Australian Shepherd. These dogs live 13-15 years compared to Golden Retrievers at 10-12 years.

That said, there are various factors that determine how long a dog lives—from genetics to proper care. It’s possible for a Golden Retriever to live longer than some Shepherds, as each dog is an individual, and these are just the averages.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Temperament

two golden retrievers running together

Golden Retrievers are friendlier toward strangers.

© Raykova

Australian Shepherds have some guarding tendencies. They may be wary around strangers, whether they’re humans or dogs. They can also struggle to adapt to new environments.

Golden Retrievers are incredibly adaptable and tend to think everyone’s a friend.

There are pros and cons to both of these. Don’t expect a Golden Retriever to attack a burglar, and watch that they don’t run up to aggressive dogs trying to make friends.

Australian Shepherds may not be suited for the dog park, as they may be more selective about who they want to play with!

Another variation in temperament is affection level toward the family. Golden Retrievers are big babies and might become clingy, while Australian Shepherds may be more independent. However, both dogs need plenty of time with family and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Energy Level

Golden Retrievers have moderate energy levels, perfect for keeping up with the kids, playing in the yard, and accompanying you on daily walks.

Australian Shepherds need at least one or two hours every day to run around and have fun! They like having a lot of activity and thrive when given a job. Shepherds also need more mental stimulation through puzzles, games, and activities.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Barking Level

Australian shepherd at sunset

Australian Shepherds tend to be more vocal.


Australian Shepherds can be yappy! If they haven’t had enough exercise or mental stimulation, you might notice some problem barking behaviors.

Golden Retrievers are less guilty of this and usually only bark to alert you of something happening, like a knock on the front door.

Australian Shepherd vs Golden Retriever: Shedding Level

Golden Retrievers aren’t the heaviest shedders in the dog world, but they’re definitely above average. You’ll notice their hair on your furniture and clothes, especially if they’re black!

Brush them once or twice weekly, as this will help their coat stay healthy and also keep some of that hair off the sofa.

Australian Shepherds should also be brushed weekly, but they don’t shed heavily like Golden Retrievers.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alpeek/

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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