Can You Rescue an Australian Shepherd?

For many dog lovers, the tug-and-pull between wanting to adopt and wanting their dream breed is an emotional struggle. Is rescuing an Australian Shepherd a possibility?

Dec 3, 2023By Chelsea Pinkham
can you rescue an australian shepherd

Rescuing a dog versus buying from a breeder is a polarized topic. For those involved in dog rescues, adopting a dog may feel like a necessity. But for many dog enthusiasts, caring for a dream breed is a lifelong goal and an immense source of joy.

Sadly, there are countless Australian Shepherds in need of homes. Luckily, for those looking to rescue, there is no shortage of options. Let’s explore why some Aussies end up without homes and how you can help end this problem.

Aussies Are Popular, But Frequently Rehomed

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In 2023, Australian Shepherds placed twelve out of two hundred under the American Kennel Club’s breed popularity ranking. This makes Australian Shepherds one of the most popular dogs in the United States! However, given these dogs’ strong behavioral needs, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. To put it simply, many families are not prepared to care for an Australian Shepherd.

Aussies’ behavior may not be as extreme as Border Collies or Australian Cattle Dogs, but they are still true herding dogs. Herding dogs need direction, guidance, and lots of exercise. These dogs are quite athletic! Without stimulations, Aussies can develop dangerous behavioral issues, such as chasing and nipping at heels to “herd” their caregivers.

When a breed skyrockets in popularity, backyard breeders and puppy mills quickly pick up on these trends. Not only are these operations harmful in a plethora of ways (more on that later), but they tend to not take their puppies back if the buyer changes their mind and decides to rehome their dog.

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All of these factors create a difficult situation for Australian Shepherds. At no fault of their own, many Australian Shepherds end up in animal shelters, rescue groups, or simply abandoned to fend for themselves.

Breed-Specific Rescues vs. Shelters: What’s Best?

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When dogs are first surrendered, picked up off the streets, or rescued from abusive situations, they go to animal shelters. Not all animal shelters operate in the same way. Some are private, nonprofit organizations that operate on donations and can control the number of animals they take into their facility. Some are government-funded and work with animal control agencies to take in all of the animals in need within a certain city or county. In general, these shelters tend to lack resources.

Breed-specific rescues, like the Aussie Rescue & Replacement Helpline Inc., serve as middlemen between shelters and adopters. They place dogs into knowledgeable foster homes, and if needed, provide dogs with professional training. Breed-specific rescues know their breeds thoroughly and can help pair adopters with the right match. Rescues can also serve as a resource for understanding particular breeds and deciding whether a breed is for you. If you adopt a dog from a rescue, you should be able to visit the dog in their foster home and learn more about their individual needs.

To find breed-specific rescues, you can use search engines like Petfinder.

Why Rescue an Australian Shepherd?

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There are countless reasons why adopting a rescued dog could be the best option for you. First, when you adopt a dog, you are helping to clear space in rescues and shelters. This enables them to continue their lifesaving work, creating room for another rescue in their facility or foster homes. Adoption saves lives!

Another factor to consider is that you won’t have to navigate the challenge of finding a dog breeder. For the general public, telling the difference between an ethical breeder and a backyard breeder can be extremely difficult. Supporting a backyard breeder has massive ethical implications, from contributing to the decline of dog genetics to supporting questionable animal welfare practices. Ethical dog breeders certainly do exist, but it’s critical that if you decide to go this route, you are fully committed to thorough research.

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The third reason is a simple one: puppies are tough! From potty training to positive socialization, the endeavor of raising a puppy is not for the faint of heart. An adult dog who has been screened by a reputable rescue group will likely present far fewer challenges. While a breed-specific rescue group can pair you with an ideal match, puppies have a whole lot of personality to grow into. Adopting a dog directly from a foster home can offer a more predictable experience.

Backyard Breeding Has Ethical Quandaries

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Why is dog breeding an important topic? As a general rule of thumb, the more popular a dog breed becomes, the more puppy mills and backyard breeders become involved in puppy production.

These money-hungry operations are not breed enthusiasts. They generally aim to produce as many puppies as possible, without proper knowledge of canine genetics, structure, and health. While ethical breeders work hard to educate prospective buyers on a breed’s needs, backyard breeders will often undermine a breed’s needs to make more sales.

Worst of all, backyard breeders and puppy mills usually do not take puppies back when their caregivers want to rehome them. This leaves dog owners stranded with an animal they feel unequipped to care for. If you do decide to buy a puppy from a breeder, you should do your research beforehand.

You should also be on the lookout for red flags. For instance, most reputable breeders have waiting lists, meaning it’s perfectly normal to wait months (or even years) for the right puppy. Puppy mills and backyard breeders usually have puppies on-demand––convenient for the buyer but harmful to the breed.

You Could Adopt an Aussie From a Shelter

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Even if you have no interest in adopting a dog, you can help end Australian Shepherd homelessness. Donating to breed-specific rescues is a wonderful and selfless way to honor your favorite dog breeds. Becoming a dog foster will help fill your canine fix without committing permanently to dog ownership.

We can also help reduce the flow of dogs into shelters by educating the public on breed-specific needs. By encouraging people to research dog breeds before jumping on the popularity bandwagon, we increase the likelihood that people buy or adopt a dog that suits their lifestyle.

Committing to training your dog before behavioral issues develop reduces the likelihood that you’ll ever have to rehome them. Ask yourself: if I had to surrender my dog today, would a new owner be able to handle their behavior? If the answer is “no”, consider seeking professional dog training. Dog-specific behavioral issues, even those that are easy to solve, are a common reason for Australian Shepherds to enter shelters.

Not every home should have an Australian Shepherd. But every Aussie deserves a home!

Chelsea Pinkham
By Chelsea Pinkham

Chelsea is an animal advocate, rescuer, and aspiring rewards-based dog trainer. She is a Fear Free Certified Pet Professional with over a decade of animal experience. Chelsea has worked at animal shelters, sanctuaries and with many private dog training clients. She immerses herself in canine behavior education as she pursues her CPDT-KA dog training certification. In her spare time, she trains dozens of fun tricks for her and her partner’s rescued adventure cat, Iggy!