Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd What’s the Difference

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have some very similar traits – both have a lot of energy, both are highly intelligent, and both are similar in terms of size and general health.

If you are trying to pick one of these two dogs to join your family, read on to find out the differences between Collies and Aussies.

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd side-by-side comparison


Border CollieAustralian Shepherd
Average Age12-15 years12-15 years
Average Weight30-45 lbs40-65 lbs
Average Height (at the shoulder)18-22 inches18-23 inches
Typical behavior with kidsMay nip or herd childrenLess likely to nip but possible
Typical behavior with peopleGenerally friendly; affectionate with familyStandoffish/fearful with strangers; affectionate with family
Typical behavior with other dogsMay nip; needs early socializationMay nip; needs early socialization

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: History

Collies and Aussies were both recognized by the AKC as distinct breeds in the early 1990s. They were both bred to be helpful on a farm, specifically with herding animals like sheep and cattle. This makes them both highly intelligent and energetic dogs. 

Border Collie History

Collies were originally bred on the border between Scotland and England as a herding dog. They were easily one of the greatest assets a shepherd could have to tend their sheep. Collies were bred to be able to run 50 or more miles a day, and they can take commands from hand signals or whistles.

Once Collies were placed in dog shows, royalty and spectators alike became enamored by the breed’s look, intelligence, and superior herding abilities. 

Australian Shepherd History

Aussies, despite their name, were bred in the United States. There is still debate over which dogs were used to create this unique looking breed, but it is clear they – like Collies – were born to herd.

Aussies started as a breed around the time of the gold rush, working side-by-side with cowboys in the west. They were developed specifically as a hard-working and versatile companion. 

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: Temperament

If you were to define Collies and Aussies in one word, it would be energy. Both pups are friendly but incredibly energetic. As a result, they both need to be part of an active household or have jobs that can burn off some of their energy each day.

Border Collie Temperament

Collies were bred to be able to run and herd sheep for 50+ miles a day. They thrive in an environment where they are asked to work daily. If they don’t have a job, they will often create one, which leads to Collies herding – and possibly nipping – children or other animals like squirrels. 

In addition to physical activity, Collies need constant mental stimulation. Collies are highly intelligent and learn quickly, so they need their work to require them to problem solve and use their minds. 

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Aussies also need work daily, and without that stimulation, they can become destructive – wrecking your house or barking frequently if they are cooped up in the house. Like Collies, Aussies are highly intelligent and need mental stimulation. 

Aussies are more hesitant and fearful around strangers than Collies. They will often become standoffish and afraid when confronted by unknown people. You can help them through socialization as a puppy, but their fearful nature is unlikely to go away entirely.

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: Grooming

Collies and Aussies are both middle of the road when it comes to grooming. They are highly active, so their nails tend to stay somewhat short. They often don’t need baths; however, they do both need to be brushed weekly. 

Regular inspections of the ears, nose, mouth, skin, and paws can help find any issues that need to be addressed early. If either the Collie or Aussie starts to have a dull coat – even after brushing – it is typically a sign that their food needs to be adjusted or something is wrong. 

Border Collie Grooming

Collies have double coats and classically long hair that feathers around the legs and chest. While it is possible to find Collies with shorter hair and less feathering, they are the exception rather than the rule. Weekly brushing of their hair and teeth will keep them clean and looking nice. 

Australian Shepherd Grooming

Aussies have similar coats to Collies. Their coats have a water-resistant quality, so they are typically comfortable even if there is rain or snow where they live. Aussies also have feathering of their long coats at the legs and chest. 

Aussies shed year-round – though it does get heavier in the spring as they switch to a lighter summer coat. Weekly brushing can help keep the shedding down and can help prevent matting in their coats. 

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: Training

Collies and Aussies are highly intelligent and can quickly learn many tasks. Their herding abilities make them excellent at any activities that require agility, speed, and endurance. 

Border Collie Training

Collies are very sensitive to their handlers. They thrive under positive reinforcement and want to please you. They pay close enough attention that directions can be given through only hand signals or whistles. 

Since Collies have an instinct to herd, this can lead to nipping and chasing when not under your control. Because of this, it is important to keep Collies under your control. This behavior can look aggressive to others. 

Australian Shepherd Training

Aussies intelligence combined with their desire to please, makes them a good candidate for household chores. Aussies can be trained to collect things like dirty laundry and bring it to the laundry room in your house. They need a minimum of 30-60 minutes of activity a day.

Because of their need for mental stimulation, Aussies need to have more stimulation and activity the older they get. 

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: Lifespan

Healthy Collies and Aussies both live to be an average of 12-15 years old.

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: Health

Collies and Aussies fall in the middle of the road in terms of health. They both have potential for some similar health concerns: Hip dysplasia, allergies, eye issues, and Osteochondrosis Dissecans (a joint condition).

Border Collie Health

Collies have some specific health issues as well. They are at risk for developing epilepsy, Collie Eye Anomaly, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. 

If you are getting a Collie from a reputable breeder, you should expect to receive information about their health including clearances on dysplasia, eyes, and thyroid.

Australian Shepherd Health

Aussies also have unique health issues. While there are quite a few, they do not all affect every dog. In addition to hip dysplasia, Aussies are also at risk for elbow dysplasia. They are more likely to be deaf or have drug sensitivities. 

Aussies also can develop Collie Eye Anomaly, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cataracts, Distichiasis, and Persistent Pupillary Membranes which all affect the eyes.

Conclusion

Both Collies and Aussies are good herders and hard workers, but the Aussie is a little more helpful when it comes to training to help you around the house. The Collie though has the longer and more classic coat seen in the herding breeds. 

While both dogs live similar periods of time and are about the same height, the Collie is a little lighter in weight. Aussies on the other hand are more likely to bark and become destructive when they get bored. 

Both Collies and Aussies are stunning breeds – whether you are looking for a physically striking coat or an intelligent, agile superstar. Just be sure before you bring either animal into your home you have the space, time, and energy to devote to this energetic pup. 

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