Have you ever wondered what the mix of an Australian Shepherd and a Golden Retriever would be like? Well, look no further. This particular crossbreed is called an Australian Retriever and we are going to discuss what to expect if you decide to bring one home – the general appearance, training and diet requirements, and any potential health concerns. We will also go over what an Australian Retriever would cost and where to find them.
A Snapshot of an Australian Retriever
|Statistics of the Australian Retriever
|19-23 inches (from paw to shoulder)
|Dense and Thick
|Red, gold, brown, black, white, grey, blue merle, red merle
|Amount of Shedding
|Energetic, reward-motivated, task-driven, intelligent, loyal
The Short History of the Australian Retriever
Australian Retrievers have not been around for very long. In fact, they only really surfaced in 2007 and 2008 when an Australian Shepherd breeder paired her Aussie male with three Golden Retriever females. Most Australian Retrievers that you come across will be first-generation pups. Currently, they are not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a legitimate breed but they are recognized by the American Canine Hybrid Club and the Designer Dogs Kennel Club. In all honesty, Australian Retrievers are not a “real” breed and they are primarily found in shelters as accidental litters rather than intentional litters.
Australian Retriever Traits and Temperament
Since Australian Retriever breeders are still in the beginning stages of developing the breed as a whole, these designer mixes have not been bred for any specific characteristics. These dogs can possibly act like an even combination of both parents, closer to the happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever, or more like a hard-working Australian Shepherd. Here, we will discuss the traits and temperaments of both breeds since your Australian retriever puppy could inherit any combination of them.
Australian Shepherds are working dogs, bred to herd and (in rare instances) protect livestock. They live for the work. Rarely does an Aussie have an off-switch – they are constantly on the go and are extremely high-energy dogs. Their loyalty to their owners is unparalleled yet they tend to be suspicious of outsiders – human and animal. They may have a medium to high prey drive. Australian Shepherds are excessively intelligent and can be a poor choice for a family dog if there is little mental stimulation in the home.
Golden Retrievers, on the other hand, are family dogs through and through. They were bred to retrieve game while their owner hunts but their prey drive was pretty much erased. While they are high energy and easily excitable, they are also content to lounge on the couch and cuddle with someone. However, when the doorbell rings, they will be off like a shot. They don’t care who is petting them as long as someone is giving them the physical attention that they so desperately crave.
Australian Retrievers could inherit a little bit of each parent’s temperament or they may be a carbon copy of a single parent. An even mix would be an extremely smart dog who is energetic, loyal, and easy to train. These dogs tend to inherit the intelligence of the Australian Shepherd and require a stimulating environment. Understand that both parent breeds are high energy and if your household does not meet these criteria, this may not be the dog breed for your family.
What Does an Australian Retriever Look Like?
Again, an Australian Retriever can get any physical trait from either parent. They could get the cow brown eyes of the golden retriever or the bright blue that some Aussies present with. They could have shorter fur or longer fur, though either way, it is going to be thick and require heavy brushing. They will typically have feathering at the paws and ears. These dogs will also shed excessively, especially if they take after their double-coated Aussie parent.
One positive thing that these mixed breed designer dogs could inherit from their Australian Shepherd parent is their coat color. While Golden Retrievers typically come in that tell-tale gold, or occasionally red, Australian Shepherds come in all sorts of fun colors: black, white, brown, grey, blue merle, and red merle. Since the Australian Retriever is not currently undergoing selective breeding for any specific color, they can have any combination of these.
The body type of an Australian Retriever is just as variable as the color of its coat. They could exhibit the athletic body of the Golden or the deep-chested frame of the Aussie. They could end up with little bits of both. The one physical characteristic that they all seem to share, however, is a rounded snout rather than the slim, pointed face of the purebred Australian Shepherd. They will all have silky ears and long tails attributed to both parent breeds as well.
Expected Lifespan of an Aussie and Golden Mix
Mixing these two breeds does have at least one benefit. While Golden Retrievers are large breed dogs and often live a shorter life (about 10-12 years), Australian Shepherds are considered medium breed dogs and have a longer lease on life (13-15 years). The resulting crossbreed gets an extended life expectancy of 11-15 years.
This could be due to the fact that mixed-breed dogs tend to live longer than their purebred counterparts. Mixed breed dogs are known to have longer life spans, fewer physical issues, and a significantly lower chance of contracting diseases. Please note, that this does not negate the need for regular veterinary care or vaccines.
Diet Requirements for an Australian Retriever
In terms of the dietary needs of an Australian Retriever, the recommendation of your veterinarian is best. If the veterinarian has no preference, choose a well-balanced diet. Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin are all companies that have a veterinary nutritionist on staff to maintain the balance of vitamins and nutrients.
A large breed-specific diet may be needed. Sometimes, large breed dogs (like Golden Retrievers) grow a little bit too quickly. If the puppy’s parents were both on the larger side, the extra vitamins in the large-breed food will give them what they need to grow properly.
Speaking of bones and joints, it is not a bad idea to start a joint supplement (such as glucosamine chondroitin) when the Australian Retriever is young. Both Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds are prone to early onset arthritis as well as more severe arthritis as they age. The joint supplement will not prevent this from happening but it will slow the process down and strengthen the joints.
Another food suggestion for an Australian Retriever would be a weight control or maintenance diet. Both of the parent breeds are prone to obesity due to their incessant reward-motivation. Golden retrievers are known to just love food. Sometimes, they receive one too many training treats or they have an insatiable appetite. A weight control diet curbs that weight gain which helps the dog’s overall health throughout their lifetime.
The amount of food that an Australian Retriever should receive is relative to the weight of the dog. All dog food bags have a feeding guide on the back that lists the amount per weight. A dog of this size group should not be having more than 1.5 cups twice daily. Double check the bag for correct feeding instructions.
Golden Retrievers are known for eating quickly and indiscriminately. It would be a safe bet that an Australian Retriever would be just as happy to gobble down food. A slow feeder bowl is a must-have for quick eaters as it allows the dog to slow down and keep them from regurgitating everything they just swallowed.
Energy Level and Exercise Requirements
These dogs, regardless of which parent breed they take after, are going to be the canine equivalent of an Energizer bunny. Golden Retrievers are known for their exuberant energy and Australian Shepherds seem to be inexhaustible. Add these together and you will have a dog who needs constant physical stimulation.
Australian Retrievers will require 2-3 walks per day and that does not mean a mere walk around the block. They will benefit from hikes, off-leash running at the park, and other various activities like swimming. These dogs may not have an off-switch and will need constant movement. If your family does not meet that level of physical activity, this is not the dog for you.
The Trainability of an Aussie and Golden Mix
On the upside, Australian Retrievers are ridiculously easy to train. They inherit the intelligence and task-driven nature of an Aussie while also taking on the reward-motivation of a Golden. Obedience training should be a breeze and these dogs would do very well as service animals for active individuals.
There will be some possible pit-falls in training, though. Australian Shepherds are known for separation anxiety and resource guarding which they could potentially pass on to the Aussie and Golden mix. With early intervention and behavior-specific training, these two major issues can be avoided.
In addition to separation anxiety, an Australian Retriever may exhibit general anxiety or suspicion around other people. While they will be extremely loyal to their owner (like Velcro), they will typically not exhibit the over-the-top friendly nature of their Golden Retriever parent. If your family is highly social with many guests coming in and out, this crossbreed may not be the right choice for your next puppy.
Resource guarding is nothing to scoff at either. Dogs who exhibit resource guarding can easily move from food or toy guarding to full aggression towards people or other animals. Once they start, resource guarding and aggression are very difficult to eradicate. If you have small animals or children, this may not be the dog for you.
Australian Retriever Potential Health Problems
There are a number of health problems that Australian Retrievers may be susceptible to. Since this is such a new mixed breed of dog, the breeders have not yet begun to breed healthier dogs. Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds each come with a plethora of health concerns and the resulting crossbreed could possibly be at risk of all of them.
The first main concern is cancer. Golden Retrievers are known for their predisposition to cancerous lumps and bumps. They can seemingly come out of nowhere and can be terribly aggressive. There is a chance that mass removal or chemotherapy can lengthen the dog’s lifespan but there is no definite cure.
A second life-threatening and scary health concern is epilepsy from the Australian Shepherd. This parent breed is prone to seizures which can start at any point in their life and can vary in severity.
Epilepsy is very close to another health problem that could be inherited from the Aussie parent – the MDR1 gene. This stands for Multi-Drug Resistance and there are a significant amount of Australian Shepherds who inherit this. This is a genetic disorder that causes extreme reactions to different drugs and chemicals such as certain antibiotics, flea and tick preventions, and a few anti-inflammatory drugs. These extreme reactions can range from skin irritation to seizures to spontaneous death.
Australian Shepherds could also contribute certain eye problems to their mixed breed progeny. Several of these can result in damage to the retina and most of them will cause partial or complete blindness with age. Not all of these eye issues will be evident at birth but some will, such as distichiasis (eyelashes that grow incorrectly on the eyelid inwards toward the cornea).
One last tally in the column of the Australian Shepherd parent is the potential for allergies. Goldens are not as likely to present with food or environmental allergies but, thanks to the Aussie parent, an Australian Retriever has a much higher chance of presenting with allergies. This may happen early or later in life but it can result in skin issues and stomach upset. Allergies are an obnoxiously expensive condition for your dog to have.
Now, we have discussed health concerns that could come from only one parent. What about the issues that are present in both breeds? Neither of the parent breeds are known for impeccable health records.
An issue that these two parent breeds could pass on together is hypothyroidism. This is an imbalance where the production of thyroid hormone is too low. This disease affects the entire body. A dog will present with clinical signs like weight gain without appetite increase, slowed heart rate, skin and fur issues, and lethargy. This disease can only be diagnosed via a blood test and requires daily medication for the rest of the dog’s life.
Both the Golden Retriever and the Australian Shepherd are prone to hip dysplasia, as well. This irregular growth of the hip socket is obvious from the very beginning of puppyhood. Very quickly, hip dysplasia results in a tell-tale bow-legged stance and an odd gait.
After a lifetime of this malformation in the joint, the concern for arthritis pops up. However, even if an Australian Retriever is lucky and skips the hip dysplasia, they still have the possibility of early onset arthritis as they age. Arthritis in dogs is just like human arthritis – it’s a hardening of the cartilage in the joints. Arthritis is painful and also requires daily anti-inflammatory medication to relieve said pain.
One health concern that is not gradual is an ACL tear. This is not a hereditary issue but, due to the high energy level of an Australian Retriever and the possibility of bad knees, this mixed breed has a high risk for this injury. An ACL tear occurs when a dog tears a ligament in their knee after running and stopping too hard or landing a jump incorrectly. This injury requires expensive surgery, and months of bed rest (which would be next to impossible for an Australian Retriever), and often reoccurs in the opposite knee later on.
Again, mixed-breed dogs tend to have a longer, healthier lifespan than their purebred counterparts. It is still too early to determine whether an Australian Retriever would escape from any of these health issues unscathed. To be honest, the first specimens of this new crossbreed only just died in the past 2-3 years. There aren’t enough examples of these designer dogs to give us an idea of whether they are healthier on average than their parent breeds.
Where to Find an Australian Retriever Puppy
Australian Retriever breeders are quite literally nonexistent. This breed will typically be found in shelters due to accidental breeding versus breeders intentionally awaiting a crossbreed litter. You will be hard-pressed to find a legitimate breeder rather than a puppy mill. Your best bet is to look through a rescue that is specific to Australian Shepherds or Golden Retrievers.
Other Golden Retrievers Mixes
- Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever Poodle Mix)
- Goldador (Golden Retriever Labrador Mix)
- Golden Collie (Golden Retriever Border Collie Mix)
- Golden Boxer (Golden Retriever Boxer Mix)
- Golden Pyrenees (Golden Retriever Great Pyrenees Mix)
- Goldmation (Golden Retriever Dalmatian Mix)
I am going to be very bluntly honest. The cons far outweigh the pros in the matter of Australian Retrievers. Firstly, they aren’t a “real” breed yet. They have barely been around for 15 years and have no breed standard. They are impossible to find because no one is breeding them. No one is breeding them because they have so many potential health and behavior issues and their energy is so high that they don’t make a good family dog.
After researching their needs, it seems like an Australian Retriever would be better off as a working dog or a farm dog. They could possibly be service animals if trained early enough but they seem to have too much of a “stranger danger” instinct for that to work. Service animals can’t be reactive and have to display near-perfect behavior. Only a friendlier and less anxious Aussie and Golden mix would do well in that scenario.
They have predispositions to more health issues than I can count. Even writing the list of possible health concerns was daunting. If you still intend to track down an Australian Retriever for your next family pet, after all of that, I hope you have a great pet insurance plan because it seems you will most likely need it.
You should also make sure that you have access to a dog trainer who specializes in working dogs and dogs with high energy and anxiety. Australian Shepherds seem to get the worst behaviors of the two parent breeds when mixed, primarily the resource guarding and separation anxiety. The research makes it seem like you will have your work cut out for you if you pursue an Australian Retriever.
- A Snapshot of an Australian Retriever
- The Short History of the Australian Retriever
- Australian Retriever Traits and Temperament
- What Does an Australian Retriever Look Like?
- Expected Lifespan of an Aussie and Golden Mix
- Diet Requirements for an Australian Retriever
- Energy Level and Exercise Requirements
- The Trainability of an Aussie and Golden Mix
- Australian Retriever Potential Health Problems
- Where to Find an Australian Retriever Puppy
- Other Golden Retrievers Mixes
- Final Thoughts