There is no mistaking the Australian Shepherd, with their striking colorful coats and equally striking eyes.
Aussie’s personality is just as bright and bubbly and they are smart as a whip. With their working dog background and thick double coat, many new owners are understandably curious about whether the Australian Shepherd can sleep outdoors.
The answer truly is, “it depends.” In this article, we walk you through what you need to know if you are considering allowing your Aussie to sleep outside full time.
Can Australian Shepherds Sleep Outside?
The Australian Shepherd comes from a long lineage of distinguished working and herding dogs. Their background working outdoors in all kinds of weather is what gives many owners the idea of letting their dogs sleep outside.
But an Australian Shepherd living the life of a pet dog is not the same dog at all as a true working Aussie with a full-time 24/7 job to do.
So while modern pet Australian Shepherds can sleep outside, they will need your help to stay safe, comfortable, warm, and happy when separated from you at night.
Is It Safe to Let Your Australian Shepherd Sleep Outside?
As you think through whether to let your Aussie sleep outdoors, your first and most vital consideration will always be safety.
You want to be sure your dog is safe and you want to be sure that others are safe from your dog.
Here is a handy safety checklist to help you think through how your Australian Shepherd might occupy their time at night while you think they are peacefully sleeping.
Aussies are fence jumpers
The Australian Shepherd’s first job was herding and guarding livestock. But after the demand for that job died down, guess what their next job was?
If you guessed “rodeo trick dog” you now know why these dogs make for some of the most extraordinary escape artists in the canine world.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, today there are still many Australian Shepherds who are herding livestock and entertaining rodeo crowds all around the world.
As this short and amazing YouTube video showcases, an adult Australian Shepherd is not only capable of jumping over a five-foot fence but can even navigate to jump between that fence and a top wire designed to keep the dog inside!
Aussies are diggers
Australian Shepherds are also excellent at digging their way out – even when their owners think their backyard is escape-proof.
As the Western Australian Shepherd Rescue charity explains, digging is just one of the many behaviors that often lands these dogs in rescue shelters in the first place.
Unfortunately, it really does take some extra advance preparation before you can allow your Aussie to stay alone in the backyard for any length of time – day or night – in total safety.
Aussies are barkers
Even if your backyard is so solidly escape-proof that there is no way your dog is going to ever get out, your Australian Shepherd still has their voice. And they sure do know how to use it!
Aussies are people dogs. They want to be with their people. Even another dog playmate is not an adequate substitute for you.
And as VetBabble points out, since Aussies tend to bond more closely with one person in the family, it is their favorite person they will miss the most.
Then they will bark and bark and bark to let you know they miss you.
So even if you can manage to sleep through all that barking, you will likely have at least one neighbor who can’t and who will let you know immediately that your dog has kept them up all night long.
Aussies have a very strong instinct to run and chase and herd
If your Australian Shepherd does manage to escape from the outdoor area where they are kept at night, there is a huge risk you will never find your dog again.
Working Australian Shepherds are constantly on the move for hours at a time, herding and running and chasing and staying active.
Even “pet” Aussies from the show ring breed line will retain much of this same instinct to run and give chase. Only now they will be chasing other animals, bicyclists, vehicles, and anything else they see that is moving.
They love to run and crave physical activity and mental enrichment. This means that even if your dog is micro-chipped and is wearing tags, there is still a risk those won’t be sufficient to reunite you if your dog wanders too far away.
Aussies are smart and curious
No matter what you try, you may not be able to convince your Aussie not to try to play with or hunt or herd the wild animals that come into the yard at night. This can spell danger for those wild animals and also for your unsuspecting dog.
Aussies are not immune to cold
Earlier in this article, we talked about how there is a difference between an Australian Shepherd dog that is working full-time herding or doing tricks and an Aussie that is living the pet life.
As well, As VetStreet explains, today there are actually two Australian Shepherd breed lines: the true working Aussie and the show ring Aussie. Two Aussies from different breed lines can often look and act quite differently.
One of the biggest differences is that the working Aussie will be moving about and keeping their body temperature up even in cold weather.
The pet Aussie who is sent outside to sleep at night in cold weather only has two choices: keep moving all night to try to stay warm or try to sleep and risk hypothermia (when the body temperature drops below a normal level).
Vets4Pets explains that working dogs that are used to being outside in the cold may be better acclimated and know how to cope.
Pet dogs that are suddenly sent outside (or even pet dogs that seem to want to go outside to sleep) may not be able to cope without risk of hypothermia.
Aussies do not handle the heat very well
PetMD points out that while Australian Shepherds can handle the cold to some degree, they can only handle heat up to temperate (moderate) conditions.
Here, it is their thick, double layer, working dog coat that is the problem. That coat is designed to keep these dogs warm in cold weather and dry in rainy or snowy weather.
While some owners may feel tempted to shave the coat for the summer months, this will actually permanently destroy most of the coat’s natural protective properties. The coat will not grow back in two layers, which is why you never want to shave an Aussie.
This means that even if you live in a mostly temperate climate if the weather gets too hot (or too cold) at any point, you will need to bring your Australian Shepherd indoors for the night for their own safety.
How to Create a Safe Space for Your Australian Shepherd to Sleep Outside
Now that you have a good working overview of the most pressing safety issues you and your Aussie will face if you decide to let your dog sleep outdoors, it is time to move on to the protective measures you can take on your dog’s behalf.
Secure your yard and gate from every angle
With an extremely intelligent, independent-minded, active, and energetic dog breed like the Australian Shepherd, it isn’t enough to just add a higher fence to guard against jumping.
You also need a deeper fence to guard against digging.
And you need a gate that your dog absolutely cannot open – your locking mechanism has to be foolproof and ideally double or triple-locked just to be sure.
Micro-chip and tag your dog
An Australian Shepherd without a micro-chip and tags is a sad story just waiting to happen.
More importantly, even if your dog does have both, are they updated? It is all too easy to forget to update the information on your dog’s tags and in the microchip database.
To guard against this, be sure to put reminders in your calendar to periodically check and update this information as needed.
Weather-proof your dog’s outdoor kennel
Your dog’s needs may be different depending on what type of climate you live in. In either case, you do need to make sure your dog gets plenty of natural air (ventilation) but is protected from drafts and strong wind, as well as rain, ice, and snow.
For very cold climates, you will need to install some type of heating system to keep your dog safe and warm on very cold nights. The heating system must be pet-proof, and that includes any hot elements, electric cords, or power sources.
For very warm climates, the only options are to install some type of doggy air conditioner or to bring your dog inside. Remember, never shave your Aussie’s coat or they will lose the protective properties of the coat for life!
Make sure your dog gets enough exercise every day
A big part of choosing an Australian Shepherd dog is simply making sure you have enough time to spend with this active, all-go, no-stop, people-focused dog breed .
There is no better recipe for a missing Australian Shepherd than a dog that doesn’t get enough exercise during the day and is then sent outside at night. You can bet your dog won’t use the time to sleep!
When you have thoroughly worn your dog out both physically and mentally, chances are good your Aussie will happily curl up anyplace that is comfy and enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
Make special accommodations for senior dogs
Australian Shepherds are happily long-lived in most cases, with an average life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
But this also means you may have a few years nearer the end of your dog’s life when they struggle with joint aches or arthritis, thinning coat, and less natural tolerance to the elements.
In these cases, it is smart to plan ahead and be able to make modifications for your senior Aussie’s comfort.
You may need to add more warm and comfortable bedding, adjust the bed height to make it easier to get up and down, and make sure to add extra protection for bare paws, noses, and ears from contact with too-cold or too-hot surfaces.
Letting Your Australian Shepherd Sleep Outside Is a Personal Choice
There is really no one right or wrong answer to whether an Australian Shepherd can sleep outside or not.
Some owners are surprised when their Aussie wants to go outside for the night even when they have a nice, comfy bed inside.
And other owners who try to acclimate their Aussies to sleeping outdoors may find it just doesn’t work – their dog wants to be inside with them.
The best approach is to just try it and see. If you have made all of the safety preparations mentioned in this article and feel confident your dog will be safe, then give it a try and see if it works for you.
Learn More About Dogs’ Needs When Living Outside
In this very helpful, detailed YouTube video from an animal behavior professional who works with dogs and their people.
Whenever you choose to add a dog to your family – regardless of breed – it is just important to consider what your dog will gain from living an outdoor life versus what your dog might give up in having less contact with you, their people.
When it comes to letting your Aussie sleep outside, there are even more considerations to think through, many of those having to do with weather and safety, which we will talk about here next.