The Australian Shepherd is bred in two sizes today: standard and miniature. One thing many first-time dog owners don’t realize is that a dog’s adult size can really influence how long it takes that dog to grow up.
Why is it important to know when your Australian Shepherd will stop growing? It is important for all kinds of reasons, but one of the most important is because you will need to restrict exercise until your dog is fully grown.
Read on to learn why this is mandatory to prevent lifelong health problems and how to tell for sure when an Australian Shepherd standard or miniature dog is done growing.
When Does An Australian Shepherd Stop Growing?
As you just learned, the size of your Australian Shepherd will influence how long it takes for your dog to grow up.
In general, small dog breeds grow up faster. This is no exception with the Australian Shepherd. A miniature Australian Shepherd dog will be fully grown in one year, while a standard size Australian Shepherd may take as long as 16 months to grow up.
Watch An Australian Shepherd Puppy Grow Up
This adorable owner-made YouTube video shows how quickly a standard Australian Shepherd puppy can grow up.
The video takes you through day by day, all the way up to the point when the puppy is eight months of age. There is a dramatic transformation, as you will see.
What Is the Size of an Adult Standard Vs Miniature Australian Shepherd?
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the standard size Australian Shepherd dog will weigh between 40 and 65 pounds and stand 18 to 23 inches tall (paw pads to shoulders) when fully grown.
Also, adult male standard Australian Shepherd dogs tend to outweigh female adult dogs by up to 15 pounds and stand at least two inches taller.
This is a difference of anywhere from 20 to 45 pounds and five to 10 inches in height.
Contrast this with the much smaller size of the miniature Australian Shepherd, which the AKC states weigh between 20 and 40 pounds and stands 13 to 18 inches tall when fully grown.
Here, adult male miniature Australian Shepherd dogs tend to outweigh female adult dogs by up to 10 pounds and stand at least one inch taller.
Why Is the Growth Cycle Longer for a Standard Size Australian Shepherd?
As the previous section here pointed out, a standard size adult Australian Shepherd is going to have a lot more growing to do than is a miniature Australian Shepherd to go from a tiny newborn puppy to a full-size adult dog.
This tends to hold true across the board for larger dog breeds. The larger the dog, the more growth must take place in every way, including bones, skeletal system, soft tissues, organs – everything.
So while you can expect your small to mid-sized Australian Shepherd puppy to complete the necessary growing in 12 months, your medium to large-sized Australian Shepherd puppy is going to need more time – at least four months more on average.
Why Is It Vital to Your Aussie’s Health to Know When They Are Done Growing?
According to the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, Australian Shepherds are genetically prone to inherit two potentially disabling joint malformation issues: elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia.
While both joint issues can potentially be prevented when a conscientious breeder orders pre-breeding screening tests, not every breeder knows to do this or chooses to have the tests done.
The term “dysplasia” basically translates to mean “abnormal growth.” When that abnormal growth takes place in a dog’s major joints such as the elbow and hip, it can mean a lifetime of pain or lameness.
Canine dysplasia may be inherited, but it can be worsened greatly by too-fast growth or too-early strenuous exercise.
In other words, your Australian Shepherd may have a mild case of dysplasia that will get much worse if your dog grows too fast or exercises too vigorously before they are done growing.
How Can You Know Your Australian Shepherd Dog Is Done Growing?
There is only one guaranteed way to know that your Australian Shepherd is done growing.
This method is fully reliable and applies regardless of gender or whether you have a standard or a miniature Australian Shepherd.
The one and the only way to confirm that your Australian Shepherd has stopped growing are to have your dog’s veterinarian take X-rays of the long leg bones.
At the top of each long leg, bone is an area of cartilage called the “growth plate.” This growth plate, like its name suggests, is like the computer of the dog’s leg. It sends out instructions, such as “keep growing” or “stop growing.”
The type of instructions each growth plate sends out can be changed based on what (and how much) your dog eats, what type of exercise (and how long), the timing of a neuter/spay surgery, individual and breed canine genetics, and other factors.
When your Australian Shepherd has stopped growing for good, the growth plates will harden and close. This means that there will be no more growth instructions sent out – ever. Your dog is as tall as they are ever going to get.
Now, keep in mind here that your Aussie may still have some filling out to do in terms of reaching their full adult weight. Here, the growth plates are really overseeing your dog’s height.
Why Would an Australian Shepherd Dog Grow Too Much?
There are several key reasons to be aware of that can explain why an Australian Shepherd dog might grow past what is healthy for them to do.
Feeding the wrong diet
One of the main reasons that an Australian Shepherd dog might keep growing is if the dog is fed the wrong diet.
A miniature Australian Shepherd puppy should be fed a small breed complete and balanced puppy food until the age of 12 months or whenever your veterinarian instructs you to transition to small breed adult dog food.
A standard size Australian Shepherd puppy should be fed a medium breed complete and balanced puppy food until at least 12 months of age. Your veterinarian will be able to best advise whether to continue beyond 12 months or transition to adult food then.
Too much vigorous, sustained exercise
The Australian Shepherd dog is a lively, smart, active working dog breed that was originally developed for livestock herding.
So these dogs are used to being on the go all day, every day, often for long hours at a stretch.
You can count on bringing home an active Aussie puppy. This will only increase as your puppy develops more coordination and begins to explore their world and the great outdoors. These dogs love to run and jump and exercise.
But as Animal MRT explains, if you let your dog go on long hikes or runs with you or do a lot of jumping or other exercises that can put pressure on growing joints, this can damage the soft cartilage growth plates at the top of each leg bone.
If the growth plates get damaged before they harden and close, they won’t send out the proper instructions to the bones for how long to grow and when to stop.
You risk having a dog that goes through uneven growth on either side of the body. For dogs with a history of hip or elbow dysplasia who have inherited the condition, the added joint pressure can increase the amount of malformation that occurs.
All kinds of very bad structural things can happen if you do not carefully monitor your dog’s exercise up until X-rays confirm that the growth plates have hardened and closed.
But once that happens, you can allow your dog to run and jump and play to their heart’s content. It is worth waiting a little bit longer to be sure your dog’s body will be structurally well-formed, healthy, and strong to enjoy an active life with you.
Detecting Joint Problems in a Rescue Australian Shepherd Dog
If you have rescued an older puppy or adult Australian Shepherd dog that appears to be having any joint pain or movement issues, the only way to know for sure what might be going on is to have X-rays taken.
Your canine veterinarian can help identify if there has been any past abnormal growth or joint malformation and give you guidance about canine rehabilitation, pain management options, or joint surgery if the case is severe.
During puppyhood, always watch for any signs of lameness, including favoring one limb, limping, whimpering or whining, licking at an area, not wanting to play, refusing to get up, or similar signs.
There are all kinds of options today for helping an Australian Shepherd with joint or growth issues become more mobile and pain-free. Your canine veterinarian is the best resource to explore these.