Introduction Of Australian Shepherd Dog
Despite its name, the modern Australian Shepherd was actually developed in the western United States by ranchers and sheepherders. It has been known by many names, including the Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd and California Shepherd. Today, it is typically called by its nickname, the “Aussie.” This is an extremely sound-minded dog, so versatile that it can adapt to almost any situation or living condition. Aussies are loyal, friendly, affectionate, protective, active, brave, playful, sturdy and tireless. However, these qualities and traits, while endearing to their fanciers, make Australian Shepherds unsuitable for some households. They need a fenced yard and regular walks, always on leash. Their temptation to herd extends beyond livestock to other dogs, children and cars. If not exercised regularly, they can turn their intense energy to destructive tasks, such as chewing, digging and barking. According to the parent club, Aussies are quite capable of out-thinking their owners. They are naturally wary of strangers, and some Australian Shepherds never learn to accept new people. Naturally protective, they can become aggressive if not raised and socialized properly.
Australian Shepherds were entered into the American Kennel Club stud book in 1991, and they were fully recognized as members of the Herding Group in January of 1993. This breed is not registered in Australia as a native breed.
Aussies are naturally bobtailed, wavy-coated sheepdogs. The mature male should be 20 to 23 inches at the withers, with females being 18 to 21 inches at the withers. They typically weigh between 35 and 65 pounds. Their double coat can be straight to wavy and is medium in length. Aussies can be blue merle, black, red merle or red – all with or without white markings and/or tan/copper points. Their coat patterns are unique and can be quite variable.
Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Quick Facts
Australian Shepherd – Appearance & Grooming
The Australian Shepherd is a lively and agile dog with a body slightly longer than it is high. They are medium sized dogs with pendant ears, a medium length coat and a bob-tail (which may or may not be docked). The Aussie should stand squarely and have a deep chest. The top of the head is approximately the same length as the slightly tapering muzzle. Aussies have medium sized oval eyes that come in many shades of blue, amber and brown, often combined or with flecks; and they often have two different colored eyes. Their ears are set high atop the head and are erect and triangular. The medium length coat comes in blue or red merle, red or black tricolor, all with white and/or tan markings. Aussies may have straight or wavy hair, but always have feathering on the backs of their legs and boast a full mane around their necks.
Size and Weight
Aussies stand from 18 to 23 inches at the shoulder and range in weight from 40 to about 65 pounds. The average weight for females is 47 pounds and for males, 57 pounds.
Coat and Color
Australian Shepherds have medium-length coats. Their thick, weather-resistant coat keeps them warm and dry in the winter. Aussies are adaptable, though, and those dogs who live in warmer climates have thinner undercoats than dogs who are subject to snowy winters. Their hair can be either straight or wavy, with short, smooth hair on the head, ears, front forelegs and hocks. There is some feathering on the back of the forelegs. Aussies also have thick, full hair on the neck and chest.
Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colors and patterns: red merle, blue merle, red, tri-color (black, white and tan), and black. “Merle” means patches of dark blotches against a lighter background, therefore a blue merle dog has black patches on gray and a red merle dog has red patches on beige.
Australian Shepherds shed year round, and shed very heavily twice a year during season changes. To keep shedding under control and mats from forming in the coat, Aussies should be brushed weekly, year round, several times per week during periods of heavy shedding. This breed is relatively clean by nature so baths only need to be given as-needed when the dog is dirty or begins to emit an odor.
Regular ear cleanings, teeth cleanings, and nail trimmings should also be part of the grooming regimen in order to promote optimal health and appearance.
Australian Shepherd – History and Health
This breed probably originated in the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, between Spain and France. However, it was named because of its association with shepherds who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800s. While in Australia, Pyrenean Sheep Dogs probably were crossed with various types of Collies. Then, they were brought with herds of sheep to the United States – primarily, to California – in the mid- to late- 19th century. They were developed by American ranchers as sound, stable stockdogs with an honest work ethic and tremendous endurance and trainability. They commonly were used to move huge herds of sheep and cattle between summer and winter grazing grounds. They especially excelled at managing livestock in tight quarters, such as alleys and chutes. In America, the Australian Shepherd’s popularity rose with the popularity in Western horsemanship after World War II. The breed became well-known through appearances in rodeos, horse shows, television programs and movies. Despite this surge in popularity among companion owners, American ranchers continued to use and breed these talented dogs for their inherent herding instincts, versatility and keen intelligence.
Aussies are highly competitive in obedience, agility, utility and other performance disciplines, as well as quite recently in the conformation show ring. They are used as working ranch dogs, guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, therapy dogs, drug detectors, show dogs and search-and-rescue stars. They are perhaps best known as affectionate family companions. The Australian Shepherd Club of America became the parent club for the breed in 1957. Australian Shepherds were entered into the American Kennel Club stud book in 1991, and they were fully recognized as members of the Herding Group in January of 1993.
The average life span of the Australian Shepherd is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cataracts, congenital deafness, cryptorchidism, Collie eye anomaly, corneal dystrophy, dental problems, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, iris coloboma, osteochondritis dissecans, patellar luxation, patent ductus arteriosus and persistent papillary membrane. But overall, this is a sound, healthy breed.
Australian Shepherd – Temperament & Personality
Personality traits of the Australian Shepherd vary from dog to dog. Some can be outgoing and friendly, while others are shy and reserved. Regardless of the individual dog’s personality, a few things remain constant. Aussies are highly intelligent, loyal, and thrive on human companionship. Aussies are at their best when they are engaged in interaction with a person, whether it be walking, running, or fetching; and are the perfect companion for an active family.
Australian Shepherds need a lot of physical activity. They are a working breed, so they thrive on learning new tasks and engaging in those tasks as often as possible. Families who are active outdoors will benefit from the company of an Aussie. They are incredibly agile and enjoy games like fetch and catching a frisbee. Apartment dwellers should be cautioned against adopting an Australian Shepherd. Though they are medium in size, they require a lot of exercise and stimulation, and if they don’t get it, can become destructive or develop separation anxiety.
One of the most intelligent breeds, Australian Shepherds can be trained to do just about any task put before them. A firm hand is not needed to train this breed; positive reinforcement works just fine. They are a people-pleasing breed and quickly learn behaviors that are consistently rewarded with praise, or a small treat. Aussies excel in simple obedience training, and once they have mastered the basics should be enrolled in an advanced course, or more appropriately, agility training.
Training should begin early with Aussies, as their herding instinct can take over and cause havoc. Without setting proper boundaries with this breed, they can try to herd other pets or even children. They should also be socialized as early as possible, as they have a tendency to be standoffish or even aggressive to strangers.
Australian Shepherds crave human companionship and love being included in all family activity. The flip side to this is that they can easily develop separation anxiety or barking behaviors. Early training, plenty of exercise and mental activity can keep these problems from developing.
Their herding nature can cause Aussies to be chasers or nippers. They will chase birds, rabbits, cats, bikes, and even cars. Australian Shepherds should be closely supervised if not on a leash, or in a fenced yard, to avoid potentially dangerous situations.