With a name as such, it’s normal to assume this breed originated in Australia along with kangaroos and koalas, but this breed is as American as the Stars and Stripes flag and apple pie. Often, affectionately nicknamed as “Aussie” this is an appealing breed with loads of energy to share.
This agile breed originated from the Western United States, around the 1840’s at the peak of the Gold Rush when a massive migration occurred to the west coast. And this dog was sure a treasure to farmers and ranchers; this is a hard-working herding dog that loves to do his job. It’s a lovely sight to watch him in action as he rounds up, nips and stares down sheep to gain control. He was frequently used near the Rocky Mountains as he had showed to be unaffected by altitude. Ranchers in Colorado selectively bred dogs with great herding abilities that attracted buyers as far as California. He still retains a touch of Australian heritage though if you consider that his ancestors include collie and shepherd-type dogs that were mixed in with shipments of sheep imported from Australia during the 1800s.
The breed became quite popular after World War II, when Western-style horse back riding generated vivid interest interest in this breed that often accompanied the cowboys and performed a variety of tricks at rodeos. This breed was recognized by the AKC in 1993 and is categorized under the herding group.
As with snowflakes, no two Aussies are alike. You may end up with an extremely energetic specimen or a much calmer one. One thing is for sure: most Aussies nowadays are kept as pets and this breed is much appreciated for his intelligence, versatility and great looks. Nowadays, he’s more often than not kept as a companion, but needs to be kept entertained or else he’ll find his own forms of entertainment and they won’t be pretty. Digging, barking, chewing and herding cars, animals and even your neighbor’s kids are just some examples.
This breed stands between 20 and 23 inches and weigh between 40 and 65 pounds. Despite breeders selling teacup, toy, or miniature Australian Shepherds for a premium, consider that these dogs don’t adhere to the breed standard. This breed has an attractive, medium-length coat with some feathering and fringes covering the back of the forelegs and the britches. Common coat colors include blue merle, red merle, red, tri-color, and black. White fur on or around the ears may be an indicator of a predisposition for white-related deafness. Normal eyecolor in aussies range from brown to amber to blue. Some Aussies may have two different colored eyes, and some may have irises with two different colored “bicolored or “split eyes” Some Aussies have naturally bobbed tails (NBT) derived from selective breeding as the tail got in the way, and when the tail is long often breeders will dock them. This breed features a stride where its front and back legs cross over.
This is a very smart dog that loves to work. Put his brains to good use by providing ample of training opportunities and mental stimulation. Fail to do so, and you’ll have a dog that chases cars, herds your neighbor’s kids and tears your couch apart. This breed will thrive in the sport of agility, flyball, disc dog, canine Freestyle and Treibball but he’ll be the most happy dog on earth if you combine his need for movement with his love for sheep and enroll him in herding trials. He’ll still be very happy to become a guide dog therapy dog or even help you out with your household chores. Always use reward based techniques. Some specimens may be stubborn.
Make sure you provide puppies with early socialization. This breed is naturally wary of strangers and needs to learn from an early age to get accustomed to different types of people and different types of settings. An under socialized Aussie may become suspicious and may even tend to bite.
The Ideal Household
This bred thrives on exercise and mental stimulation. An active owner who is willing to put this dog’s brain and energy to work would be ideal. A walk around the block won’t cut it with this breed; be ready to go hiking, jogging or even better enrolling him in some fun doggy sports. Plan to provide at least 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.
This breed isn’t for the first time owners; it requires consistency and knowledge in providing outlets for his natural behaviors.
This breed will love to be on a farm. If you don’t have sheep or cattle don’t worry, this breed won’t mind working with ducks, geese, and rabbits. If you don’t have a farm, a home with a yard is ideal, so he can work out his zoomies. Make sure the fence is high enough, this breed has a reputation for being able to jump as high as 4 feet. And make sure that he can’t dig under and escape. If he sees something outside that he’ll like to herd, he’ll find a way through. He ‘ll likely protect your home as he tends to be aloof with strangers and will report any suspicious activity with barking. His barking though isn’t usually excessive. Don’t keep him secluded in the yard for too long though; this breed likes companionship and prefers to be with his family. That why lovers call them Velcro dogs. On top of that, he can get bored and engage in undesirable behaviors.
With kids, the Aussie can make a wonderful companion, but you’ll need to work on controlling his herding and nipping behaviors. As with any breed,no child or dog should be left alone unsupervised. With pets, yes, he’ll want to herd them too. With other dogs, some are good-natured and get along well while others may dislike them.
Coat and Grooming
This breed is a medium shedder, needing a good brushing at least once a week to collect dead hairs and keeping matting at bay.
Where to get one:
Look for a reputable breeder or look for a rescue.
Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, Inc.
Second Time Around Aussie Rescue, Inc.
Aussie Rescue Canada
Australian Shepherd Rescue Page
United States Australian Shepherd Association
When it comes to the health department, consider that this breed is predisposed to several health conditions. Hip and elbow displaysia, epilepsy, deafness, several eye conditions, collie nose are just a few conditions this breed is prone to. This breed is prone to drug sensitivity to invermectin, an active ingredient often found in heartworm meds. When two merle-coated Aussies are bred, there’s a risk that 25% of the offspring will get two copies of the merle gene (homozygous). These dogs are often referred to as “lethal white.” This may trigger a white coat and blue eyes, linked to deafness and blindness.Their median lifespan is 12.5 years.
Be wary of breeders selling white Aussies as “rare” without disclosing the many health problems Aussies with this coat a prone to. Breeders sell now teacup, toy, or miniature Australian Shepherds for a premium, consider that these dogs don’t adhere to the breed standard.
Native Americans called these dogs ghost eyed and considered them sacred.