Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent dog who is extremely passionate about his work. Even when they are full-time pets, they see game time as a job to be done.
This herding dog is happiest when there is a job to be done, and indeed this is the ultimate ranch dog.
Their name is a bit misleading because this breed has one of the blockbuster-all-American stories: originally a European breed perfected in California by way of Australia. Sounds confusing? That’s because there is a story behind it. Check it.
Real name: Australian Shepherd
Origin: United States
Breed type: Herding Dogs
Weight: 50-65 pounds (male), 40-55 pounds (female)
Height: 20-23 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female)
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Litter Size: 6 – 7 puppies
Color: Blue or red merle, solid black or red, and/or white markings and/or tan points or a mixture of all
Coat: Moderately long double coat
Australian Shepherd History
Dog breeds are commonly connected to specific places, which reflects their nature. In fact, specific places reflect both their native climates and cultures.
As a result, we have dogs whose names are directly linked to the places of their birth or creation, such as German Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, or Swedish Lapphund.
However, there is one exception to this rule: a tie to a fast and intelligent Australian Shepherd.
Opposite to many true Australian breeds, this dog is an American breed, developed mostly in California, but other parts of the States contributed as well, including Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.
So, what’s the reason for the Aussie reference in the breed name? And how much of the breed is owed to the Basques?
Australian Shepherd’s earliest roots go back to the 1500s and the New World when the Spaniards imported their hardy native Churras sheep, as well as herding dogs to tend them.
Some documents describe these dogs as wolf-like, and much larger than the modern Australian Shepherd.
Over time these Spanish-derived herders created space for a kind of generic sheepdog that populated New Mexico, California, and beyond.
In the mid-1800s the California rush occurred and created a high demand for sheep to feed new miners, and with more sheep, getting more dogs was an expected step.
Farmers used the British-derived sheepdogs – many of them originated from working Collies, which often had different colors, from being merle, tricolor, and black or tan with today popular colors and patterns.
At the time they were called English Shepherds, and sometimes they had half-tails or no tails at all.
In the late 19th century the most popular sheep breed was Merinos – holders of the most expensive wool.
At the time, Germany has become an epicenter of Merino breeding.
One German émigrée brough Merinos to Australia, where the numbers went up to millions – from there they traveled to a sheep-starved American West.
Newspapers covered these events, and also mentioned the Australian Shepherds that accompanied them. No one in Australia called them Australian Shepherds – that name was given by Americans.
All in, the Australian Shepherd belongs to the UK Rural clade, next to Border Collie, Collie, and Shetland Sheepdog. Like dogs in that clade, the Australian Shepherd carries the MDR1 mutation.
This mutation leads to high sensitivity to ivermectin, and the breed can develop Collie eye anomaly – a disease that is linked to a dog’s of British roots.
Today, this is one of the most popular and most loved breeds ever, usually being in the first 15 places on AKC’s most popular dog list of the year.
Australian Shepherd Physical Appearance
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent and hard-working dog with strong guarding and herding instincts.
In fact, this is the breed that people envision when they think about dogs herding sheep.
This powerful dog is a loyal companion and will demand frequent exercise time and well-structured training – otherwise, you can expect some destructive behavior or even separation anxiety if left alone for too long and too often.
As for the appearance, the Australian Shepherd is a well-built and muscled dog of medium size.
He is agile, solid, and muscular, with a coat of moderate length and coarseness. They almost always have a docked or naturally bobbed tail.
The head is strong and clean-cut, and always in proportion to the body. The back is straight and strong, while the croup is moderately sloped. Ribs are long and well sprung, while shoulder blades are long and flat.
Legs are straight and strong, while feet are oval. Front dewclaws may be removed, and pads are thick and resilient.
Hair is of medium texture and may vary from straight to wavy, weather-resistant, and of medium length.
The undercoat may vary depending on the climate. In general, on the head hair is short and smooth, and in dog shows non-typical coast are severe faults.
Australian Shepherd Personality
Before you get a dog, no matter how much like the breed, make sure that you do the proper research first.
Know as much as possible about the breed’s personality, character, and what makes them so unique and recognizable.
Be honest and conclude on facts if you can afford to have that specific breed or not.
If your job forced you to be outside your home all day long, it’s a clear sign that at the time you don’t have enough time to care about another living being, and you should wait for some calmer period.
On the other hand, if you do your research, meet some representatives of the breed and have extra time, love, and finances (because owning a dog will cost you money) then you are ready to have a canine following you all day long.
Now… What you should know about the Australian Shepherd’s personality?
Australian Shepherd Personality And Character
The Australian Shepherd was developed to be a dog of medium-sized, highly intelligent, and all-purpose stock dog.
Even today they are busy working on farms, while there are Aussies that have never seen sheep or cattle – this doesn’t mean that their strong herding instinct wouldn’t immediately jump in.
This dog isn’t a couch potato, and will never act as such. This dog was bred for action. If you don’t give them a job to do, they will demand heavy active time to burn out that extra energy.
This is common in dogs with high energy – they need activity. Don’t forget: a tired dog is a good dog.
They are capable of out-thinking their owners, which is why this breed isn’t recommended for first time dog owners.
They tend to be shy around strangers and reserved. They are protective of their family members and property. As with all dogs, if you miss training and early socialization Aussies may become aggressive.
Australian Shepherd Training
The key for any well-behaved dog is proper training and early socialization. Obedience training is a must for every dog, especially puppies who can be trained at the age of only 8 months.
Make sure that you are well-prepared for delivering the best methods for basic commands, that you can deliver structured and fun training sessions.
This is a highly intelligent dog, and as such training will be a breeze as long as you know how to work with dogs.
The most frequent reason why Australian Shepherds end up in the rescue is that owners couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with the breed’s energy properly.
The best way to keep the breed’s boundless energy within normal boundaries is to use training.
Since they tend to make strong connections with their owners, Aussies can be territorial and overprotective, and easily destructive if neglected.
Luckily, that loyalty combined with the breed’s intelligence and high energy makes them very easy to train if you know your way around dogs.
Australian Shepherd Grooming
In general, you will have to invest time in grooming your Australian Shepherd. Weekly brushing is mandatory and expects more frequent brushing during the shedding season.
Always have the best grooming tools on hand because they will help you deal with waterproof and double-layer coats to look their best.
During shedding season, keeping a vacuum cleaner nearby is a wise decision.
During shedding days, an undercoat rake can be used every two or three days to remove the abundant dead hair, followed by a cleanup with the wire brush. Aussies tend to work or play outdoors, so they do get dirty quite often.
Unless they got themself into a huge mess, you shouldn’t bath them because they don’t need frequent bathing as humans do.
Just have an old T-shirt or a piece of cloth next to the door that you can soak in water and use for cleaning.
You can use special tissues designed for cleaning your dog after a walk. As with all breeds, trim or grind nails regularly, check gums, and learn how to clean dog’s ears.
Australian Shepherd Health
Aussies are generally healthy and long-living dogs.
If you are dealing with a responsible breeder, you will always get medical documentation on the dog.
This way they are showing you that you can trust them and that you are getting a healthy dog.
If you are not presented with documentation on the breed, know that you are dealing with puppy mills.
This breed should always be checked for certain conditions, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Certain forms of cancer
- Elbow condition
- Ophthalmologist check-up
Ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax.
Teeth should be brushed (discuss this with your veterinarian), and always provide food that promoted dog teeth health.
When you get a dog you are directly responsible for his weight. It’s up to you whether your dog is about to gain weight or not.
Obesity in pets is a huge problem, and what may be a decision to you, is probably dangerous to your Fido – learn which human foods are safe for your dog and which you should avoid sharing with your Fido.
The Bottom Line
Doublethink if the Australian Shepherd is a breed for you.
You may love the fact of owning a dog who is smart and can learn many commands but are you willing to invest an enormous amount of time into training your Australian Shepherd and keeping him active?
If you don’t want to deal with providing enough exercise and training to keep your Australian Shepherd active, if barking is an issue, for you, and is heavier shedding is an issue, then an Australian Shepherd may not be the best choice for you.
On the other hand, if you want a dog who is of medium size, has breathtaking looks, and thrives on athletic activities, then an Australian Shepherd may be right for you.