Australian Shepherd

Fast Facts

Country of Origin:United States
AKC Group:Herding Group
UKC Group:Herding
Use today:Herding trials, Sheep herding
Life Span:14 to 16 years
Color:The only acceptable body colors are solid red, solid black, blue merle and red merle, with or without white and/or tan markings.
Coat:Double-coated
Grooming:Brush weekly, daily during the spring shedding season. Groom as needed.
Size:Medium Dog Breed
Height:AKC standard, males 20 to 23 inches; females, 18 to 21 inches.
Weight:Males, 45 to 65 pounds; females, 35 to 55 pounds.

Probably originating in the Pyrenees Mountains (which, by the way, are not in Australia…), the Australian Shepherd was developed in the US for herding livestock and all-around ranch work.

Today’s Aussie, although still a capable worker, is a companion to families, not just cowboys. Thriving on consistent exercise, Aussies can compete (and often bring home ribbons) in just about any dog sport. With a strong watchful instinct as well as a herding instinct (resulting in some exciting cat chases if the Aussie decides they need herding!), Aussies typically let their families know when strangers arrive. Although sometimes shy with new people, Aussies are devoted and protective of their own family, and can keep up with even the most active child.

Exceptionally easy to train, the only class the Aussie will fail is Naptime 101. Apartment-dwellers would be brave to take on an Aussie, unless the family is planning on daily canine exercise excursions.

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Aussie Pups

The Australian Shepherd:     

Attentive
Reads the Help Wanted ads, not the Comics
Purpose-driven

Should I get an Australian Shepherd?

Terrific for a person who:

Can’t sit still, so won’t expect a dog to lie around much either.
Wants a dog that’ll adore them and celebrate time together.
Has extensive plans outlined for dog competitions and activities.

Think twice if you’re a person who:

Doesn’t know what a dog work drive is, let alone how to nurture it.
Is gone long hours at a time, and expects exemplary dog independence.

Rarely gets off the couch unless the TV remote’s broken.

Australian Shepherd Grooming

The coat sheds heavily and requires regular brushing to keep it mat-free and under control. Dog Breeds that Shed Heavily>>

Australian Shepherd Standard Look:

The Australian Shepherd is either born with a natural bobtail or has its tail docked while still a pup. The medium-length coat comes in black, red, blue merle or red merle, all with or without white or tan markings. The preferred height for males is 20 to 23 inches with females at 18 to 21 inches. They should appear solid, without appearing heavy.

Aussie Personality

An intelligent, good-natured dog with an even disposition; may be reserved with strangers.

Australian Shepherd Trainability

High; easy to train and easily housetrained.

Australian Shepherd Activity Level

High; because of their high energy level, they need a lot of daily activity and exercise ..

Possible Australian Shepherd Health Concerns:

Epilepsy, cancer, allergies, eye problems, hip dysplasia,. Breeders should do Canine Eye Registry Foundation testing


Active, Attractive and Eager to Work: More on the Australian Shepherd

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Top Traits
  • Smart
  • Devoted
  • Tireless worker

When 19th-century American ranchers imported hardy Australian sheep to improve their flocks, Basque shepherds and their dogs accompanied the sheep from Australia to the U.S. Those little blue herding dogs helped to change the face of the Wild West and developed into what is today known as the Australian Shepherd, a uniquely American breed.

People often still use Australian Shepherds as herding dogs, but they can also be super service dogs for people with disabilities, pet-therapy dogs for people in medical or care facilities, and wonderful companions for active individuals and families.

"They are a very versatile, adaptable, yet active breed,” says Carol Ann Hartnagle of Brighton, Colo., whose family has been involved with the breed for more than 50 years. "They want to be part of whatever is going on. They are a thinking dog, bred to make decisions and use their brains.”

Always Active

To keep an Australian Shepherd busy and out of trouble, take advantage of his smarts and strong desire to work by assigning him daily chores around the house. Teach  him to bring in the newspaper, fetch your slippers or other items, put dirty clothes in the hamper, and put away  his toys — or your kids’ toys, for that matter.

"The best circumstances for Aussies are those with medium to high activity and lots of engagement with the family,” Hartnagle says. "Aussies do well in structured environments and are willing to take direction, training, and focus. However, they are willing to step up and be the leader if no one else does, so they definitely need a channel for their intelligence and activity.”

Living with an Australian Shepherd not only means fulfilling his need to work, but also dealing with certain quirks, such as his devotion to a timetable. If Aussies ran the world, everything would happen on time.

"They thrive on a schedule,” says Karen Russell, a breeder from Campo, Calif. "They know that it’s time to go for a walk, time for dinner. They care about what your schedule is and what you’re doing and what they’re doing. If you change something, they’re going to have to approve that new schedule.”

Shadow Dog

The Aussie is also something of a touchy-feely dog.  His favorite spot is as close as possible to his chosen person. An Aussie will sit on your foot, lean against your leg, and even wedge his 45-pound body into your lap. That desire to be close is a physical manifestation of the breed’s devotion to its people.

"We say the Australian Shepherd lives its life to fulfill yours,” says breeder- Ellen Brandenburg, who also shows her dogs and lives in Vermontville, Mich. "A potential owner should (want) a dog that may be smarter than its owner, that wants to be by its person’s side 24/7, that has a huge desire to please, and is willing to lay down its life for you.”

 

Watch 2012 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show Videos>>

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