The Australian Shepherd is not Australian! The breed actually developed in the United States and its progenitors came from the Basque region of the Pyrenees, between Spain and France. It is believed that Basque shepherds brought over small ‘blue’ dogs to work in the U.S. The sheep that were worked were imported from Australia. Another theory has it that the dogs immigrated first to Australia and then to the U.S. Regardless, the actual breed was refined and established as The Australian Shepherd in the United States. Of course, it had several other names before deciding on the somewhat misleading title. Spanish Shepherd, was one name tried out, Pastor Dogs, Bob-tails, Blues, Heelers, New Mexican Sheepdog and Californian Sheepdog, have all been applied to the Australian Shepherd. Arriving in the Southwestern United States in the late 1800s – early 1900s, the dogs were, at first, allowed to interbreed with other shepherd dogs. The emphasis was on the dog’s ability to work, not its appearance. An Australian Shepherd dog club originated in the U.S. in 1957 but it wasn’t until 1976 that the breed standard was written and American Kennel Club recognition did not occur until 1992.
These medium sized dogs are slightly longer than they are tall. They are solid and muscular. They are often compared to the Border Collie. Their gait demonstrates the agility and stamina that a sheepdog would need.
|Colour||Coat colours include, black, blue merle, red and red merle. Merle is a mottled colour that darkens as the dog ages. All colours have white markings on the chest, legs, under the muzzle and as a blaze on the forehead.|
|Coat Length||Medium Long
|Weight/Height Range||Dogs ideally measure between 51-58cms at the withers, and bitches between 46-53cms. They should weigh in the region of 16-32kgs, the dogs at the top end of the scale and the bitches at the bottom.
|Ailments||Being collies, the Australian Shepherd has inherited some of the collie eye diseases, among them collie eye anomaly, Coloboma, an abnormal development of the eye and microopthalmia, an abnormally small eye. Cataracts, retinal detachments and progressive retinal atrophy (a degeneration of light receptors in the eye) are other eye problems to watch out for. All breeding dogs should be screened for eye problems and prospective owners should ask to see the eye certificates of a puppy’s parents. Hip dysplasia is another disease that can be screened for, although it is harder to eliminate entirely through breeding as the condition can be exacerbated by poor nutrition and improper exercise in pups. Epilepsy has been known to occur in Aussies as well as some blood diseases. Pelger Huet disease causes anomalies of white blood cells but does not seem to have any clinical significance.|
|Breed Classification||Australian Shepherd Dogs belong to the Working Dog group and are used for sheep-herding, as companions and seen in the show-ring.|
Feeding & Ownership
This breed does like its food and can become overweight if it does not get enough exercise.
$15 to $20
It is recommended that you socialize Aussies early, as they can be a bit shy with strangers. It is also good for them to get used to children, other dogs and pets at an early age if one wants relations to go smoothly. The herding instinct is very strong in this breed and they must be taught that not all children take kindly to being herded. It is probably best to keep Aussies in a well-fenced yard and on leads when out for a walk as they may otherwise feel compelled to herd traffic, which can be fatal. This is a one person or family dog so they do make good protectors. They are very vocal and have a peculiar bark-howl combination that can be utilised in their guarding capacity. This is not the best breed for novice dog owners.
|Intelligence||Australian Shepherds are eager to learn and please their owner. As a result, this is an easy to train breed, although they can be rather dominant. It is also a breed that must be trained, as it needs something to occupy its mind. Aussies were bred to work and without a purpose in life they become bored and can develop destructive behaviours.|
|Suitability for Children||Medium|
|Tendency to Bark||High|
|Overall Exercise Requirement||Long walks are essential but are still not enough. Roadwork and free running are both needed for the good of the dog. This dog will work well in obedience, agility, fly ball or herding, all areas where he will do himself and his trainer proud.|
|Suitability as a Guard Dog||Medium|
|Ease of Transportation||High|
|Level of Aggression||Medium|
|Other Animal Compatibility||Low|
Aussies do shed and it is advisable to comb with a coarse, double toothed comb during moulting season.
|Grooming Requirements||Up to once a week|
|Amount of Hair Shed||Little|
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