Despite its name, an Australian Shepherd did not come from Australia but the breed was developed in the United States. It was identified as a breed in the early 20th century and these dogs are known and valued for their par excellence herding and guarding skills.
They were bred to herd livestock and they are really happy to have a task or job at hand. Besides, they also make excellent family dogs and due to their high intelligence, they learn new tricks quickly. They are great both as pets and emotional support animals as they are affectionate, great with kids and other pets, and are quite easy to train.
Other than this breed, there are a number of other dog breeds that are bred for different purposes and make great pets and support animals.
Without any further ado, let’s learn about the traits and temperament of this working breed.
‘Is Australian Shepherd an Australian breed?’
No, it is not. Australian Shepherd is an American breed that was bred to herd cattle and livestock for the farmers and ranchers.
How did the breed originate is still a question and there are many theories behind it. One popular theory says that the breed has collies and shepherd-type dogs as its ancestors. During the 1800s, European Basque people settled in Australia and brought their sheep and sheepdogs to the country.
Afterward, many of these people went back to the United States, along with their dogs. Those were probably the first Australian Shepherd dogs since that was their past palace of residence.
The rough and rugged areas of the American west and Australia demanded high from the herding dogs. However, after several selections and breeding processes, the Basque dog adapted to the requirements and adjusted itself to the harsh weather and conditions of the said countries.
The first Australian Shepherd, nicknamed as ‘Aussie’, was registered with the International English Shepherd Registry. The organization is now known as the National Stock Dog Registry. The breed was officially recognized by and registered with the American Kennel Club in 1993. The breed excels in herding, obedience, agility, and conformation.
Besides, the dogs are also known for their cattle and livestock guarding prowess, and many claim that their herding style is more suitable to nerd cattle than sheep.
The breed has earned a dedicated following and it is evident from the rise in its AKC’s rank, from 35th to 26th, in the year 2000. It also shows its popularity as a sports dog. In 1957, the Australian Shepherd Club of America and in 1990, the United States Australian Shepherd Association were formed as a parent club and association.
Both of the breed clubs represent and support the breed and the ethical breeders.
No, both of these breeds are independent and individually recognized. Though both of them do share some common physical and personality traits, they differ on many levels.
Below is a comparison chart of both of the breeds.
|Border Collie||Australian Shepard|
|Scottish and English borders, bred to herd sheep||Western US, used by ranchers to herd sheep|
|Energetic, intelligent, focused, hardworking||Dominant, intelligent, high in energy, strong herding instincts|
|Mostly black with a white blaze||Blue Merle, Red Merle, Red, Black, Tri-color|
|Kids and Pets|
|Great family dogs, tendency to herd other pets and kids||Good family dogs, need training and socialization to be around kids and other pets|
The Australian Shepherd dog is a bit longer than he is tall. He stands about 20 to 23 inches tall, mat the shoulders, and the females stand about 18 to 21 inches in height. The male dogs weigh about 50 to 60 pounds and the females could weigh anywhere between 40 to 55 pounds.
There are some advertisements and breeders that claim to raise and offer toy, teacup, and miniature Australian Shepherds but the genuine breeders do not recognize these size variations. The dog was bred to be a high-energy and sturdy breed that herds and guards the cattle and livestock.
Moreover, it was built to withstand the harsh and rough climate, all that would be impossible for a small-sized dog.
These dogs are quite beautiful also and watching them herd the flock of sheep is truly a delightful sight. Being natural herders, they use several techniques to flock and direct the sheep and this includes barks, nips, and intense eye expressions.
They are very hardworking, intelligent, and versatile, the reason why these dogs are so popular among the shepherds and pet owners alike. When at home, they will need ample exercise and mental stimulation to burn off energy and stay healthy and happy.
Besides, these dogs also make very competitive sports dogs. They are medium in size and have agile movements. Moreover, since they excel in training, obedience, and flyball tests, they make the top contenders for any kind of dog sports.
The Australian Shepherd is a working dog that is known for its remarkable intelligence and work ethic. It has excellent guarding and herding skills and they make loyal and faithful companions. They have legendary stamina and they could work all day long before dozing off to a peaceful sleep at night.
These dogs are a bit longer than they are tall and have well-structured bones and physique. They come in different coat variations and are considered notable beauties also. He has an alert and attentive expression, lithe movements, a muscular body, and a naturally bobbed tail.
Head- The size is according to the size of the dog. The shape and cut of the head are clean and strong and the muzzle is either equal or a nit smaller than the back of the skull. When viewed from the sides, the back of the skull and muzzle forms a parallel line.
The muzzle is rounded at the tip and tapers from base to nose.
Body - The back is straight and strong and forms a solid line from the withers to hip joints. The croup is sloped a bit. The chest is not very broad but it is quite deep and nearly touches the elbows. The ribs are well-structured and straight and the underside is a bit tucked in.
Coat - The hair is medium textured, a bit wavy, medium in length, and weather resistant. The undercoat changes, based on the kind of weather. The hair on the head, ears, forelegs, and below the hocks is smooth and short.
The backs of the forelegs and britches are feathered. The male dogs have more pronounced mane and frill than females. Severe variation in the coat denoted fault.
Forequarters - The shoulder blades are straight, long, and flat and set quite closer to the withers. The upper arm is equal to the shoulder blade and is attached at a right angle to the shoulder line and with the forelegs perpendicular to the ground. The legs are straight and strong and the bones are oval.
The pasterns are medium in length and are a bit sloped. The feet are oval in shape, compact, have well-structured paws and thick pads.
Hindquarters - The hindquarters are equal in width with the forequarters and the shoulders. The angles of the pelvis and upper thigh are according to the angles of the upper arm and shoulder blade. Stifles are well-structured and the hock joints are bent at a moderate level.
The hocks are short in structure, perpendicular to the ground, and in line with each other. The rear dewclaws should be removed. The feet are oval in shape, compact in structure, closely knitted, and have well-arched toes and thick pads.
‘What are the personality traits of an Australian Shepherd dog?’ Being natural herders and flock guards, these dogs have quite a dominating personality and you will have to show them who is in charge if you do not want them to take over your household.
This is why they may not make an ideal choice for first-time or timid dog owners.
They are highly energetic and active and this makes them great mates for outdoor activities and several sports. They have a great deal of stamina and they are quite loving, alert, independent, smart, confident, and responsive to their owners.
Since they are highly intelligent and energetic. They need sufficient mental and physical exercise and stimulation to burn that energy, and this is true for the Australian Shepherd puppies also.
In case they do not get a chance of letting out that energy, they may become destructive, frustrated, and difficult to live with. Like other dogs, they also need ample and timely socialization and exposure to different situations to develop into well-rounded dogs.
They are reserved with strangers and given to their herding instinct, they may try to herd small kids and animals.
They are very loyal by nature and with proper training and socialization, they could learn to be great pets and emotional support animals. A great way of helping them to socialize is to enroll them in a puppy kindergarten class,
‘What are the health concerns of Australian Shepherd dogs?’
Generally, these dogs are healthy and may be prone to a number of health issues. However, this does not mean that all the Aussies would get these diseases for sure but it only means that you should be aware of these health concerns before buying it.
Below are some common health concerns of Australian Shepherds.
Hip Dysplasia - This is a heritable disease and in it, the femur does not fit properly into the pelvic socket. This condition could exist with or without any outward signs but some dogs do show some signs of pain, uneasiness, and lameness in one or both legs.
Since the condition could be inherited, the dogs diagnosed with this condition must not breed. It could be diagnosed with an x-ray and when buying a puppy, you must ask for proof from the breeder that the puppy and its parents are screened for hip dysplasia and do not have it.
Elbow Dysplasia - This condition is common in large breeds. The disease is caused when the three bones in the dog’s elbows do not fit properly and perfectly. This could result in lameness and joint laxity but could be rectified through surgery and medication.
Epilepsy - These dogs are prone to epilepsy, which causes seizures. The condition could be successfully treated with medication but could not be 100% cured. The dog having the condition could live with the disease peacefully with proper medication and management.
Deafness - This is quite common in Australian Shepherds and could result in a number of other issues. Some of the kinds of deafness and hearing impairment could be treated with medication and surgery but in most cases, the condition could not be cured.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) - It is an orthopedic condition that is caused due to the fault in the growth of the cartilage in the joints. Usually, it occurs in the elbows but some dogs may develop it in their shoulders also. The condition could be diagnosed in dogs of four to nine months of age.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - It is a degenerative eye disease that causes blindness in dogs. The condition could be detected years before the dog actually develops it.
Luckily, this does not interfere with the happy and lively personality of these dogs and they could have a great life with it.
Cataracts - This disease occurs in old age and affects the clarity of the dog’s eyes. The eyes of the dog will have a somewhat cloudy appearance and the canine will have difficulties in seeing. Cataracts could be removed through surgery.
Distichiasis - This is a rather rare but prevalent condition in these dogs. It happens when an extra row of eyelashes grows on the oil gland of the dog’s eyes and sticks outside the edge of the eyelid. The condition could be rectified through surgery and it is done under general anesthesia.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) - This is an inherited health condition that could cause blindness in dogs. It occurs when the dog is about 2 years of age and could not be treated or cured.
However, this does not mean that blind dogs could not live a good life. Luckily, the condition does not affect their quality of life.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM) - These are the tissue strands in the eyes and the fragments of the fetal membrane that helped in nourishing the eye lenses before birth. Usually, they disappear by the time the puppies are 4 to 5 weeks old but sometimes they linger as the puppy grows.
In case these fragments do not break, they could lead to cataracts and corneal opacities.
Hypothyroidism - It is a condition in which the level of the thyroid is extremely low and could cause infertility in dogs. However, the condition could be managed with medication that your dog must take throughout its lifetime.
Besides, thyroid treatment is also available, and dogs getting the treatment usually have a full and healthy life.
Allergies - It is quite common among dogs and could be treated by eliminating the foods that may cause those allergies. There are several kinds of allergies including contact and airborne allergies.
These could be treated through timely and proper medication.
Drug Sensitivity - This disorder is quite common in herding dogs, including Collies and Australian Shepherds. It is caused due to the mutation of the Multidrug Resistance Gene (MDR1). The gene produces the P-glycoprotein, which is responsible for removing the toxins from the body.
Symptoms of this sensitivity include coma, hypersalivation, depression, tremors, and even death. There is no treatment but it could be diagnosed through genetic testing and screening.
Cancer - Dogs could also get several kinds of cancers. The treatment differs for different cases and they could be treated through chemotherapy, medication, and surgery.
Nasal Solar Dermatitis - It is also known as Collie-nose but the condition is not limited to Collies only. Dogs who do not have pigment in their nose and are sensitive to sunlight often develop lesions around their nose and eyelids.
To treat it, use doggie sunscreen before going into the sunlight and tattoo the dog’s nose black to build a shield between the sun and the dog.
Detached Retina - It could happen due to an accident and the retina could detach from the tissues. This could lead to visual impairment or blindness. The condition could not be treated or cured but dogs having the condition lives a full and otherwise healthy life.
Other than these, there could be a number of other health conditions that could affect and interfere with the normal and happy living of your dog.
The best way of avoiding it is to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and stay updated with the vaccinations.
‘How to take care of an Australian Shepherd dog properly?’
Though these dogs are rough and built to withstand the harsh climates, they do need proper care, grooming, and feeding.
If you are having a yard then make sure that it is properly and securely fenced. These dogs are natural herders and due to this instinct, sometimes they may have a strong desire to herd something.
Therefore, to keep them inside and secure, it is better to have a fenced yard and on-leash walks. You should also know how to train your dog to stay in the yard to keep them safe. Use good quality and comfortable leash like amartingale collar to train your dog.
‘How much exercise does my Aussie need?’ About a half-hour to an hour. These dogs are very high in energy and they need daily exercise to release all this energy. Some helpful and great options for both of you include a Frisbee game, a running session, and agility exercises.
When not playing outdoors, get some good quality dog toys to provide mental stimulation.
Puppies and adult dogs have different exercise needs and you should not allow the still developing puppies to run on hard surfaces. This could result in future joint and bone problems.
These dogs are quite intelligent and independent, due to which harsh training will not work in your favor. Use positive reinforcement and give ample encouragement with treats and praises.
These dogs have water-resistant coats that keep them happy and comfortable in every weather and climate. Aussies living in colder areas have thicker undercoats than the ones living in warm areas.
Coat - Brush the coat weekly and more often when it is the shedding season. Spitz the coat with a dog hair conditioner, diluted with water. This will help in detangling any mats and detangled hair.
Use an undercoat rake to remove any excess hair and mats and brush properly throughout the coat.
Bathing - Bathe your dog only when needed or only when he seems dirty and in need of a proper bath. Aussies do not need rigorous bathing since their coat is naturally clean.
When bathing, do not use your own shampoo but get a specifically made dog shampoo and conditioner for it.
Skin - Check the dog’s skin properly and look for any sores, dry patches, and sensitive areas. In case you notice any infections or inflammation, take your dog to the vet.
Eyes - Wipe the eyes with a damp cloth and make sure that you do not use the same cloth or the same side of the cloth for both eyes. Check the eyes for any abnormal discharge and make sure that they are clean and sparkling.
Ears - Clean the ears with a cotton ball and check them for any infections, foul smell, and foxtails. Take him to the vet if you notice any infection.
Nails - Trim the nails regularly to prevent any difficulties in movements and joints problems in your dog. Choose from good quality dog nail clippers or take the dog to a professional groomer.
Grooming your dog is important to maintain the good health, look, and well-being of your dog. While many dog owners groom their dogs at home if you are not comfortable then take your canine to a professional dog groomer.
Generally, 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry dog food daily are recommended for a healthy adult Aussie. Divide the cups into two meals a day.
The amount of food depends on your dog’s size, activity level, age, and metabolism. An active dog will need more food than a less active dog. Besides, the quality of the dog food also contributes to how well-nourished your canine will be.
For best results, give vet recommended dog food to your canine. Instead of leaving the food outside all the time, it is better to measure it and give the meals at the same time daily. Obesity could cause a number of diseases and keeping a close eye on your dog’s health will help in keeping it at bay.
Australian Shepherds are versatile dogs that do great both as herding and family dogs. Due to their affectionate and active nature, they make great emotional support animals also. They are funny, playful, and full of positive energy.
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Frequently Asked Questions
On average, you can get an Aussie puppy from a licensed breeder for $600 to $800. The male puppies are a bit costlier than the female puppies. The puppies having tri-color are more famous and sought-after than other kinds of puppies.
Yes, Aussies shed all year and more in the spring season. This is why it is important to brush and groom your dog regularly so that there are fewer chances of hair matting and tangling.
Generally, 12 to 15 years. These dogs are generally healthy and since they were built for hard work, they are quite sturdy and tough. The life expectancy depends on a number of other factors also like the activity level of the dog, quality of the food, and overall health condition.
Yes, these dogs bark a lot. Since they were bred to herd and use ‘barks’ to direct and herd the cattle and livestock, it could be difficult to teach him to stay quiet.
Yes. in fact. Aussies LOVE to have hugs and cuddles. They are very affectionate and sweet-tempered and they love it when you pet them.
Yes, Aussies have a tendency to attach with one person in the family. They are very loyal and need socialization and interaction to be happy. This is why they could not be left alone for a long time.