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This is an athletic dog of medium size and bone; it is lithe, agile and slightly longer than it is tall. It is muscular and powerful enough to work all day, without sacrificing the speed and agility necessary to cope with bolting livestock. Its gait is free and easy, and it must be able to change direction or speed instantly. Its double coat is weather resistant, with the outer coat of medium texture and length, straight to wavy. The expression is keen, intelligent and eager.
The Australian shepherd has a great deal of stamina and is loving, bold, alert, confident, independent, smart and responsive. If it doesn’t get a chance to exercise and challenge its strongly developed mental and physical activities, it is apt to become frustrated and difficult to live with. With proper exercise and training, it is a loyal, utterly devoted and obedient companion. It is reserved with strangers and has a protective nature. It may try to herd children and small animals by nipping.
FAMILY livestock, herding
AREA OF ORIGIN United States
DATE OF ORIGIN 1800s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION sheep herding
TODAY’S FUNCTION sheep herding, herding trials
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 20-23 Weight: 50-65
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 18-21 Weight: 40-55
OTHER NAME none
Energy level High energy
Exercise needs High
Playfullness Very playful
Affection level Very affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly
Friendliness toward other pets Friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Hard to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Very protective
Grooming needs Moderate maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Medium tolerance
This breed needs a good workout every day, preferably combining both physical and mental challenges. Even though it is physically able to live outside in temperate climates, it is a breed for which human contact is so vital that it is emotionally unsuited for a life in the yard. Its coat needs brushing or combing one to two times weekly.
Major concerns: cataract, CEA
Minor concerns: CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger Huet syndrome, iris coloboma
Occasionally seen: lumbar sacral syndrome, epilepsy, PRA, vWD, distichiasis, PDA, PPM
Suggested tests: hip, eye
Life span: 12 15 years
Note: This breed is often sensitive to ivermectin; however, the dosage for heartworm preventive is considered safe. Merle-to-merle breedings result in some offspring that are homozygous merle, which is detrimental to health, commonly resulting in deafness and blindness. Natural bobtail-to-natural bobtail breedings can result in some offspring with serious spinal defects.
The Australian shepherd is not really an Australian breed, but it came to America by way of Australia. One popular theory of the breed’s origin begins during the 1800s, when the Basque people of Europe settled in Australia, bringing with them their sheep and sheepdogs. Shortly thereafter, many of these shepherds relocated to the western United States, with their dogs and sheep. American shepherds naturally dubbed these dogs Australian shepherds because that was their immediate past residence. The rugged area of Australia and western America placed demands on the herding dogs that they had not faced in Europe, but through various crosses and rigorous selection for working ability, the Basque dog soon adapted and excelled under these harsh conditions. The breed kept a low profile until the 1950s, when it was featured in a popular trick-dog act that performed in rodeos and was featured in film. Many of these dogs, owned by Jay Sisler, can be found in the pedigrees of today’s Aussies. The first Aussie was registered with the International English Shepherd Registry, now known as the National Stock Dog Registry. In 1957 the Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed and subsequently became the largest Aussie registry in America. Because many ASCA members felt that AKC recognition was not desirable for their breed, proponents of AKC recognition formed the United States Australian Shepherd Association. The AKC recognized the Australian shepherd in 1993. Its popularity according to AKC statistics underestimates the popularity of this breed as a pet because a large proportion of this working breed remains unregistered with the AKC. It is among the most versatile of breeds, excelling at conformation, obedience, herding and agility competition. The Aussie is also adept at working cattle; in fact, some believe its close working style is more suited to cattle than to sheep.