Australian Shepherd

There’s a saying about the Australian Shepherd, which is, “Aussies are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.”

Something can be said about the names of breeds, where some are clever and others are deceptive. One may think the Aussie is a breed from Australia, hence the name. You would be categorically wrong. 

Instead, the Australian Shepherd is a product of the United States. But not just any product or breed of dog, one of the most reliable and popular canines on the planet.

What makes this breed such a popular commodity?

Here is what you need to know about the Australian Shepherd.

History

Murky is one way of describing the Australian Shepherd’s history. There are numerous theories of this breed’s natural origins. Popular theory has it that the Aussie is a cross between Scotch and Border Collie with English Shepherd as a part of this breed’s gene pool.

Another theory says the Australian Shepherd origins started in the regional mountains between Spain and France. 

During the mid and late 1800’s, countries like France, England, New Zealand and Australia were importing sheep into the United States. Ranchers and shepherds came along with their dogs. Some of these dogs were Collies, while many believe the Basque shepherds brought with them today’s version of the Australian Shepherd.

Many of these imports and immigrants settled out west such as New Mexico and California. From then on, ranchers began breeding the imports to establish a quality breed that could drive and manage herds of cattle. 

Not to mention, these ranchers sought a dog that could protect livestock with little to no oversight. A dog that could think on their own and look after the family. Of course, companionship  was another key quality that ranchers sought out after. This is the best recollection of the Australian Shepherd’s birth.

The other key of this breed’s success in Western culture is after the World War 2 era. Western style horse riding and rodeo’s is arguably the Australian Shepherd’s claim to fame. Their appearances won them over with the audiences at horse shows, dog shows, and rodeos. 

Of course, the fact that the Australian Shepherd is very intelligent, and well-known for their ease of training had a lot to do with their rise in America. Especially once the Aussie began appearing in Westerns and other movies.

Even though the breed was flourishing in the West, they weren’t recognized until 1957, when the Australian Shepherd Club of America formed. However, the breed’s official registry fell into the hands of the National Stock Dog Registry until the 70’s, when the Aussie’s club took the book over.

There is a little debate over the dog gaining recognition from the American Kennel Club. In fact, the Australian Shepherd wasn’t fully recognized until 1991. The American Kennel Club put the Aussie in the Herding Group in 1993.

The United States Australian Shepherd Association is most responsible for the Aussie’s recognition with the AKC.

Today, the breed is a popular companion, a competitor, and still an effective working dog. According to the American Kennel Club’s latest popularity rankings, the Aussie is 16th most popular right behind the Doberman.

Size

The Australian Shepherd is a medium size breed. Males typically are bigger than females. According to the American Kennel Club, a male should stand between 20 to 23 inches. A female Aussie should range at 18 to 21 inches.

A female Aussie can weigh between 35 to 55 pounds, as males will grow between 55 to 70 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Even though the Aussie isn’t an Australian breed, the breed has incredible stamina and is dedicated to working. In fact, any Aussie named dog is typically a hard working dog. Your Australian Shepherd is no exception. Their natural desire is to accept and succeed a job. 

Aussies are highly energetic and will be happiest when they keep busy. This is absolutely crucial. To avoid boredom, thus  a destructive dog, you should give your Aussie a task or job daily. Daily exercise of 45-60 minutes will help keep their mind busy. 

One of the other trademarks about this breed is how competitive they can be. They thrive in agility, conformation, obedience and other K-9 sports. 

Australian Shepherds aren’t just a working dog. With early socialization and proper training, Aussies are very affectionate dogs. In fact, they are eager to please their master, which is why they do so well at shows and training.

Aussies will bark when it is necessary, and can be friendly towards strangers. Don’t confuse that with weakness, because the Australian Shepherd is no slouch around the homestead. They can be very protective of their home and property. 

Australian Shepherds are wonderful with children. Very protective and loyal, but delightful with the kiddos. You can integrate Aussies with other dogs, just as long as you socialize them early on as puppies. 

In short, the Australian Shepherd just wants a loving family, where they can run around and keep themselves busy.

Health

Australian Shepherds are considered a healthy breed. They can live a life expectancy rate of 12 to 15 years.

When you buy any dog, you should always purchase from a reputable breeder. The breeder should be able to provide you the proper health clearances. That said, visiting and working with your veterinarian will go a long way in maintaining your dog’s health.

One of the most frequent reports of autoimmune diseases from Aussie owners is Thyroiditis. This disease is preventative and affordable to treat. Thyroiditis is a condition causing a lower production of thyroid hormones.

Hip Dysplasia, which is a threat to most medium or large breeds, is when a malformation exists of the hip. When the ball and joints don’t align in proper fashion, this can create discomfort, pain, and lameness.

There’s a good chance if your Australian Shepherd suffers from Hip Dysplasia, then you should be conscientious of Elbow Dysplasia. This is an abnormal growth of cells, tissue and bones. This can cause pain and lameness as well.

Multi-Drug Resistance 1 or MDR1; sensitivity to certain drugs, like medication that control parasites, or antibiotics and even sedatives. Aussies have been found to be sensitive to certain drugs.

Cataracts can be another issue found with Aussies. Although this isn’t the most severe complication your dog could suffer from, it can be problematic. Not to mention if you have a working dog. The clouding of your dog’s eye lens can cause partial to complete opacity. Most dogs adjust to this, and it’s nothing painful. 

Finally, there is a higher occurrence rate of Epilepsy found with the Australian Shepherd. A study from Missouri looking at 90 breeds and over 8000 DNA samples, found that over 10 percent of affected dogs were Aussies. A plethora of things can causes Epilepsy, which is more of a reason to keep an eye out.

Care

The Australian Shepherd is a high energy dog. This will require daily exercise of at least 30 minutes. You should thrive for one hour of activity time. 

Early obedience goes a long way in helping the Aussie break their natural herding traits. You don’t want a dog that nibbles unless you’re raising a herding dog. Socialize them early on as it helps with other dogs.

Many Aussie owners suggest securing your yard because of the breed’s natural roaming qualities. That said, if you provide enough mental stimulation and exercise, the Aussie can adapt anywhere.

Also, leaving this breed alone all day isn’t a great idea. Keep them busy, give the dog a job or task.

You should clean and check their ears or eyes for bacteria and buildup. This helps avoid bacterial infections. Also, keep in mind that the breed suffers from Cataracts.

Feeding

Every dog is different when it comes to feeding levels. A lot of facts come to play such as; age, metabolism, activity rate, whether or not your dog is spayed or neutered.

A diet rich in protein value is essential with the Australian Shepherd. Meat should be their first ingredient if you feed them dry food. The Aussie will eat chicken, fish, beef and turkey. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids should be part of the diet.

If you do have an active herding dog, that weighs 55 pounds for example, then you can feed them between 2 to 2.5 cups of food per day. The best way to do that is breaking it up twice a day, so that the dog eats once in the morning then again during the evening. A 55 pound dog, that is active needs between 1600-1950 calories per day. 

As always. your Australian Shepherd should have fresh water readily available. 

Coat

Rain or shine, the Australian Shepherd has the coat to show up. Their coat is a medium length double coat that can be either straight or wavy. Twice a year, the Aussie sheds heavily. The fall and spring seasons may require a little more effort in grooming. However, the weather resistant coat isn’t said to be that difficult to manage. 

An Australian Shepherd can have the following coat colors: black, blue Merle, red, red Merle. 

Tan points, white markings and white marks with tan points are allowed by the American Kennel Club

Fascinating Australian Shepherd Facts

  • The Australian Shepherd is the 135th breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Cub.
  • This breed has many nicknames including: Aussie, Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bobtail, and Blue Heeler.
  • Aussies can perform various versatile tasks. Aside from herding, this breed is a therapy dog, aides the blind and deaf, and can be an emergency/rescue dog.
  • They are the only livestock working breed from the United States, according to Australian Shepherd Club of America.
  • Aussies were a feature in the popular kid’s book, “Henry The Dog With No Tail.”
  • Alyssa Milano, Mel Gibson, James Brolin and Steven Spielberg own Australian Shepherds.
  • This breeds has appeared in many movies like; Run Appaloosa Run, Red State, The Animal, Brokeback Mountain, and many more.
  • The litter size for an Australian Shepherd is five to seven.
  • 1 in 5 Aussies are born with “bobbed tails.”

Closing Words

The Australian Shepherd is still a breed that continues to work wonders, not to mention, circles, around other dogs in the same group. Their athletic ability coupled with their intelligence makes the Aussie such a vital part in the livestock industry.

Yet, America continues to witness how Aussies can make impacts in other ways. Whether that is assisting people with disabilities, helping the law with search and rescue missions, or competing at high levels in agility and obedience events.

American made, the Australian Shepherd will continue to impact and grow in popularity as more dog lovers find out about them.