Miniature American Shepherd

The 1960’s brought us good music, great art, and a small yet versatile American made dog; the Miniature American Shepherd. And if you love a good shepherd, but not the size of one, this herding breed is what you’ve been looking for.

Once the rest of the country caught on, these little merle balls continue to increase in popularity. Before the blink of an eye, other organizations and kennels are clamoring at the bit to register the breed.

So why the enthusiasm and what makes this breed such a wonderful choice as a household pet?

Here is what you need to know about the Miniature American Shepherd.

History

If you are looking to do a huge term paper over the history of the Miniature American Shepherd, think again, this breed is considerably new. Although the breed is a relative of the Australian Shepherd, in which the Mini owes its existence to, the breed first began to appear in the U.S. around the late 1960’s in California.

The very idea of creating the Miniature American Shepherd (or MAS, for short) was to keep that size and athleticism. Ranchers and farmers, as well as dog lovers, fell in love with the Aussie Shepherd’s physical gifts. Just as they fell in love with the Aussie Sheepdog’s companionship. A dual purpose dog was high on the list especially during the infamous Gold Rush.

What’s more, the MAS at one point went under the name, the Miniature Australian Shepherd. In fact, some people still call the breed that.

Breeders sought out for a dog that could work on the farm, herd smaller livestock, and at the end of the day, come home and curl up on the couch. It became love at first sight, and after a few trial and errors in creating this perfect combo of a breed, breeders eventually would settle on what we know today as the Miniature American Shepherd.

No surprise, the breed can still effectively herd small or big livestock. But if you ask someone with  a MAS, they’ll tell you its the breed’s loyalty and love that won them over. 

The breed’s first encounter with a registry was the National Stock Dog Registry in 1980. Since then, the breed took off and people began using them as companions during rodeo tours. Perhaps this is why the MAS does so well with horses. 

The 1990’s didn’t just prove to be a good time for music executives but just as well for the MAS. Indeed, the breed began to head in the right direction with regards to recognition and promotion. Thanks to the formation of the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA in 1990, the breed was knocking on the AKC’s door.

Today the breed is the 36th most popular breed, according to the AKC. They would gain full recognition by the American Kennel Club in 2015. The United Kennel Club would follow suit in the same year. The breed can still be found working the ranches, but the Mini’s true role is that of a companion.

Size

A Miniature American Shepherd falls under the class of a small dog. However, when the breed is on the bigger side, they could be seen as a medium size dog. The American Kennel Club states that both males and females can weigh between 20 to 40 pounds.

A male should stand between 14 to 18 inches, where a female should range between 13 to 17 inches.

Personality and Temperament

Loyal to a fault, or something like that! That is one way in describing the Miniature American Shepherd. Friendly and upbeat, this bright and intelligent breed is a consummate family dog. 

What they do best is work, however, and this is what the dog wants to do! They want to please their master and are a delight to train. You can stack this breed up as a guard, as a worker, or as a canine competitor, and they will achieve. The MAS has a sense of enthusiasm about them that you don’t get from all breeds. It’s almost like they live to make a difference for the family.

They love being around their people and are most happiest when they have a close bond. You can take them to the dog park, to the hiking trail and even the lake. They are agile and athletic and thrive in sports like agility, obedience, rally, and fetch.

Good with dogs and smaller children, this is a breed that hardly needs supervision around the two. The Miniature American Shepherd would much prefer an open range or ranch, but will live anywhere their owner’s take them. This includes smaller dwellings.

Their size, their intelligence and the ability to be alert and responsive is what makes this breed such a wonderful working dog. Watchful of strangers but willing to give anyone a chance just as long as you don’t cross the path of their people.

All in all, this is a magnificent family dog, that you can take with you anywhere. From the pastures to the show ring, or just keep them at home, the Miniature American Shepherd thrives when their people are around.

Health

The Club of the Miniature American Shepherd claims the breed to be generally healthy. When you buy a MAS, you should always purchase from a credible breeder. Someone with a stellar operation and reputation. Ask around and make sure whatever the breeder is running isn’t similar to a puppy mill. That can invite a slew of health issues and unethical breeding practice. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule regular veterinarian visits to maintain that good bill of health for your Miniature American Shepherd. In doing so, you should expect your Mini American Shepherd to live between 12 to 13 years.

The big issues with this breed seem to be with their eyes. There is a long laundry list given by their club pertaining to numerous eye disorders. 

Corneal Dystrophy is when a grey or silver opacity develops around the center of the dog’s cornea. It isn’t clear how common this is with the breed, however, it does make their list of concerns. This condition isn’t the end all, in the sense, that it isn’t painful and doesn’t lead to blindness. In fact, it appears to be more of an aesthetic concern more than anything.

Distichiasis is a condition found in this breed, in which an eyelash or several lashes grow on the lower eyelid. This can cause a great deal of aggravation for the dog and obvious irritation to the cornea. If you have a working dog, this may impede their ability to work. Surgery is available to remove the lash in question.

Retinal Dysplasia, which is an abnormal growth in which the retina falls out of its normal position. This can lead to blindness but is rare to be found with this breed.

The biggest problem affecting the breed appears to be Iris Coloboma. The Club in American considers this  to be rather common for the Miniature American Shepherd. Iris Coloboma is the abnormal development of the irish, where a notch will appear either in the outside or the inner edge of the dog’s eye. This typically leads to issues with sunlight as the dog is more sensitive to it but it can result in discomfort and a reduction in the range of vision. 

An hereditary disorder of the retina where the rod or photoreceptor cells systematically fail causing night blindness can be found with this breed. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a multiple hereditary disorder, meaning that when the conditions becomes “centralized” it can cause permanent vision loss. Siberian Huskies and the Akita face this disorder as well.

Cataract, which is the clouding of the lens, impeding the vision with symptoms ranging from blurry vision to sensitivity of lights is seen with the MAS.

Hip Dysplasia is a small threat to this breed. The Miniature American Shepherd ranks 135th on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals study of this disease. The breed has a 7.1 dysplastic rate out of 2800 plus evaluations. This puts them in the company of the Bull Terrier.w

Likewise, Elbow Dysplasia can be found within this breed and the OFA ranks the breed 86th with a 2.4 dysplastic rate out of 1200 plus evaluations. This puts the breed in the same company as the Barbet.

Patella Luxation, which is when the knee cap slips out of its groove causing pain and discomfort is a low concern for the breed. The OFA ranks them among the Kuvasz and Bouvier des Flandres at 115th. 

Finally, you may need to watch for Degenerative Myelopathy (spinal cord disease),  Glaucoma, Ectopic Cilia, and possible problems with certain anesthesia.

Care

Caring for the Miniature American Shepherd is kind of a dream come true for dog lovers. They are easy to train, easy to care for, and carry themselves with dignity. Early socialization and training is a great idea to help with interaction with other animals, strangers, and children as adults. They are a breeze to teach, so it shouldn’t be any skin off the back to do.

A big yard is ideal just as an active family would be. However, it isn’t a deal closer, if you have neither but would like a MAS. The breed will adapt to new scenes and environments. They better well with most climates and are fine for novice owners. If you et them out for their walks, keep them busy with toys and activity, there’s no reason to believe that the dog won’t be happy anywhere.

Some Mini’s may be prone to obesity, so watching their consumption of food is a good idea. You’ll want to trim their nails to protect them from overgrowth and reduce the amount of discomfort long nails can have on a dog. 

Feeding

A Miniature American Shepherd doesn’t have a special diet to adhere. However, you should strive for a high quality type of formula. The formula should have meat as the first ingredient. Of course, if wet food or a raw diet is your thing, then feel free to consult your veterinarian. Otherwise, the breed should do fine with a formula of chicken, turkey, beef and fish. Veggies and fruits help strengthen their joints and maintain a healthy balance to their regimen.

How much your dog eats will depend on their age, metabolism and activity. Most owners seem happy with a 1 1/4 cups to 3 cups of dry food per day. Because the Miniature American Shepherd can weigh as little as 20 pounds and as much as 40 pounds, there is no set amount of food. Calorie intake is important as well.

An average 20 to 40 pound Miniature American Shepherd with a typical energy level should get between 660 to 1100 calories per day. Conversely, a dog more active at the same weight will need 1100 to 1850 calories per day.

As always, you should provide your Miniature American Shepherd with fresh drinking water.

Coat

Mini’s have a double coat, that protects them from water and poor weather. The outside coat is longer, where the undercoat is more wooly. It should have a medium straight to wavy length to it. The head and legs will feel smooth and slight feathering will show on the back of the legs.

The American Kennel Club claims the following coat color options for the Miniature American Shepherd: black, blue merle, red, red merle.

Tan points, white markings, white markings with tan points justify the standard’s markings.

The breed does blow coat twice a year, or sheds more heavily during those two times a year. They are frequent shedders and will require regular grooming. Brushing 2-3 times per week should suffice their grooming needs.

Fun Miniature American Shepherd Facts

  • In 2017, the Canadian Kennel Club put the breed into their “Miscellaneous Class.” This is a big step towards recognition and more exposure for the breed.
  • Meet Remi: Remi, a Miniature American Shepherd, became the first Mini to win the Westminster Kennel Club’s “Best of Breed” in 2016.
  • The Kennel Club in England hasn’t yet given the breed recognition.

Closing Words

For a new breed, the Miniature American Shepherd has become quite the popular dog while making a new for themself.

It’s understandable! They are a good looking dog, with a nose to the ground work ethic, that, at the end of the day, just wants to be wherever the family is.