Australian Shepherd or commonly known as Aussie, is a very intelligent working dog, if given proper love and care can be easily trained for various activities. It is a native of California, not Australia as generally perceived. This breed of dog is popular worldwide due to its intense loyalty and the stamina for hard work. Aussies come in varying colors, are lithe, muscular and their coat is of moderate length and coarseness, usually with a docked or bobbed tail. They are generally well balanced with a medium size body, very agile with high energy levels.
They come in basic colors of black, blue merle (shades of grey with black patches), red and red merle (red patches on silver/ beige base). Markings of white and tan (ranging from rust to cream) may also be present on the face, neck, and any other parts of the body. Australian shepherds are very agile and versatile breeds of dogs and can be trained to do most activities.
They are good at herding livestock, dog sports, and related obedience competitions. The Australian Shepherd has been found to be very adaptable thus used as Seeing Eye dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue activities, and trained for police detection work. They are great dogs for the active family and love the kids when raised from a puppy. Puppies need a lot of care and love to learn, romp, and play. They need ample exercise and running around with jobs to do like fetching the newspaper, Frisbee, and balls are among their favorite activities.
Aussies differ based on particular line’s emphasis in the different breeds. An Aussie male stands between 20 to 23 inches at the shoulder and females between 18 to 23 inches. The coat is fluffy, coarse, and medium in length. The texture is also varied ranging from short and straight to long and wavy depending upon the climatic condition of its breed with water resistant qualities. The colors of the coats are vivid and range from black (with or without white patches), blue merle (black or grey with white patches), red merle (liver red with beige and white patches), and red (with or without patches of beige and white). The coats benefit from being brushed once or twice a week. The overall size of the dog is balanced being longer than medium size but solidly built and muscular in both males and females.
Aussies head is clean cut and the muzzle is equal to the back skull. Muzzle tapers down from the nose and is rounded. Aussies have very expressive faces with alert, attentive, and eager looks. Eyes should be almond shaped neither protruding nor sunken with pigmentation around the eye rims and was once known as the “ghost eye dog”. There is a great variety in eye colors, Aussie eyes shades vary from hazel, amber, green, blue, or brown with the possibility of having two different eye colors also due to merle colors.
While the hallmark of the breed is its short docked tails, bobbed tails while long full tails are also popular. Shoulder blades are strong, long, and close set at the withers with a laid-back look. Hindquarters are well aligned and in Aussie’s it is important to remove the rear dewclaws. Feet are oval with well-arched toes that are close knit with thick pads that are resilient.
Australian shepherds are unique in their personality depending on their lineage. It is a very active dog that requires a lot of exercise and new learning. Australian shepherds are generally affectionate dogs with a sense of possessiveness about their owners and their things. If they are properly trained, they are good with children. It is better to get a puppy and let it be raised from a puppy for better adjustment with the family and kids. Dogs that are trained as working dogs may be more reserved and may nip at strangers or children than those raised as family dogs. They love to play and often invent games for themselves if bored. However, they need to utilize their energy in a constructive manner otherwise, they may turn to destructive habits.
Aussies need proper care and grooming as it is a medium shedder. You should brush your dog’s coat at least twice a week with a bristle brush along with a shampoo when needed.
Trimming the nails is also important so spend some time at least every two weeks to groom the dog well. Socializing with children, strangers, and other pet animals in the initial stages of a puppy’s growing years makes Aussie dogs become well adjusted to social meetings. As instinctively, they are working dogs therefore, they have a tendency of being very protective of their owners and their homes.
Exercise is very essential to keep the Aussie from utilizing its energies in negative habits of digging and chewing stuff at home. While getting an Aussie pup, check with the breeder whether it has been tested for certain health diseases like hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joint), cataracts, and blindness.
Australian shepherd as the name suggests is misleading and so is its history. They probably came into prominence with the migration of people from Australia and other regions, with their herds and dogs, during the 1800 Californian gold rush. Alternatively, the ancestors of this breed came from the dogs that belonged to the farmers and shepherds in North America.
In America, people came from all over the world during the 1800’s and 1900’s, bringing their various breed of dogs and cattle, leading to mixed breeds and a variety of aggressive herding dogs. Maybe the Australian Shepherd has a rural origin looking after livestock on remote pastures in America or Australia. It evolved into a better herding dog due to the nature of work that it got used to in the early 18th and 19th century. Protecting cattle and owner’s property must have made it a good pet, using its instinctive knowledge and fierce loyalty that even today is used in police force work. Australian shepherds are much in demand today also on ranches and cattle farms due to their great adaptability both at home and on work sites.
Selective breeding of the Australian Shepherd for a few generations has yielded the qualities of a good stock dog for the rough terrains of the American West. The Australian Shepherd has all the qualities needed to be a good watchdog while its boundless energy was channeled into keeping a check on livestock’s on the pastures. All ranches need herding dogs and Aussie fits the bill perfectly. It must have come with the immigrants who needed its protection and loyalty in those difficult days that needed months of traveling on varied terrain and regions.
The inherent protective streak was used for looking after the cattle from coyotes and bandits in remote areas. To survive it needed agility, energy, endurance with greater speed while remaining obedient, using its keen mental abilities that were essential in such stark climatic conditions. The Australian shepherd was bred as a different breed after the 1950’s. The Aussie came to be very popular as performing dogs on Rodeos in the West.