Guide to Dog Breeds (See Full List)

Australian Shepherd

(AKC Herding Group)

Australian Shepherds

Height: 20 to 23 in. (male); 18 to 21 in. (female).

Size: Medium.

Weight: 45 to 55 lbs. (male); 30 to 45 lbs. (female).

Availability: May take some effort to find.

 
Description:

The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized, robust, well-balanced, rustic dog with pendant ears, an abundant, medium length coat, and a bobtail. He should be attentive, lively, and agile with a body slightly longer than its height at the withers. The Aussie has a strong, deep chest and stands squarely on all fours. The front legs are straight. The feet are compact and oval, with arched toes. The top of the head is approximately the same length as the slightly tapering muzzle. The head has a moderate stop. The teeth form a scissors bite. The medium sized oval eyes come in many shades of blue, amber, and brown, often combined or with flecks. The triangular, pendant ears are set high on the head. The medium length coat comes in blue or red merle, red or black, all with or without white trim or tan markings. The hair around the ears and eyes should not be white. The coat may be straight or slightly wavy, and should have feathering on the backs of the legs, and a mane and frill around the neck. Hair on the head, front of the legs, and on the outside of the ears is shorter than the rest of the coat. The tail is generally docked if it is longer than 4 in., though many are naturally short.

History:

Basque shepherds from Spain and France first brought this outstanding herding dog to the United States and Australia; many then came from Australia to the western United States. They were adept at handling tough cattle and sheep over rugged terrain, and soon became popular herding and all-purpose ranch dogs. They became visible to many non-ranchers when several Aussies toured as a performing act with a rodeo in the 1950s; the dogs were subsequently featured in a movie. Australian Shepherds are superior farm dogs, capable of doing the work of several men and handling all kinds of stock. They are also outstanding obedience dogs, often placing high in trial. The versatile, intelligent Australian Shepherd has served as a narcotics detection dog, service dog for the deaf, and in search and rescue work. The breed is also known for excellence at disc-catching. The Australian Shepherd is recognized by the AKC, the United Kennel Club and the Australian Shepherd Club of America. The Australian Shepherd Dog Club of America sponsors Stockdog Trials to promote and preserve the breed's outstanding working abilities. Today's Aussie is a popular farm dog and family companion.

Notes:

Aussies are naturally suspicious of strangers, so they should be well- socialized as puppies. Merle dogs should not be bred to one another, as having two copies of the merle gene can cause a predominantly white coat and blindness and deafness. Buy from a reputable breeder. Working lines of Australian Shepherd may be too energetic to be suitable pets. Some like to nip people's heels in an attempt to herd them. Australian Shepherds are quiet workers, unlike some breeds that are bred to bark constantly at the livestock. Beware of hip dysplasia and PRA. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP or another national hip dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Many Aussies carry a gene that renders them sensitive to various drugs; a DNA test is available to detect it.

Talents:

Retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, search & rescue, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks.

Personality:

Easygoing perpetual puppies who love to play. Excellent children's companion — great with active children. A devoted friend and guardian, naturally protective. Courageous, loyal, and affectionate. Very lively, agile, and attentive. Eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends. The Australian Shepherd needs lots of exercise and a job to do, as the breed is very intelligent, active, and easily bored. Can become nervous and destructive if left alone too much without exercise.

Behavior:

Children: Excellent with children.
Friendliness: Moderately protective.
Trainability: Very easy to train.
Independence: Fairly independent.
Dominance: Moderate.
Other Pets: Generally good with other pets.
Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive.
Noise: Not a barker.
Indoors: Moderately active indoors.
Owner: Not recommended for novice owners.

Grooming and Physical Needs:

Trimming & Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed.
Coat: Medium coat.
Shedding: Average shedder.
Docking: The tail is customarily docked.
Exercise: Needs lots of exercise.
Jogging: An excellent jogging companion.
Apartments: Not recommended for apartments.
Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard.
Climate: Does well in most climates.
Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years).