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January 24, 2013

Meet the Breed: The Australian Shepherd

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Overview:

  • Height: 20"-23” (Male), 18”-21” (Female)
  • Weight: 50-65 pounds (Male), 40-55 pounds (Female)
  • Historical function: Herding
  • Modern function: Herding, and agility
  • AKC classification: Herding

Physical Characteristics:

The Australians Shepherd is a sturdy medium-sized dog that is usually recognized by its merle coat and multi-colored eyes, but they are actually available in many more coat colors. The coat is a double weather-resistant coat that actually self-adjusts to the climate where the dog lives. The tail is naturally bobbed. The structure is athletic with an alert appearance.

History of the Breed:

Contrary to popular belief, the Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. Rather, the breed was probably developed by Basque sheepherders in the region of the Pyrenees Mountains. These Basque sheepherders probably went by way of Australia before coming to California where the breed was further refined to suit ranching needs. The Australian Shepherd was a particularly tireless sheep herder in the Rocky Mountains because it is relatively unaffected by altitude. 

Temperament:

The Australian Shepherd, also known as the Aussie, is a highly intelligent, loyal dog with almost a 6th sense for reading his master's mind. As they were bred to work, an Aussie won't be content to just lay around the house. They need a job and an engaging game of high-energy play to keep these dogs mentally stimulated and sufficiently exercised. These dogs are ideal for ranch and farm life as they are tireless, intelligent dogs that adapt to any climate. This tireless, brilliant nature needs to be channeled into appropriate venues or these dogs might get ideas of their own and get into trouble. Firm, confident leadership must be demonstrated to this dog.

  • Best suited for: Active families, farm/ranch life, agility training. Not suitable for apartments.
  • Preferred living conditions: These lively companions want to be with their people, and their people have to be committed to be active with this dog on a daily basis to prevent behavioral issues from developing.

Care and Health

  •  Grooming requirements: Easy-care coat that requires brushing particularly through the shedding seasons. Moderate shedder.
  • Exercise needs: Daily, extensive mental and physical exercise.
  • Life expectancy: 12-15 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to hip dysplasia. The merle coloring carries genes for hearing and vision problems. Use a responsible breeder.

Breed Club Links: The United States Australian Shepherd Association

 Photo courtesy of Ted Van Pelt.

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