While most of you will think that the Australian Shepherd is a native of Australia, think again. These gorgeous and intelligent dogs hail from the Basque region of Spain and careful selectively bred in the United States during the 19th century. Today, the Little Blue Dog or the Aussie as they are fondly called, has maintained the reputation of one of the best working dogs and family pets in the United States.
The Australian Shepherd, over the years, has gained its popularity not only as a working dog but also as family pets and companion dogs across the globe. However, for first-time dog owners, Aussies are not the best choice as they are high-energy dogs and require appropriate training and must be consistently exercised physically and mentally to prevent them from developing unruly behaviour when they get bored.
These energetic dogs are a beautiful sight to watch when they herd a flock of sheep. Their athletic movement and their commanding stature make flocking a sheep an effortless grace for this dog breed.
The Aussie is a no-nonsense dog breed. They are hardworking, intelligent and versatile. They thrive in a household where they could use their energy and brain to good use. An owner does not need to keep a flock of sheep to work with an Australian Shepherd but remember; you need to keep them busy to let off steam.
- Exercise Needed Daily: 2 hour 10/10
- Training: Easy 2/10
- Grooming: Twice a Week 6/10
- Shedding: Medium 6/10
- Hypoallergenic: Low 2/10
- Watchdog Ability: Medium 6/10
- Barking Level: Medium 6/10
- Environment: City & Countryside 6/10
- Type of home: House with a Garden 10/10
- Good with Children: Yes 10/10
- Good with Other Animals: Yes 10/10
- POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS: No 2/10
Originated in Spain, the Australian Shepherds were used as working dogs by Basque shepherds. However, the dog breed was mainly developed and meticulously bred in the United States. These dogs were brought to Australia by shepherds who migrated there in the 19th century and then again brought to the US, where they were given the name Australian Shepherds.
But there are other people who think that the Australian Shepherds first appeared in the US when European immigrants brought these dogs. Because of this, the ancestry of the Australian Shepherd is a bit of a mystery. But then again, the canines that were bought over to Australia from Spain were the dogs crossed with Australian working dogs. During that time, the Aussies earned the reputation of being dedicated dogs that were also intelligent than the average working dogs as they can perform their job without any shepherd around.
In the mid-1980s, the Australian Shepherd arrived in the United Kingdom when Mr. and Mrs. Jueckstock brought it in the country. From then on, these intelligent dogs gained popularity both as family pets and working dogs. In recent times, the Australian Shepherds have been trained as guide dogs for the blind, canine companion for the handicapped people and rescue dogs. They are even used therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes.
A well-proportioned and well-balanced dog, the Australian Shepherd appears to be a little longer than tall. They are medium-size and well-muscled canine that boasts an alert and keen look.
Their clean-cut heads are well-proportioned to the rest of their body. It is somewhat rounded and has a well-defined stop. Almond-shaped eyes can be brown, amber or blue with marbling or flecks depending on their coat colour.
Aussies have triangular-shaped ears that have slightly rounded tips and set high on their heads. They hold it either semi-erect or upright and drop forward or to one side when they are alert or working. They have a strong jawline with perfect scissor bite. Their moderately long necks are held slightly arched, which adds to their alert and proud look.
Their forequarters are strong and muscular with long, flat and well laid-back shoulder blades. Their legs are straight and strong. The Australian Shepherd’s body is muscular and strong with a level topline, deep chest, well-sprung ribs and broad loins.
Hindquarters are well-proportioned in relation to the rest of their body. They have powerful looking back legs. Their oval-shaped feet are compact with well-arched toes and well-padded pads. Tails are medium length with a bit of feathering. Some dogs can be born with a naturally bobbed tail and are accepted as a breed standard.
The Australian Shepherd’s coat is medium in length that is either straight or wavy. It is known to be very weather-resistant because of their dense undercoat. The hair is short on their head, ears, front legs, and lower legs, whereas the back of their legs has a modest amount of feathering. Male Aussies have more mane compared to their female counterparts. Accepted coat colours according to the KC registration are black, black tricolour, black with white trim, black with copper trim, blue merle, blue merle with copper trim, blue merle with white, blue merle white and copper trim, red, red merle, red merle with white trim, red merle with copper trim, red merle white and copper trim, red tricolour, red with white trim and red with copper trim.
These accepted colour can have or not have tan points. But any white must not be the dominant colour on their head. Other areas of their body where white marking is permissible in their coat are on their chest, muzzle, blaze, underpants, front legs and their back legs but not above their hock joint.
An intelligent dog, the Australian Shepherds are bred to protect, herd and guard. They have a huge amount of stamina and energy. This means they are not ideal for first-time dog owners and those who have a sedentary lifestyle. They thrive with families who spend most of their day outdoors and have an active lifestyle. Aussies are high energy dogs and must be kept busy both physically and mentally to avoid boredom to set in and develop unwanted behaviour.
Australian Shepherds form a great bond with their human companion. Once they established this bond, this dog will follow their human companion wherever they go. They are also known to very territorial, and they have the instinct to protect things in their environment and can sometimes get out of control if they are not correctly trained. This is one reason why this high energy and intelligent dog is not a match for novice owners because they do not have the experience and understanding to handle and manage an Aussie.
However, those who understand and have experience handling an Australian Shepherd are a joy to train due to their nature of wanting to please their human companion. These clever dogs need to know their place in the pack to live a happy and contented life fully.
They may appear very serious with their jobs, but Aussies have a very playful side too. They love to entertain and be entertained. They are also known to be a little bit mischievous when the mood strikes them.
Given that they are energetic and active dogs, Australian Shepherd requires physical and mental stimulation. While they are not as hyper as other collie-type dogs, Aussies are best suited in a family where their house have a well-fenced, secure garden where they can safely roam whenever they want to. With this said, Australian Shepherds are not suitable for apartment living.
While they are intelligent, Australian Shepherds are not ideal for first-time dog owners as they need people who can train and handle them correctly. Aussies can quickly become dominant, unruly, and hard to manage dogs if not given the right direction. Start them early so they can grow up well-balanced, well-rounded and easy to handle dogs. With the right handling and training, they turned into loyal and obedient dogs.
These dogs need to be busy to be truly happy in their home. It is worth noting that these dogs may sometimes find their own of doing things, and this may not always be the things you want them to do. If this happens frequently, it is vital to seek help because the longer you wait to correct it, it may be harder to fix it. Enrolling them in a puppy training class can help tremendously in their development.
The Australian Shepherds, being bred to herd cattle, are not known to be high maintenance in the grooming department. Their coats are short and smooth. But like other breeds, they shed more during Spring and Autumn where you need to do more brushing than the regular one to maintain healthy and clean coats.
Regularly check their ears for debris, dirt and wax buildup. You can clean their ears by using a moistened cotton ball with an ear cleanser advised by your vet. Bear in mind never to make use of cotton swabs within their ear canals as it can injure them. If you detect any foul smell, soreness, inflammation, swelling, or they continuously shake or scratch their head and ears, discuss it with your veterinarian for a quick checkup, as this may be a sign of an infection.
Daily brushing is still best in averting tooth and gum diseases and bad breath. But brushing at least twice a week is enough to remove any tartar and bacteria accumulation. Take advice from your veterinarian on which dental products performs best to effectively clean their teeth, tongue, gums, and mouth.
Once or twice (or as needed), trim their nails to keep them clean and tidy. Ensure you do this regularly and avoid very long nails as it can be painful for your Australian Shepherd. As you trim their nails, inspect their paw pads to check if it is injury-free and healthy.
Lastly, habitually check their body as you clean them for wounds, inflammations, rashes, and other signs of infection. Their dog’s eyes must be clear and clean with no redness and discharges. By doing this, it will benefit you from discovering possible health conditions early on.
The average life expectancy of an Australian Shepherd is between twelve and fifteen years when correctly cared for and provided a proper good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages and needs.
While they are known to be a healthy and strong dog, the Australian Shepherd are prone to suffer from a few hereditary conditions which are worth knowing about if you want to bring home one of these energetic dogs.
- Hip Dysplasia – it is an inherited condition in which the thighbone does not fit neatly into their hip joint. There are dogs that may show discomfort and lameness on one or both of their rear legs, but others don't exhibit noticeable signs of discomfort.
- Elbow Dysplasia – it is also a progressive health condition. It is thought to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and damaged joint.
- Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) – it is a genetic condition that can sometimes lead to blindness. The health condition causes changes and irregularities in their eye.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – it is a family of eye diseases that causes the eye retina's slow deterioration.
- Allergies – it is quite common for dogs, not only the Aussies. There are three main types of allergies: contact allergies, inhalant allergies and food allergies.
The Australian Shepherds, although high-energy dogs, do make excellent family pets and canine companion. Though, their strong impulse to herd anything that moves or whatever they feel like herding means they can take off herding the children and any other pets that share the same environment. With this said, it is imperative to supervise children while interacting with this dog to make sure everything stays calm.
As for other pets in the same household, as long as they grow up with them, Aussies generally get on well. But of course, it is still best to introduce new pets and other dogs gradually and in a controlled environment to make sure that their first meeting goes well.