A funny little fact about the ‘Australian’ Shepherd is that he’s not Australian at all! In fact, he is an American breed of dog but his name is a reference to the association between the breed and the Australian sheepherders that came to America in the 1800s.
The Australian Shepherd quickly developed a following both as an intelligent and trainable dog that could be used in rodeos and horse shows and in television as well as a highly-skilled, all-purpose working stock dog on the farm. Today he can be seen still working as a stock dog but also as a highly competitive performance sport dog in agility, obedience, and herding trials.
The Australian Shepherd is a sturdy and balanced build dog that is medium to large
He ranges about 18-23 inches in height with males being larger than females. He is slightly longer than he is tall. His body type is made for working long hours without tiring.
He has a moderate length coat that is fairly weather resistant. His hair may be primarily straight or have a slight wave to it with an undercoat. A thicker coat will be noticed around his head and neck area as well as along the back of his front legs and down his back legs, also referred to as feathering/feathers.
The Australian Shepherd has a docked tail. Many are born with a natural bob, but others are docked as very tiny puppies. This originated in the old days when it was felt that tails weren’t an asset to the work and could actually be injured by the livestock or things in the environment.
The breed comes in four recognized colors, although many are marked with secondary colors such as white or tan. The colors are black, red, blue merle, and red merle.
An important note about coloration in an Australian Shepherd, white should not be the predominant color, particularly around his eyes and ears. When the dog has a lot of white on him, his chances of being deaf and/or blind are increased. This risk comes from the improper breeding of merle to merle causing a higher level of white and possible impairment.
Those that know Australian Shepherds love them, but they have to be matched with the right home and family. These dogs are energetic, fun, intelligent, love to work and please their family, and very loyal. They love to be with their person or family and have a tendency to follow people around the home or yard. Herding dogs like their people to be together!
The very traits that make him a desirable working dog and performance dog can be annoying traits to some pet owners. Careful consideration should be undertaken before adding one to your home. The breed has a lot of energy as a general rule and needs an active home willing to not only exercise him every day but also give him a job to do. Additionally, even if an owner doesn’t intend to do herding with the dog, that instinct is very much alive in the majority of Australian Shepherds. They may herd other dogs within the family, chase cats, or attempt to control the movement of running children. They will often nip when herding animals and people.
Additionally, many Australian Shepherds can be territorial and protective of their home. This stems from the herding background. He isn’t a mean dog, but this tendency can be problematic if not dealt with early on in a proactive manner. Some Australian Shepherds can be openly friendly with strangers, but many others are aloof or reserved.
The Australian Shepherd is an ideal dog for training as he learns new skills very easily and quickly. They are easy to housebreak as well. The problem is that he needs a lot to do so you must be dedicated to lots of training and activity to keep him busy. Pent up energy will easily channel into annoying habits such as barking, chewing, and destruction. It is this excess energy level that finds some Australian Shepherds relinquished to animal shelters at a young age.
Socialization is very important for the breed. As previously mentioned, they are reserved with strangers and can be territorial. This can pose challenges with guests in the home if he has not received lots of ongoing socialization with new people. Owners need to know how to properly handle a dog that is more territorial or protective in nature so the issue is prevented rather than allowed to develop. Many territorial Australian Shepherds will bite as a way to control movement and don’t always bark or growl.
Shedding & Grooming
The breed overall is a pretty wash and wears style breed that is made for working. That means his coat is made to be weather resistant and easy to brush. Weekly brushing will limit the amount of hair shed in the home as he does shed. Make sure to comb the thicker hair that is around his neck, face, and down his legs as this hair is more likely to tangle.
Routine nail trims and tooth brushing helps to main his feet and teeth. He doesn’t require frequent bathing, only when dirty.