it's name, the Australian Shepherd as we know it today was developed
completely within the United States. In the late 1800's and early
1900's the for-runners of today's "Aussies" came to
the western and north-western states as stock-dogs for the Basque
shepherds that accompanied the vast numbers of sheep then being
imported from Australia. These hard working, medium sized, "little
blue dogs" impressed the American ranchers and farmers, who
began using them as well. Breeding was done for working ability
rather than appearance, and occasionally dogs of other herding
breeds were bred into the lines. However, today's Aussie still
resembles the dogs that came from Europe via Australia, and great
numbers of Aussies are still working stock on ranches in the western
Today the Australian Shepherds bred for show tend to be bigger
boned and have more coat than those dogs of "working lines",
but the breed is unmistakable in type. Four basic colors are acceptable:
black, blue Merle, red, and red Merle. All these can have white
and copper trim on the face and feet, as well as a white collar
and white down the chest. Aussies should be well balanced, with
strength and endurance, moderate coat length, and a bobbed tail.
Preferred size for males is 20-23 inches at the withers, and for
females 18-21 inches.
Australian Shepherd was developed to be a moderate sized, intelligent,
all-purpose stock dog of great character and endurance. Many Aussies
today still do the work they were bred for, and even those that
have never seen sheep or cattle usually have a strong herding
instinct. This means that Aussies need fenced yards and leashes,
as the temptation to herd dogs, children, and traffic can simply
Being bred to work hard all day means that most Aussies are not
content to be couch potatoes, although Aussies have individual
characters and some are more sedate and quiet-natured than others.
For the most part, however, these are high-energy dogs who need
a purpose in their lives, a job as it were. Owners must be committed
to give these dogs the time and attention they require through
play and training, for as with any dog undirected energy can turn
towards destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing. Running,
jumping, and rough-housing are all a part of being a normal Aussie.
The great intelligence of these dogs, necessary to out-think and
control livestock, can be detrimental when left untrained and
unused. Aussies are quite capable of out-thinking their owners.
Obedience training is highly recommended as a means of teaching
owners how to channel the typical Aussie's innate desire to please
into appropriate behaviors. Aussies learn very quickly, so be
certain you are willing to keep your Aussie occupied with walks,
play, and training to benefit both mind and body.
Although many Aussies are friendly with everyone, the Australian
Shepherd as a breed tends to be somewhat reserved and cautious
around strangers. With Aussies of this nature owners should encourage
the dog to meet people but not force encounters. Aussies are often
quite protective of their family and property, a desirable trait
in some situations but not acceptable in others, and some dogs
never accept strangers. As with all dogs, poorly socialized Aussies
may become aggressive without proper training.
Aussies are generally healthy dogs, and can be expected to live
up to twelve years or more, so ownership can be a lengthy commitment.
Although minimal, there is some grooming required to keep the
coat clean and conditioned, such as regular brushing and nail
trimming. To maintain their high energy levels, typical active
Aussies may eat more than other, more sedate dogs of similar size,
so be prepared to feed plenty of high quality food.
However, Aussies are perfect for people wishing to own a highly
trainable, versatile, super-smart dog that can work/play "till
the cows come home". If you have the time and commitment
for an Aussie, you won't be disappointed. These special dogs deserve
special owners. Their loyalty, drive, character and whimsical
sense of humor place them in a class by themselves!