Also known as Aussie, the Australian Shepherd Dog does not actually come from Australia. The breed originated in Euskadi, in the Pyrenees area, and its name is due to the fact that Basque shepherds took these dogs to Australia, where the breed was developed.
- He is very intelligent and a great companion for the whole family.
The breed was bred for herding sheep and is a very active dog that likes to always have some work to do. Suitable for those who like physical exercise and have time to stimulate their minds.
The history of the Australian Shepherd
The Aussie breed was not recognized until 1957, with the formation of the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). The actual description of the breed was not written until 1977, and it was not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1993.
Although there are discrepancies regarding its Spanish ancestry, it appears that the breed originates from northern Spain, from the Basque area of the Pyrenees, or perhaps from Germany. Later, shepherds sent these dogs to Australia, along with their prized sheep, and later to the United States.
The dogs of the Basque shepherds were different from today's Aussie, as they were smaller and thinner, and their coat was different. It is likely that upon arrival in Australia, the dogs were bred with other herding dogs, until they became the breed we know today.
It is believed that the Scotch Collie, the Border Collie, and the English Shepherd have contributed to the genetics of the Australian Shepherd Dog.
Regardless of their origin, they are a highly prized breed for herding sheep, given their extraordinary ability to drive them and their high intelligence and constant alertness.
The main characteristics of the Australian Shepherd
- The Australian Shepherd carries Border Collie blood in its veins and shares with it the intelligence and a penetrating gaze that keep the sheep under control.
- It measures between 20 and 23 inches (51-58 cm) and weighs between 30 and 70 pounds (16-32 kg). Its life expectancy is estimated between 12 and 15 years.
- It is a very hard-working and energetic sheepdog. He needs mental stimulation and also a lot of physical exercise. If you keep him busy, he will be a happy dog. If he has no work to do, he will seek it out on his own, and this can lead to destructive behavior (such as chewing furniture or urinating everywhere) or herding the children and animals in the area.
- He excels in obedience, agility, flyball, and herding. He will also enjoy dog racing and will be happy hiking or jogging with you (Canicross, Bikejoring).
- He is excellent as a guide dog, assistance dog, police dog, and for search and rescue work.
- He is very loyal and will protect your home and family, barking if he sees or hears anything suspicious and acting forcefully and boldly if he deems it necessary.
- He gets along well with children, but may try to herd them.
- He enjoys activities that allow him to dissipate his energy, such as playing Frisbee or ball (remember that there are ball launchers and automatic ball launchers for dogs).
- He is a dog that learns new commands quickly and loves to do different things, so if you are creative in his training, you will both enjoy those moments.
- Although he is easy to train, he is not a dog suitable for first time owners and it is important that you know how to maintain the hierarchy, otherwise he will dispute it and assume the dominant role in the family.
- He likes company of his own, and although it is important that he often goes outside to run, he must live in your company, as he will not be happy if he is alone for too long, and may develop separation anxiety.
- He is a dog that is aloof with people he does not know and needs early socialization so as not to behave aggressively with strangers.
What is the breed standard?
A breed standard is the set of guidelines that describe the characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed. Breeders must follow them at all times to avoid conditions that are detrimental to the health, welfare, or soundness of the breed.
According to the ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America), the main characteristics of the Australian Shepherd are as follows:
- General appearance. The Australian Shepherd Dog is a well-balanced dog, of medium size and bone, correct proportions, and with a solid movement. It is an attentive and lively dog, strong and hardy, with unusual agility. Slightly longer than tall, with a coat of varied coloration and moderate length. Masculinity or femininity is well defined in the breed.
- Size. The preferred height at withers for males is 20 to 23 inches (50.8-58.4 cm), while for females it is 18 to 21 inches (45.7-53 cm). However, quality should not be sacrificed in favor of size.
- Temperament. It is a working dog with strong herding and guarding instincts. Excellent companion, highly intelligent, and simple to train. Performs assigned tasks with great enthusiasm. Reserved with strangers, but does not show shyness. He has the power and speed necessary to control difficult livestock and moves the sheep without unnecessary roughness. It is an aggressive and authoritarian worker, but should be properly trained to avoid this dominant behavior with people or other household animals.
- Head and skull. Clean-cut head, strong, dry and proportionate to the body. Skull between flat and slightly rounded, length and width equal to the length of the muzzle. Muzzle of medium width and depth, gradually tapering to a rounded tip, without appearing heavy or sharp.
- Eyes. Very expressive, showing alertness and intelligence. Clear and almond-shaped, moderate size and a little oblique, neither prominent nor sunken. Pupils are dark, well defined, and symmetrical. Color brown, blue or amber, or any combination of these colors, including speckles and marbling. All colors are acceptable.
- Ears. Set high on the head, triangular and of moderate size, slightly rounded at the tip. The tip reaches to the inner corner of the nearest eye, but does not go beyond. At attention, they rise a quarter to a half above the base and fall forward or slightly to one side.
- Mouth. Well fitting lips that meet at the line of the mouth. The upper lines of the muzzle and skull are almost parallel, and the stop is moderate, but well defined. The teeth are white and strong, with a scissor bite. A level bite is considered a fault. Accidentally broken or missing teeth are not penalized. The rest are, to the extent that they deviate from a full complement of 42 teeth.
- NECK. Firm, clean, and proportionate to the body. medium length, slightly arched at the crest, and fits well over the shoulders.
- Body. Firm and muscular. The topline is well leveled and the lower line is carried moderately backward. The chest is deep and strong, and the ribs are well sprung. The loin is strong and broad when viewed from above. Moderately sloping croup. Straight tail, which should not exceed 1 inch.
- Forelegs. The shoulder blades are well laid back. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled, and the upper arm (humerus) is slightly longer than the shoulder blade. The forelegs are straight and strong, perpendicular to the ground and with moderate bone. The point of the elbow is below the withers and equidistant from the withers to the ground. When viewed from the side, it is short, thick, and strong but flexible, with a slight angulation.
- Hindquarters. The width of the hindquarters is approximately equal to the width of the forequarters at the shoulder. The angulation of the pelvis and upper thigh (femur) corresponds to that of the shoulder blade and upper arm. Well muscled upper and lower thighs, clearly defined knees, and moderately flexed hock joints. Metatarsus are short and perpendicular to the ground, parallel to each other when viewed from behind.
- Feet. Oval and compact, with closely knit and well arched toes. Thick and resistant pads, short and strong nails. Dewclaws can be removed.
- Gait or movement. Smooth and light, showing agility of movement. Well balanced natural gait. As speed increases, the front and hind feet converge towards the center line of gravity, under the body, while the topline remains firm and level. The trot is effortless and exaggerated reach and impulsion are not desirable.
- Coat. Medium length and texture, smooth or slightly wavy, weather resistant. The amount of undercoat varies with climate. Short, soft coat on the head and outside of the ears, front forelegs, and under the hocks. moderately feathered foreleg back, moderately full buttocks moderate mane, more pronounced in males.
- Color. All colors are light and rich. Recognized colors are Merle blue, Merle red, solid black, and solid red, with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points. Merle blue and black have black pigmentation on the nose, lips, and eye rims. Red and red Merle have reddish pigmentation on the nose, lips, and eye rims. The butterfly (mottled) nose should not be criticized before one year of age. The areas surrounding the ears and eyes are dominated by a color other than white, and the white neck hairline does not extend beyond the withers.
- Disqualifications. Underbite, overbite, crooked mouth. Eyes not almond-shaped. Pointed ears, ears too large, low set ears without rising from the base. Excessively long, overabundant, wiry or curly hair is a serious fault. Unrecognized colors, white splashes on the body; Dudley nose (discolored).
The high intelligence of the Australian Shepherd Dog
The Australian Shepherd Dog is very intelligent, similar to the Border Collie. It is among the breeds with the highest functional and obedience intelligence. It understands new commands in less than five repetitions (often the first time) and is able to remember them even if not practiced repeatedly.
Responds to the first command 95% of the time and does it quickly, even if you are at a distance. He learns correctly even if you do not have much experience in training.
What is the personality of the Australian Shepherd Dog?
With a great herding instinct, the Australian Shepherd Dog is a dog that tends to dispute the hierarchy and assume the dominant role if you do not develop a firm and confident leadership. For this reason, they are not recommended for first time owners or owners who do not know how to be forceful (which does not mean unfriendly).
Like most shepherds, Aussies are very loyal to their family, but they are aloof with strangers and do not like to be approached by strangers. Early socialization and good training are important so that they do not become aggressive dogs.
Like the Border Collie, the Australian shepherd is a very active and energetic dog that will not be stopped by a fence if he has to go out to graze, even if it is electrified. A solution to letting your dog free in the garden without surprises can be to use a training leash. This gives him a lot of freedom of movement and, at the same time, prevents him from going over a certain limit.
Therefore, it is imperative that you train him properly, provide him with plenty of opportunities for physical exercise and large doses of mental stimulation. A well-trained Aussie is an exceptional dog with whom you will spend unforgettable moments, but it is not the best choice for a sedentary family.
Its instinct for herding sheep is very strong, and it is a dog that has a tendency to nip at the ankles of children, other animals, and adults.
Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems
The Australian Sheepdog is an active and healthy dog, although it can be prone to certain diseases. This does not mean that your Aussie will suffer from one or more of these diseases, but you should be aware of them in order to identify the symptoms and react in time. The most characteristic are:
A hereditary disease that occurs when the femur does not fit properly into the pelvic cavity of the hip joint. Symptoms are not always observed, although some dogs show pain and/or lameness in the hind legs (one or both). Hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis as the dog ages (a good dog food for dogs with hip dysplasia can help to cope with this condition).
An inherited condition that occurs frequently in large breeds of dogs. It occurs due to the different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog's elbow, causing laxity in the joint. It can be painful and cause lameness in the dog. In some cases, it requires surgical intervention.
The Australian Sheepdog can suffer from epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures in the dog. The seizures may manifest as unusual behavior, such as running as if being chased or staggering. Although there is no cure, it can be controlled with medication, and the dog can live a happy and healthy life.
When there is abnormally low production of thyroid gland hormone, hypothyroidism occurs. Symptoms include obesity, mental dullness, drooping eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog's coat becomes coarse and brittle, and its skin hard and dark. It is treated with medication, and although there is no cure, the dog can lead a healthy and happy life. Consider purchasing hypothyroidism food for your dog.
Deafness is very common in this breed and usually has no cure, although sometimes it can be treated with medication and surgery. If your Aussie is deaf, you will have to be patient and spend more time training him. A vibrating collar can make his life easier, as he will be able to respond to your call.
Inappropriate growth of cartilage in the joints. It may occur in the elbows and shoulders and causes painful joint stiffness. It is detected between four and nine months of age.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
It is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually leads to blindness, due to the loss of photoreceptors in the back of the eye.
Opacity in the crystalline lens that hinders vision. It is not always noticeable at first sight, but when it is, the eye appears to have a cloudy-looking film. In some cases, they can be removed by surgery.
Growth of an extra row of eyelashes, called distichia, in the sebaceous gland of the eye, protruding along the edge of the eyelid and causing irritation. It is treated surgically.
Collie eye anomaly
An inherited disease that can lead to blindness. It usually appears at 2 years of age and has no treatment, but the dog will learn to use its other senses.
Persistent pupillary membranes
Strands of tissue in the eye, which are remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the ocular lenses before birth. They usually disappear by 4 to 5 weeks of life, but sometimes persist. If they do not decompose, they can lead to cataracts or corneal opacity. See your veterinarian for prescription drops to help break them down.
Sensitivity to some medications
Many shepherd dog breeds have a mutation of the MDR1 gene, which produces a glycoprotein that eliminates toxic substances from the body. In dogs that show sensitivity to drugs, this gene does not function, causing toxicity. These dogs are usually sensitive to Ivermectin.
Nasal solar dermatitis
Also known as Collie Nose, this condition appears in dogs that have little pigment in their noses. In this case, sunlight can cause lesions on their nose and occasionally around the eyelids. If your Aussie has Collie Nose, it is important that he is kept out of direct sunlight and that you apply dog sunscreen when he goes outside.
If the retina detaches from the tissues that support it, the dog may have vision problems or even blindness. There is no treatment.
Does my Australian Shepherd need special care?
- Space. The Australian Shepherd should live indoors with the family, although it is essential that he has access to ample outdoor space where he can run. If you do not have this space, make sure he gets enough physical exercise by taking him out for long walks, hiking, or jogging and training outdoors.
- Training. The Australian Shepherd Dog is a very intelligent dog that can learn many things. Its intelligence also means that it requires mental stimulation, because repetitive exercises will bore it. In the market, there are many puzzles and interactive games that are very attractive to dogs with restless intelligence.
- Feeding. Feed your Australian Shepherd with high-quality products that are suitable for active and energetic dogs. Consult your veterinarian to find out how much food your Australian Shepherd Dog needs, as it depends on his size, age, and activity level, among other things.
- Coat care. The Aussie has a double coat. The outer coat is a medium-length, water-resistant coat that allows it to withstand cold, rain, and snow. It molts throughout the year, especially in the spring, when it loses its winter coat. It is important to brush it often, detangle it carefully and remove dead hair. If you keep it well brushed, you will only have to bathe it when it is dirty, probably a few times a year. On our website you will find a wide range of hair care products that will make this routine a much easier task: dog shampoos, professional hair dryers, or hair remover gloves.
- Dental hygiene. To prevent periodontal diseases, you should brush your Australian Shepherd Dog's teeth two or three times a week. This way, you will be able to remove tartar and avoid infections. Check our list of the best toothbrushes for dogs to find out which one is best suited for your pet (don't forget a suitable dog toothpaste).
- Nails. If your Australian Shepherd doesn't naturally wear down his nails, trim them (with a dog nail clipper) once or twice a month. If you hear them tapping against the ground, it means they are too long. See your veterinarian to teach you how to do this, or take him or her to a professional groomer to do it.
- Check your Australian Shepherd Dog's health. Check your Australian Shepherd Dog's paws frequently and look inside his mouth and ears. If you see any signs of a general problem, such as sores, rashes, redness or tenderness of the skin, inflammation, discharge from the nose, mouth, and eyes, etc., see your veterinarian.
How does the Australian Shepherd get along with children and other animals?
The Australian Shepherd Dog is an excellent companion for children, but it is important to be careful with the younger ones, as it has a tendency to herd them, grabbing them by the ankles.
In addition, it is important that children learn to communicate with dogs (this and other breeds), to correctly interpret their signals, and to avoid problems. Teach your children and their friends how to interact with dogs so that they understand when they can touch them and when they should avoid him if he sends a warning signal.Generally, a well-trained dog will not bite unless all of your previous warnings have been ignored.
Also, the Australian Shepherd Dog can get along well with other dogs and animals. But if you have cats at home, be aware that it may also try to herd them.
Breeding the Australian Shepherd Dog Breed
If you have decided to adopt an Australian Shepherd Dog, you will be giving a new chance to an adorable little dog that needs a home and a family that will provide him with care and affection. Adoption is always a good option to give an abandoned dog a new life, happy and with people who love him.
If you want to buy one, we recommend you not go to a pet store but look for a professional and responsible breeder. These breeders are concerned about maintaining the good condition of the breed and guaranteeing that the dog has passed all the necessary revisions, besides being in perfect sanitary conditions.
They must also provide you with documentation showing that their parents have been authorized for breeding, in order to prevent genetic problems associated with this breed.
Do not hesitate to inquire about the dog's temperament, health status, and any problems it may suffer from. A professional breeder will be able to guide and advise you on whether this is the right dog for you.
Research the breed beforehand, to get information about its characteristics, check the breeder's facilities and verify that the animals are not in unhealthy conditions, and be suspicious of anyone who does not want to answer your questions.
Your veterinarian can also refer you to a reputable breeder where you can acquire a healthy puppy.
- The Aussie is a shepherd dog bred to guard sheep.
- It has been bred from the Border Collie and other breeds and shares with them its intelligence.
- It seems to have originated in the north of Spain, in the Pyrenees area.
- It is a loyal, energetic, and obedient dog.
- He is aloof with strangers and needs physical exercise and mental stimulation.
- It gets along very well with children and will be a great playmate, although it may herd them by nipping at their ankles.
- The same is true for other household pets.