Known as one of the most intelligent breeds of dog in the world, the Australian Shepherd is a wonderful and seemingly tireless companion. Bred for the task of tending unruly sheep, these beautiful canines require athletic humans to keep up with their fast-paced lifestyles.
Australian Shepherd History
With origins as mottled as his coat, the Australian Shepherd is a unique little working animal that has been capturing the hearts of dog lovers since the end of WWII. While it is believed that this beautiful breed may have originated near the Basque region of the Pyrenees Mountains, he was dubbed the Australian Shepherd, due to his close association with the Basque shepherds who made their way into the United States, from Australia, during the 1800’s.
In fact, the Australian Shepherd is not even registered in Australia as a native breed, despite the dog’s gaining recognition throughout the world since the 1950’s. Regardless of his origins, however, this beautiful dog was further developed within the United States, where he was not only recognized as a registered breed, but he was also quick to gain popularity, featured in various rodeos and wild west shows, movies and on the television. In no time flat, the Australian Shepherd became a part of Western culture.
A favorite amongst ranchers, the Australian Shepherd is an excellent herder, able to control sheep, cattle and even horses, through a complex collection of movements, techniques and, of course, the herding ‘eye’ (a term which refers to the herding dog’s ability to control the herd through eye contact).
This dog is extremely attentive and quick, allowing him to not only notice the calf that is about to break from the herd but, even more, allowing him to head said calf off before it gets more than a few bounds away. At times, these movements are so quick, and so precise, it seems like the Australian Shepherd knows what each member of the herd is going to do, before they even do it.
Australian Shepherd Appearance
As if the intelligence and extreme trainability of the Australian Shepherd wasn’t draw enough, this scruffy little dog is truly a prince amongst the canine world as well. Sporting coats of red, black, or the more exotic red or blue merle, they are a sight to behold and their eyes are jewel-like, ranging in shade from amber and blue to a rich brown, as well as mottled, marbled and flecked, with any combination of the mentioned colors.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself captured by an attentive mismatched gaze; a sight which only helps add to this wonderful breed’s allure. Additionally, the Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized herding dog, standing only 20-23 inches at the top of the shoulder, which makes him small enough to comfortably enjoy life both inside and outside the house.
Australian Shepherd Temperament
The Aussie, as he is affectionately known, is a sweet-tempered dog and rarely aggressive with other animals. He can be, at times, somewhat shy and does best with quiet voices and gentle, slow touches. If you’re expecting a lot of traffic or noisy visitors, it’s probably safest to provide your Australian Shepherd with a quiet place that he can retreat to, should noise levels become too much to bear.
Australian Shepherd Exercise Info
One downfall of the Australian Shepherd is that they are a very active dog and do require a good deal of exercise, so they are not well-adapted to a city lifestyle in an apartment, unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time down at the local dog park – of course, they are also known to make excellent Frisbee dogs, with their athletic frames and high-energy personalities, so this may be an option for you yet!
Australian Shepherd Grooming Info
While the Australian Shepherd may not require weekly trips to the groomers, he falls under the high maintenance category, simply due to the fact that he requires frequent and diligent brushing. While the Australian Shepherd’s coat rarely gets mats and needs no trimming, in order to keep it in good condition, Aussies do shed. In fact, Aussies can shed a lot, all year round. If you’re interested in one of these wonderful dogs, it’s best to keep in mind that you may spend a lot of time vacuuming the floor and the furniture with this hairy bundle of joy.
Australian Shepherd Training Info
A very quick and intelligent dog, the Australian Shepherd is sometimes seen as a bit of a challenge to train. While the combination of their intelligence, happy-go-lucky personality, and athletic ability makes them perfect dogs for agility training, getting these independent thinkers to work with you takes patience and a gentle hand.
The Australian Shepherd will also react in a very stubborn or shy manner to any who apply a heavy hand or stern voice. Persistence and a whole lot of patience are the best techniques to bring to these training sessions. Be patient and try to remember that he doesn’t mean to be impudent, but he’s used to tending sheep, not rolling over and playing dead.
Australian Shepherd Health Info
Like any breed of dog, the Australian Shepherd is subject to a variety of health concerns. Your best bet is, when deciding to choose a new Australian Shepherd puppy, check around with several breeders and ask about the various health issues that can affect these beautiful little dogs. A reputable breeder should be well-versed in the health concerns and should be able to give you more details, as well as showing you the sire and dam of your potential puppy. Some of the health problems that can affect Australian Shepherds include:
Ocular or iris coloboma
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
Merle-to-merle breedings resulting in deafness
Australian Shepherd Right Breed Info
Fans of the breed are quick to say that you’re bound to fall in love with the keen Australian Shepherd and why not? What is not to love about this gorgeous and highly intelligent canines? For many, the Australian Shepherd may seem like the perfect pet.
Nevertheless, it’s important to weigh the facts when you take any new pet into consideration – How much time do you have to spend with a dog? How much time do you have to devote to his training? While Australian Shepherds can be fairly independent, they still respond well to company and slow training.
Particularly young dogs do not do well when left for long periods of time. Also take into consideration that these are very high energy dogs and need a fair amount of exercise – if you don’t have the time to make a commitment to a dog such as this, you might prefer someone more tame and laid back. If you don’t mind the exercise level and aren’t adverse to a bit of dog hair, then the Australian Shepherd may be the perfect dog for you!
More Information about the Australian Shepherd Dog Breed
- Australian Shepherd on Wikipedia