Paws for Thought
Country of Origin: The Australian Shepherd (affectionately called an ‘Aussie’) does not actually originate in Australia. It is believed that some Basque farmers brought ancestors of these dogs with them when they emigrated to Australia, then subsequently to the United States during the 1849 California gold rush. However, the breed as it is known today was developed in the American Southwest over the next few decades. The Australian dog was crossed with several breeds in an effort to produce an animal able to deal with the harsh temperatures and demands of the American West. Breeding during this period was mainly focused on ability—speed, agility, and endurance--rather than appearance, which delayed the Australian Shepherd’s recognition as a breed. Australian Shepherds became popular pets after they were featured as rodeos performers in the 1950’s, and later in Disney films such as ‘Run Appaloosa Run’. Australian Shepherds were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1993.
Size: The standard Australian Shepherd has a shoulder height of 43-58 cm (18-23 in) and weighs 16-34 kg (35-75 lbs). The Australian Shepherd has highly set, triangular ears, a moderately defined stop (point at which the muzzle meets the forehead), a scissors bite, and brown, blue, or amber eyes (or a combination thereof). It has a flat back, natural or docked bobtail, and oval feet. The Australian Shepherd is slightly longer than it is tall.
Coat: The Australian Shepherd’s coat ranges from medium to long, with a dense undercoat. It can be straight or slightly wavy, and is highly weather resistant. The coat is short and soft on the head and legs, with a thick mane around the neck. The Australian Shepherd can be black, red, red merle (dark patches on a light colored background), or blue merle. All may have white markings or tan points.
Character: The Australian Shepherd is intelligent and eager to learn. It is relaxed, loyal, and devoted, bonding closely with family, even to the point of developing separation anxiety. Aussies are confident and lively; they are known to behave like puppies.
Temperament: The Australian Shepherd is a great companion for children and other pets, especially if socialized as a puppy. It can be shy around strangers, as it is territorial by nature. Australian Shepherds are affectionate and kindhearted. They are easily bored. The Australian Shepherd can become nervous and destructive without frequent socialization and proper exercise.
Care: The Australian Shepherd requires relatively little grooming, but a thorough combing is required when shedding. Bathe only when necessary. Australian Shepherds can tolerate warm or cool climates, but must live indoors as they require constant socialization. Aussies have a life span of 12-13 years and litters of 5-8 puppies.
Training: The Australian Shepherd is fun to train because it learns quickly and easily. Aussies are unusually eager to please and adept at a wide variety of sports and games, such as herding, Flyball, and agility competitions.
Activity: Not only does the Australian Shepherd need a lot of exercise, it needs to be kept occupied. The Australian Shepherd is an excellent companion for people that are active, particularly those who recreate outdoors. Aussies will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised.