Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

Temperament

Australian Shepherds are easy-going, remaining puppy-like even in their adult years. This courageous dog makes a good watchdog for the home. Aussies are excellent with children, even with an active child, as they love to play. They are devoted, loyal friends and guardians, for they are naturally protective. Affectionate, very lively, agile and attentive—they are eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends. Australian Shepherds are not the kind of dog to lie around the living room all day or live happily in the backyard with only a 15-minute walk. They need much more exercise than that and something to occupy their mind daily or they will become bored, leading to serious behavior problems. Without enough mental and physical exercise and/or a lack of a true pack leader, they can become nervous and destructive if left alone. Socialize well to prevent them from becoming suspicious of strangers. Working lines may be too energetic for people who only have a moderately active lifestyle. Some like to nip people’s heels in an attempt to herd them, and this behavior needs to be corrected, teaching the dog that humans are not to be herded. The Aussie is a quiet worker. This breed is not usually dog aggressive.

Height/Weight

Height: Males 20 – 23 inches (52 – 58cm) Females 18 – 21 inches (46 – 53 cm)
Weight: Males 50 – 65 pounds (25 – 29 kg) Females 40 – 55 pounds (18 – 25 kg)

Health Problems

The gene for the beautiful merle coloration also carries a blind/deaf factor. This may be expressed only in merle/merle crosses. Be sure to check the hearing on merle puppies. Natural bobtail-to-natural bobtail breedings can result in some offspring with serious spinal defects. Major concerns: cataract, CEA. Minor concerns: CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger – Huet syndrome, iris coloboma. Occasionally seen: lumbar sacral syndrome, epilepsy, PRA, vWD, distichiasis, PDA, PPM. Suggested tests: hip, eye. Some are prone to hip dysplasia. This breed is often sensitive to ivermectin; however, the dosage for heartworm preventive is considered safe. Also IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Some herding dogs carry a MDR1 gene which makes them sensitive to certain drugs that are otherwise okay to give another dog, but if tested positive for this gene can kill them.

Living Conditions

This breed is not recommended for apartment life. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least a large yard.

Exercise

This energetic working dog needs plenty of vigorous exercise to stay in shape, mentally and physically, or better yet, some real work to do. Very intelligent and craving a good challenge, they need to be taken on a daily, brisk, long walk, jog or run alongside you when you bicycle. If under-exercised, this breed can become restless and destructive.

Life Expectancy

About 12-15 years

Litter Size

6 – 9 puppies, average 7

Grooming

The coat is easy to groom and needs little attention. Brush occasionally with a firm bristle brush and bathe only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.

Origin

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd is not Australian at all, but was developed most likely in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, and refined in the U.S. to work as a herding dog on ranches. The breed’s principal forebears were most likely Spanish dogs that accompanied the Basque shepherds and herds of fine Merino sheep exported to both America and Australia in the early days of the colonies. At some point it probably crossed with Collie stock. The dog has had many names in the past including the Pastor Dog, Blue Heeler, Spanish Shepherd, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd and California Shepherd. Its many talents include retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, search & rescue, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks.