Australian Shepherds


Australian Shepherds

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Breed Notes

The Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. It probably began amongst the Basque shepherds who brought it from Spain to Australia and then to the United States in the 1800s. It is believed that amongst the ancestry of the Australian Shepherd, one might find the Collie, the Border Collie and other herding-type dogs. Originally this dog was called by many names including Spanish Shepherds, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds. In 1989, the American Kennel Club accepted the name Australian Shepherd and it was registered for showing in AKC shows in 1993.
The Aussie is good natured and even tempered. He is intelligent with strong herding and guarding instincts. He is loyal, lithe, and agile. He has become known not only for his herding abilities but also for tracking, narcotics detection, search-and-rescue, and hearing dogs for the deaf.
The head of the Aussie should have a skull that is as wide as it is long and a muzzle of equal length to the back skull. The bite is be scissor or level. The ears are triangular, set high on the head and folded. The fold is even with the top of the head and the bottom of the ear should lie down the side of the head level to the eye. The eyes are almond shaped and the color may be amber, brown, blue or any variation thereof. The body has a straight top line. The chest is deep but not broad and the hindquarters are equal in width to the forequarters. The legs are be straight with oval feet. The tail is naturally bobbed or docked to a length of less than four inches. The coat is a double coat with the outer coat being of medium texture and length except around the head, ears, front of forelegs and below the hooks, where it will be shorter. The backs of forelegs and britches will be feathered. The Aussie coat color includes blue and red merle, blacks, and reds, all with white ruffs and possible white markings on the muzzle and legs. There must be no white markings on the body between tail and withers, on the sides, or on the hindquarters. The Aussie's gait is well-balanced, ground covering, and smooth. He tends toward a single track as his speed increases.


kapau@earthlink.net of Portland, OR writes:

Best friend you will ever have.
I think my review will be a good addition to this site because I did not get a puppy. I adopted an older Australian Shepherd from the local humane society. I'm not sure how old he is; I only know that someone let his coat get so bad that he was bald in some places and had totally neglected his teeth as well as his social needs. Why did we pick him? For his big bright smile and the quiet way he watched us and subtly sought our attention. We had never had a herding dog before, but we could tell he was very smart. Regardless of years of neglect, he is the very best dog I have ever known. We know it can't be the training &shyp; it's his big Aussie heart. He responded to his name and learned not to pull the leash on the very first walk we had together. After two weeks of total silence (and good in-house behavior, with no chewing or restlessness), he began to "talk" to us whenever we would come into the house after an absence. He croons, he barks, he "woo-woo-woos." What great company! Perhaps because he is older, he only needs twice-a-day walks. When we get to the park, we throw a ball for him to retrieve. It seems to be enough to keep him happy and alert. We brush him, feed him well, and bathe him about once a month. All his hair has grown back in and he is so handsome that he gets compliments wherever he goes. When you think about getting a dog, investigate older ones like ours. And if you really want a dog who is a central part of your life, the Australian Shepherd would be a very good choice. Sweet, smart, adaptable, loving, alert, trainable &shyp; these dogs have it all if you can spend time with them every day.


autumnsie@cheetaa.com of Indiana writes:

Give it a job or it will create one.
We rescued our Aussie from breeder neglect &shyp; two merles, opposites. She is 85% white and was supposed to be destroyed. We spayed her, added her to our barn and she immediately took command of all the others &shyp; horses, goats, cats. At eight weeks she helped care for four rescued puppies! She stole our hearts and keeps our hands and minds busy. They are definitely not for everyone. She is the boss dog, even over two males. We did not train her early enough, thoroughly enough and are working hard to correct &shyp; thank goodness she is smart and loyal. Be firm with this breed! They will still love you to pieces.


Robneal2@aol.com of Seattle, WA writes:

Great dogs, but can be aggressive.
We have a two-year-old Aussie who is bright, beautiful and friendly to everyone. However. she is aggressive toward other dogs and her behavior around them can be unpredictable. At times she seems playful but usually becomes aggressive toward the other dog. Dogs smaller than her are often tolerated, larger dogs (even when friendly) usually get nipped at. We have tried obedience classes. However we got our Aussie from a rescue and her history of being left on her own in a pound may be the cause of this fear aggression. This is a part of her we just have to accept and be wary of. Others have told me this breed tends toward this so, please consider it if you are looking for a pet. But Aussies are smart and ours is a lot of fun. Good with cats! Just those other dogs. And yes, they do "herd" children.and adults.


gregly311@aol.com of Topeka, KS writes:

Best choice for our family.
We chose our black tri-colored Aussie, or she chose us, we're not sure which. She has been a blessing to our family, which includes a six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. We worried over the herding tendencies of this breed and have had a few mishaps. But once our children learned (we ALL went to obedience/training classes) how to work with her and play with her, it has been great. We have four acres for her to run over, including woods and an area that has been set up just for her to run, jump, dig or whatever. We have found that we need to play with her immediately after getting home, which has never been a problem especially as the kids love to play with her outside. They definitely have an abundance of energy! She is so smart, she has learned the electronic fencing quickly and doesn't go out of the boundries. She likes to lay on her big blue pillow with a chew bone and just be with her family. She is very protective of her "kids" which is a comfort to us. She especially likes to wait until the school bus drops off Matthew (we live approx. 370-feet from the road) as soon as he gets off, she is off and running down the driveway to greet her boy. He has become more social just being around her. She has been a great addition to our family and hopefully will be with us for a long time to come. Aussies are a wonderful breed of dog and we'll always have one.


kwha1e90@epals.com of Edmonton, Saskatchewan writes:

The best dog.
Australian Shepherds are the best dogs because they are good-looking and very energetic. They are also good at agility and Frisbee which are very fun games to play.


eckwok@netvigator.com of Hong Kong writes:

An Australian Shepherd is a human's best friend.
Australian Shepherds are loyal dogs. They are protective of their owner. They are also smart and learn things fast. They have good hearing which makes them a great watchdog.


Aigel3@aol.com of Pennsylvania writes on 2/21/01:

Needs an informed owner.
I have owned a beautiful Aussie for almost 6 years. I had researched the breed before applying for a dog, and I knew Aussies exhibited certain qualities that made them suitable only for experienced dog owners. I found this to hold true in every respect. Ours is a high energy animal, extremely alert, active, agile, and protective dog. He needed lots of space to run in and lots of activities to keep him busy. When he is not busy he is nervous, anxious and bored, although he does stay alone in the house while I'm at work, without doing any damage. But, as soon as I'm back home, I have to take him out to run or catch frisbees or balls or to practice obedience and agility moves. Otherwise he can drive you crazy by pacing back and forth in the house or by constantly picking up things to get your attention,or by becoming neurotic.
He bonded with me so totally that he has become almost over-protective. When we became unable to control this over-protectiveness with obedience commands, it got out of hand, and we had to call in an animal behaviorist to give us certain protocols to change his behavior in some ways. We now think that he was not properly socialized in his previous home. It's important to socialize your dog as soon as you get him. Don't wait! And don't wait to start obedience training; these dogs are so intelligent that they can easily decide to rule the roost by getting the "upper paw", and then you have much more difficulty modifying that learned behavior. Begin by letting him know that you are boss. Make him work for everything he gets. Don't give him treats because he is "cute"; give him treats for doing sit-stays or recalls, etc. Don't reward him unless he does something correctly.
Have a fenced yard or kennel for your Aussie, with enough room for him to run and play and exercise. Some Aussies can jump as high as 6 ft. and some are climbers and diggers, so watch him to see what kind of enclosure you are going to need. Your Aussie is going to need lots of grooming, nothing fancy, just a lot of brushing to get rid of fur that is constantly shed (Aussie's have double-coats), otherwise you'll have a house full of fur - you're going to have a lot of it anyway when the dog "blows" its coat which is usually once a year.
I wouldn't recommend having an Aussie around small children. My Aussie herded my grandchildren when they were smaller, and they often fell because of this. Also, ours rushed at them when they ran. Aussies also are velcro dogs - they stick to your side like glue. If you don't like a furry friend accompanying you everywhere you go (including the bathroom), you won't like most Aussies. But, no dog is as smart or as agile as an Aussie! Ours excelled at obedience and at agility, although his lack of socialization made him a persona non gratis with the other dogs (he jumped on them and pestered them whenever he got a chance). But he was amazing at agility. He is very athletic and fast as lightning! The trainers loved him.
So, if you've got lots of energy, lots of patience, and are willing to work hard with your Aussie every day, you might make a suitable Aussie owner. Just DON'T buy your Aussie from a pet shop! PLEASE!! Contact the breed club (Australian Shepherd Club of America) or Aussie Rescue (ARPH), and/or pick your Aussie from a reputable breeder who will be willing to take the dog back if it is not right for you. Become familiar with the Aussie through books about him and by talking to other Aussie owners and breeders. There are some very important reasons for being very careful about your puppy's health and his genetic background. Research the breed before you buy and make sure the breeder will certify the hips and eyes of the puppy's parents.


AQUARIANSTARR@WEBTVT of Pomona, CA writes on 2/7/01:

Aussies will steal your heart!
I've had my little girl for four and half years now, and have never been in anyway ever disappointed in choosing this breed. In fact, to be truthful, she picked me to be her owner, and that was when she was only a month and three days old. She's the best companion I've ever had and there are no complaints here! She's my companion, my protector, my little clown, my comforter when I'm blue, she's my shoulder to cry on, and just about the best friend I could ever have. You could say this little darling has truly in all stolen my heart, and she has! I'm an Aussie fan through and through, everyday is a brighter day for me, knowing that my Aussie is always beside me.


jonfimz@yahoo.com of Slovenia writes on 10/31/00:

Bright and intelligent, yet not for anyone.
I've got involved into Aussies only this year after getting my first one that has now 8 months. As I'm also an enthusiastic Golden retriever owner/breeder that works with all dogs (S&R, agility, field trials), I figured it out that an Aussie shoudln't be much different. Oh boy was I wrong. This girl is learning x-times faster then GRs, by now she obeys like GRs hardly do at age of 4 years! Not having any big problems, she is a true wonderful companion, watched over litter of 5 GR puppies, taught them basic behaviour around dogs etc. Becoming better and better also in agility though we're training it only 1-2 times per week now. The thing I noticed with her is that she needs to be occupied (at least mentally) almost all the time we're at home. She gets bored really quickly and starts to collect attention. Good that we have 3 GRs, cannot imagine how this would look like if she was alone. Otherwise all our dogs are family members living in the house.


brigitte.waelchli@bluewin.ch of Switzerland writes on 10/12/00:

The most wonderful dog we ever had.
Bevore we had our Aussie, we owned 2 Spaniels. At the moment we bought our horse, we were looking for a dog that we could take along for riding. Friends showed us their Aussie, and for us it was clear, that this is the right dog. Choice has now 2 jears, comes along for riding, loves all other animals (chicken and cats...), plays all day long with our 5 children, and comes everywhere with us. A perfect family dog.


ktrenkie@Yahoo.com of Alma, MI writes on 10/9/00:

Brave, brains, and beauty.
Australian Shepherds are one of the world's greatest companions. Very kind and loving. Mine sure love agility and to please in the show ring! Agility was probably created just for Aussies! They come in many colors, like blue merle,red merle, tri-colored, red, liver, or black. All equally great looking in any color. Best friend to any human, from a small child to a 80 year old man. They will do anything for you and if they could risk their life just to save yours, they are so loyal!


dmjesper@facstaff.wisc.edu of Wisconsin writes on 9/1/00:

The A in Aussie is for Active and Attentive.
The Aussie is a wonderful breed for those who appreciate a certain kind of very active, trainable dog. Many books on Aussies do not give their negative points as well as the positives. Aussies were bred to be working dogs, controlling large animals by the force of personality. If you are not willing to channel that drive, you can end up being controlled by your dog. Also, many Aussies are fearful, so socialize your dog early and often even if it seems friendly as a puppy. They go through fear stages
during adolescence, so be prepared to deal with that. Buying a shy puppy is asking for heartache. This can be genetic or due to lack of exposure to new people- either way it takes patience, expertise and more patience to turn a very shy dog into a decent pet. Sometimes it is impossible.
Some books say that Aussies will herd children. If you have not experienced this, you may not know that untrained herding dogs bite! You must train and supervise an Aussie with children. They should never be left alone together, and the dog should be trained not to chase the kids. Also, Aussies want to be with people. They don't deserve to sit out in a run or on a chain by themselves. They love and need training, time, and attention. Neglecting this can lead to problem barking, digging, chewing
and aggression. Not a pretty sight.


name withheld by request of Arnpiror, Ontario writes on 1/7/00:

Active dog needs activity to keep them out of trouble.
Lots of these dogs land in rescue because they are so cute but those owners do not take into consideration the amount of time it takes to train and keep them occupied. They are not dogs that can be left alone all day and bring out for a walk after supper. They like to herd so running children being nipped as often a problem. Activities like agility are great for channeling their energy and gives them a "job" to do. You should buy from a breeder that checks hips and eyes and has certificates to prove this. Check out the temperament of the parents of this puppy too, as some are higher energy than some, but they all need exercise. I would say a minimum of 15 minutes 4 times a day.


sharonnass@hotmail.com of North Carolina writes on 11/18/99:

Good dog for the right owner.
Australian Shepherds are wonderful dogs and make fantastic pets and protection dogs. However, with owning an Australian Shepheerd comes alot of responsibility. Aussies need lots of attention and companionship in the way of training in the early puppyhood stage. They need to be told who is boss from the very beginning. This is not a breed for a couch potato or a tremendously busy professional. This dog needs to have a job to do. Sitting in a house or pen all day long is not the ideal situation for this breed. The owner of the Australian needs to be two steps ahead of this dog in the intelligence department. Aussies are amazingly smart dogs. You can often see them working problems out in their heads. This can lead to many headaches for the rookie owner. With the right training and plenty og socialization at a young age Autralian Shepherds are the perfect family pet and guardian.


DMurphy859@aol.com of Chicago area, IL writes on 10/4/99:

Superb Family Dog
The Australian Shepherd makes a wonderful family pet, due in great part to its easy trainability. Aussies are as much at home in the cottage as they are guarding a flock on a hillside; in fact, they will adopt the family as their pack, the children as their flock. They require minimal care and suffice beautifully with bathing, brushing, and nail care. A double-coated breed, they shed little and the semi-annual blowing of the coat is easily managed by routine brushing. They are generally healthy, although one would be wise to check with the breeder for a history of hip dysplasia or "collie-eye," two maladies which occasionally occur in the breed. A larger-sized dog, an Aussie is ominous to an intruder, yet not so large as to overpower a youngster visiting your home. Although they definitely have the ability to jump fences or dig beneath them, they rarely do this because of the desire to protect their masters and their territories. They do not run as do the hounds or the ratters, being more inclined to remain at home and protect. Aussies quickly become "family members" and learn house manners in record time. I have personally had Australian Shepherds both from wonderful breeders who provided us with well-chosen "children," as well as a rescue waif who has proven to be a loving companion after a period of transition and training. Unfortunately, in my experience as a 4-H trainer, I found that Aussies who had been indiscriminately bred (in some cases in-bred) by an unreputable breeder, had caused much sadness to those who unwittingly trusted the breeder. Children were unable to train these crazed dogs and, although quite beautiful, many of them had to be destroyed due to extremely poor temperament. Note that this is a VERY UNUSUAL situation for Australian Shepherds, but one would be wise to investigate the breeder and think it over before making a (perhaps) 15-year commitment to an animal. It would not be fair to either of you to change your mind after one or both of you had formed an attachment. A reputable breeder will become your friend, as the breeder is giving the "child" up to its "adoptive family." A good breeder will provide you with more than a dog, he/she will provide you with information and resources for the life of your dog.


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