Good-natured, Intelligent, Work-oriented, Exuberant
- Height18-23 in
- Weight40-65 lbs
- Lifespan12-15 years
The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized herding dog bred for their working ability. Contrary to the name, the Australian Shepherd breed is said to have originated from the American West. This breed's history dates back to the 1800s to the Basques that lived in the Pyrenees Mountains along the border of modern-day Spain and France. The Pyrenean Shepherd was the herding dog of choice and ancestor of the modern-day Australian Shepherd. When the Basques first arrived in America during the Gold Rush, many became master shepherds that primarily raised flocks of sheep. The Basques eventually made their way to Australia in pursuit of richer flatlands which were ideal for tending to sheep and cattle. It’s widely thought that the Basque dogs that traveled with their shepherds were bred with other English breeds, giving rise to the Australian Shepherd that we commonly know today.
With their strong herding instinct, exceptional intelligence, and natural strength and agility, Australian Shepherds have been used for many purposes over the years. The Aussie’s innate dispositions are derived from their long history and original purpose as stockdogs. Today, many Australian Shepherds still do the type of work they were bred for, such as working the land and wrangling livestock. They have also become one of the most popular companion dog breeds in North America. Despite their long history, the Australian Shepherd was added to the American Kennel Club Herding Group on January 1, 1993.
Australian Shepherd Appearance
The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized dog with a solid, athletic build. Aussies are known for their keen, penetrating gaze. Males typically stand 20-23 inches tall while females measure between 18-21 inches tall. Male Aussies weigh on average 50-65 pounds, and females weigh 40-55 pounds.
Australian Shepherd Temperament
The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent and versatile breed. These dogs are happiest when physically and mentally stimulated. Australian Shepherds make great family companions and get along well with children and other pets. They can be somewhat reserved around strangers so early socialization is essential.
Grooming Your Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds have a coat that sheds all year round and even more so in the spring as they discard their heavy winter coat. The consistency of an Aussie’s fur can be slightly wavy or straight. Aussies can also have a range of different coat colours that fit into four categories. Black, Blue Merle, Red, and Red Merle. Weekly brushing is recommended to keep your Australian Shepherd’s waterproof, double-layered coat looking its best. It’s also important to ensure your Aussie is on a well-rounded diet that contains healthy levels of fatty acids, which are essential to a thicker and glossier coat.
Training & Exercise for Your Australian Shepherd
It’s best to start training your Australian Shepherds when they’re a puppy. Early socialization and obedience training will help your pup grow into a well-tempered adult. Aussies are intelligent dogs that are eager to please and love having a job to do. They respond well to reward-based training and positive reinforcement.
Australian Shepherds need an ample amount of exercise each day. They enjoy long, brisk walks and benefit from a fenced in yard where they can run around and play. Aussies thrive in homes where they’re physically and mentally stimulated, making them the dog breed of choice for high-energy owners who are familiar with the breed's active lifestyle.
Health Considerations for Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs with a lifespan of roughly 12-15 years. Despite their stellar health, Aussies can develop certain health conditions. Some of the more common ones include elbow and hip dysplasia, epilepsy and cataracts.
Canine Hip & Elbow Dysplasia (CHD)
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is one of the most common canine ailments. It’s a genetic condition that causes an abnormal formation of the hip socket which can eventually lead to lameness and arthritis of the joints. Medium-sized dogs like the Australian Shepherd are commonly affected by this health condition. Elbow dysplasia occurs when an Aussie's elbow does not fuse properly during their development.
Dysplasia is typically hereditary that can be magnified by factors including excessive growth rate, age, types of exercise, and improper weight and nutrition. While mild conditions can be managed with prescription medication and physical therapy, more severe cases could require surgery. To prevent or reduce the severity of elbow and hip dysplasia, it’s important to ensure your Australian Shepherd gets a proper diet and the right amount of exercise.
Australian Shepherds also have a heightened susceptibility to hereditary epilepsy. This means that if either parent was epileptic, their offspring's chances of inheriting epilepsy is greater. Epilepsy occurs when the dog experiences uncontrolled neurological activity within the brain causing seizures. An epileptic episode can typically last between one and several minutes. Australian Shepherds as young as 8 months old have been diagnosed with this condition, making it crucial that your Aussie pup leads a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet. Some common signs of seizures to look out for in Australian Shepherds include chewing fits, ear twitching, drooling, loss of consciousness, facial twitching and vocalization. If your Aussie is having a seizure, call an emergency vet and make sure they can’t injure themselves.
Hereditary cataracts are another condition Australian Shepherds are prone to. This happens when the tissues of the eye begin to break down causing clouding of the eye lens. If left untreated this condition can lead to impaired vision or in some cases complete blindness. Signs of cataracts are more likely to appear once the Australian Shepherd has matured making it difficult to predict the onset of this condition.
Although Australian Shepherds are known as one of the healthiest dog breeds, they are still vulnerable to certain health conditions. Adequate exercise and a diet consisting of proper dog food plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your Aussie. When selecting dog food for this highly active breed it’s important to consider nutrient-dense meals that are high in protein. The dog food should align with your Aussie's size, age and any dietary requirements they may have.
What Makes a Australian Shepherd Unique?
The Australian Shepherd is one of the few dog breeds that can have two different coloured eyes, referred to as heterochromia or “wall eye.” This rare condition is caused by a lack of pigment melanin in all or part of one eye. Heterochromia in Australian Shepherds is often a hereditary trait that gets passed down through their genetic makeup.
There are three main types of heterochromia: heterochromia iridis, which is when one eye is a completely different colour than the other; sectoral heterochromia, which occurs when the iris is partially blue or without pigment; and central heterochromia, which happens when the blue colouring radiates out from the pupil, mixing with another colour. Most Australian Shepherds with heterochromia don’t have any related health issues — they just have pawesome coloured eyes that make them unique!
Legend has it that Native Americans viewed Australian Shepherds as sacred dogs. They gave Australian Shepherds the nickname “The Ghost Eye Dog” because of their eye coloration. Natives believed that Aussies were able to see into the spirit world through their lighter coloured eye.
Australian Shepherds grew in popularity with Western culture after WWII. They have often appeared in rodeos, Western films and TV shows where they became an iconic part of the cowboy lifestyle. Sheep ranges and cattle farms of the West were often places Australian Shepherds would call home. There’s no question that Aussies have an undeniable talent for herding; however, the versatility of this breed has allowed them to take on several different roles including therapy and service dogs, drug detectors, search-and-rescue aid, and the ultimate companion for an active family. An Aussie’s loyalty and eager-to-please nature goes without question.
Australian Shepherds are a remarkably intelligent dog breed. Their ability to outsmart and control livestock is one example of their potential to make their intelligence work to their benefit.
An Australian Shepherd’s high levels of obedience and adaptability allow them to prosper in task-oriented environments. Australian Shepherds love to be put to work and are always eager to please their owners. An Aussie’s keen intelligence and energetic nature makes them very easy to train. However, Aussies need an owner who is well-versed in how to handle this lively breed and channel their boundless energy.
Why NutriCanine Is Great For Australian Shepherds
Top 10 Facts About Australian Shepherds
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