A Pup of All Trades- The Australian Sheepdog Has It All
An Australian Shepherd is not just a pretty face! This breed is known for its all-around versatility, including strength, speed, intelligence, and agility. Although they were bred as working ranch dogs, they are also quick learners and make excellent, (albeit) high-maintenance) pets.
A Brief History of the Australian Shepherds
The Australian Shepherd, also known as an Aussie, is not actually Australian but originated in the Western United States during the 19th century. The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) began in 1957. The American Kennel Club (AKC) did not, however, recognize the breed until 1993.
The breed is thought to descend from dogs originally brought from the Basque Country in Spain/France, though it was also bred with many other breeds to maximize its working potential.
Some people believe that this breed got its name from being mixed with Australian herding breeds, while others maintain that the name comes from the imported Aussie sheep that the dogs were especially good at herding.
Prized as working dogs, Australian Shepherds are tied up in the mythology of the Wild West: cowboys, Gold Rush and all. More recently, Aussies have appeared in a number of movies, from Westerns to Disney flicks.
Try looking out for the Australian Shepherds in movies like Run, Appaloosa, Run, Flight of the Navigator and Famous Five.
Nowadays Australian Shepherds still make popular working dogs, as well as loving pets. The breed has also been selectively bred to produce miniature Australian Shepherds and Toy Australian Shepherds.
The Appearance of Australian Shepherd Dogs
Australian Shepherds really are strikingly beautiful dogs. A medium-sized, long-haired breed, Aussies are visually similar to other herding dogs, including the Border Collie and English Shepherd. Their double coats come in a variety of colors and can be curly or straight.
Most Australian Shepherds have varied markings on the face, chest, and tail, and the breed standard allows this. Many will also have other colors flecked through their coat, making them either bicolor or tricolor. Again, the breed standard is permissive of both. Aussies often have striking eyes that are blue or of different colors.
Average Size and Weight
Aussies are a medium-sized breed, with an average height of 20 to 23in (51 to 58cm) for males and 18 to 21in (46 to 53cm) for females. Australian Shepherds have an average weight of 40 to 50lb (18 to 23kg) for males and 30 to 40lb (14 to 20kg) for females.
Mini Australian Shepherds stand 14 to 18in (35 to 45cm) tall, and Toy Aussies stand between just 10 and 14in (25 and 35cm).
A Fat Aussie is Not a Healthy Aussie Dog!
Australian Shepherds are working dogs, and as such require a lot of exercise. If Aussies do not get enough exercise, or if they are fed excessively and are not on a nutritious diet, they can be prone to obesity and related health problems. A healthy, active Australian Shepherd dog should eat one and a half to two cups of dry food daily.
Real Rainbow Dogs- The Many Australian Shepherd Colors
As Australian Shepherds were originally selected for their working abilities, the breed comes in lots of beautiful colors. Let’s take a look at some of the colors accepted under the AKC breed standard.
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
The blue merle Australian Shepherd is perhaps the most famous color combination for the breed. Merle is a genetically inherited patchy pattern on the dog’s coat. Blue Merle is a mottled combination of blacks and grays, with or without white or copper patches.
Red Merle Australian Shepherd
Red Merle is similar in its markings to blue merle, but with mottled patches of cream and liver. Again, patches of copper or white may also be present. The merle gene can also change eye color to pale blue or odd-colored eyes.
Black Australian Shepherd
Solid black Australian Shepherds are relatively rare and are often mistaken for other breeds, such as Newfoundlands or Border Collies. A black Australian Shepherd may also have a white chest or white markings on the face.
Red Australian Shepherd
Solid red or liver-colored Australian Shepherds have very striking, reddish-brown coats. Copper or white patches may also be present.
Australian Shepherd Temperament and Personality
The Australian Shepherd originated in the tough conditions of the American West, and to this day the breed’s temperament reflects these early years. These dogs were bred to withstand severe weather conditions and to have energy, endurance, and speed. They are intelligent, and while they are very obedient and trainable, they maintain an independent, even stubborn streak.
Australian Shepherds tend to be very loyal to their families, while more cautious around strangers. They have a tendency to guard their property closely.
Australian Shepherds tend to form very intense bonds with specific people and will aim to always be at their sides. This tendency has earned them the nickname “Velcro dogs”.
Considering this breed’s origins, it is unsurprising that Australian Shepherds do best in rural conditions where they can roam freely, explore and play to their heart’s content.
For These Dogs, Training is Life
Australian Shepherds were bred over many generations to be working dogs. This instinct remains strong, even in those dogs that live as pets. These dogs are a big commitment, as they need at least two to three hours of exercise, play, training and activity every day. Training helps to keep their minds busy and to tire them out.
Working Australian Shepherds are comfortable over varied terrain, and in harsh temperatures and conditions. Thanks to the breed’s ability to adapt and think for itself, these dogs can be used for herding a wide variety of animals, including sheep, cattle, poultry, and even rabbits. Australian Shepherds also make popular trail dogs thanks to their stamina.
For pet Australian Shepherds, training is just as important. These dogs love to learn tricks and do very well in agility training and obstacle courses. Australian Shepherds have won the agility classes at a number of dog shows, including Westminster and the Masters Agility Championship.
Aussie Puppy to Old Doggo: Australian Shepherd Lifespan
The average lifespan for Australian Shepherds is 11 to 13 years, with 12.5 the most common, assuming that no other health issues (such as hip dysplasia) are present.
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