The Australian Shepherd (History and Explanation)
The Australian Shepherd is not really an Australian breed, but came to America by way of Australia. During the 1800s, the Basque people of Europe settled in Australia, bringing with them their sheep and sheepdogs. Shortly thereafter, many of these shepherds again relocated to the western United States and brought with them their dogs and sheep. American shepherds naturally dubbed these new herding dogs “Australian Shepherds” because that was their immediate, past residence. Some legends claim that the dogs offered their masters protection from some of the Indian tribes, who held a certain reverence for them because of their often blue eyes. The rugged area of Australia and western America placed demands on the herding dogs that they had not faced in Europe, but through various crosses and rigorous selection for working ability the Basque dog soon adapted and excelled under these harsh conditions.
The breed kept a low profile until the 1950s, when they were featured in a popular trick-dog act that performed in rodeos and was featured in film. Many of these dogs, owned by Jay Sisler, can be found in the pedigrees of today’s Aussies. A club was formed in 1957, and the first Aussies were registered with the National Stock Dog Registry. In the midst of some controversy, the AKC recognized the Australian Shepherd in 1993. It quickly became a successful show dog. Ironically, a large proportion of this working breed remains unregistered with the AKC. As a result, the Australian shepherd’s actual popularity is estimated to be much higher than its publicized popularity.
Form and Function
The Australian shepherd is an athletic dog of medium size and bone, lithe, agile, and slightly longer than tall. It is muscular and powerful enough to work all day without sacrificing speed and agility necessary to cope with bolting sheep. Its gait is free and easy, and it must be able to change direction or speed instantly. Its coat is weather resistant and double, with the outer coat of medium texture and length, straight to wavy, and the undercoat varying in quantity according to climate. Its expression is keen, intelligent, and eager.
The Australian Shepherd is bold, alert, confident, independent, smart, and responsive. It has the stamina to herd all day, and the brains to outsmart a flock of uncooperative sheep. If it doesn’t get a chance to exercise and challenge its strongly developed mental and physical activities, it is apt to become frustrated and difficult to live with. With proper exercise, it is a loyal, utterly devoted and obedient companion. It is reserved with strangers. It may try to herd children and small animals. Dogs from working strains are more energetic and more difficult to keep as non- working pets.
Major concerns: CEA (Collie Eye Anomoly), hip dysplasia Life span: 12-14 years
Note: Often sensitive to ivermectin (the ingredient in HeartGuard), Intercepter is recommend for heartworm prevention. Merles should not be bred to merles because a homozygous merle is lethal or detrimental to health (deafness, blindness, internal organ problems). Can be indentified by having excessive white (outside of trim area), especially around ears and eyes.
At a Glance
Energy level: high
Exercise requirements: very high
Playfulness: very high
Affection level: high
Good with children: medium high
Friendliness toward dogs: medium high
Friendliness toward other pets: medium high
Friendliness toward strangers: medium low
Protection ability: medium high
Grooming requirements: medium
Heat tolerance: medium
Cold tolerance: medium high
Ease of training: very high
Watchdog ability: very high
Some of the above information can be located within the “Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) Australian Shepherd Breed Standard” .Aussie Times May-June 2009: 76.