Australian Shepherd is affectionately called Aussie, but both its name and nick name are quite misleading. They did not originate in Australia. They were used in the large ranches of the American West as herders of livestock from the early 19th century. However, today they are popular as rescue dogs. Because of their high intelligence and trainability, they make excellent guide dogs and therapy dogs too.
Aussies are very handsome with their fluffy coat and feathery tail. They make excellent family pets and show dogs. They have been made famous through many Disney movies.
It is not clear how and why this dog came to be known Australian Shepherds. Some people hold the view that Aussie was originally a Basque breed which reached Australia with European settlers and then traveled to the United States. Others contend that the name came from this breed’s original use for herding Australian cattle which had become popular with the ranchers of that time. Whichever the place of origin, there’s no division of opinion about the original use of the dog.
They mainly worked in the rough terrains of the American West as a herder. Their popularity increased after World War I and they started to spread to other regions where livestock needed protection and control. Official recognition for the breed came only in 1993 even though the Australian Shepherd Club of America had been formed nearly half a century prior to it.
This medium sized, athletic dog has a very endearing appearance with medium long, multicolored coat. They look very similar to other popular breeds of dogs such as Border Collie and English Shepherd. They are over two feet in height and weigh up to 65 pounds. Females are slightly smaller.
Coat colors come in a mixture of black and tan, red and tan, blue merle and red merle. Even though several types of color combinations and mottling are acceptable, solid reds are highly valued.
Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent and highly trainable dog. They are extremely people-friendly and easy going, obedient and eager to please. Aussies have a bold personality. They are basically guard dogs in charge of herds; hence they take the guarding of the family members quite seriously. They are very suspicious of strangers of the human and animal kind, but they get along well with other pets.
Lack of activity can bring out the worst in these high-energy dogs. If they don’t have a legitimate engagement, they become hyperactive, running around in the house for no reason and destroying things. So these dogs are ideally matched with athletic owners.
They are often nick named ‘velcro’ for their tendency to stay close to their owners. Every Aussie is known to choose one person in particular to be the recipient of its total devotion. They are very protective of all the members of their family too.
Grooming and exercise
Their thick and long coats take a bit of maintenance. Thorough brushing every two days may be necessary to keep the coat smooth and tangle-free.
Daily workouts and physically and mentally stimulating activities are essential to keep this breed healthy and happy. They are very playful dogs and are always up for an active game with their owners. But they can work long hours without tiring; hence they may want game after game.
Australian Shepherds can remain outdoors in all seasons. But, since they thrive on human contact, they should be allowed to spend the night indoors with their human family.
Common health issues of Australian Shepherd dog breed
Australian Shepherds are long-lived dogs with an average life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. They are prone to several health issues, including some breed-specific ones. For example, double merle genetic condition that results in predominantly white coat color may also cause deafness and blindness in these dogs. This condition is often referred to as lethal white.
Hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation and hypothyroidism are also common in this breed. They are plagued by several eye problems including cataract and progressive retinal atrophy. Regular health checkups are necessary to ensure timely intervention and treatment.
Genetic testing is available to determine the risk of the dog developing certain abnormalities. Careful breeding can prevent many of the unsound genes expressing themselves in the next generation. Those with lethal white are usually killed off when they are puppies.