The Australian Shepherd lovingly called an “Aussie,” is a highly intelligent, incredibly energetic, people-loving dog who needs to have a job to do. They need lots and lots of exercise and will fit in well with an active person or family. They are bred to herd, and might try to herd anything, including you, your children, your neighbor’s child on a bicycle, innocent strangers jogging past your house, ducks, squirrels, cats, and cars. You will need a fence to keep them off the road. They also have strong guarding instincts, and want to be near their family at all times.
Australian Shepherd Appearance
The Australian shepherd is a medium sized breed of solid build. They can be anywhere from 30–65 pounds and anywhere from 17–26 inches in height. The ASCA standard calls for the Australian shepherd to stand between 18–23 inches at the withers, females being 18–21 inches and males measuring 20–23 inches, however, quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size.
That’s the size, and the colors the wide variation of color combinations comes from the interaction between the a color allele, which is either black (B) dominant or red (b) recessive, and the dominant merle allele (M). Together, these provide four coat-color aspects that can appear in any combination:
- Black, with tan points, white markings, or both on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Solid black dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
- Red (Liver) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Either white or tan points are required. Solid Red dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
- Blue Merle (a mottled patchwork of gray and black) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Neither white nor tan points are required. Solid Merle dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
- Red Merle (a mottled patchwork of cream and liver red) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Neither white nor tan points are required. Solid Merle dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
Australian Shepherd Temperament
Originally bred as all purpose farm dogs, Aussies were left to supervise the children while the parents worked in the fields. They are good with children, except for the occasionalnipping at their heels to herd them into position. They will follow you from room to room and supervise you in the bathroom. They are very affectionate and will want to lick your face. They are assertive by nature, highly territorial and can be pushy. They are very protective of their family and home, and are cautious around strangers. They need lots of mental stimulation and physical exercise,or problem behaviors will arise.
Australian Shepherd are the opposite of the couch potato dog. They need to have a sense of purpose, which is why so many of them excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are highly trainable, versatile, and are quick learners. They usually love to play ball and Frisbee, and many of them enjoy swimming. If you are in the market for a full time center of attention family pet, full of exuberance and demanding of your attention, then an Aussie might be for you. They are good-natured, eager to please, and remarkably loyal. But they will need to be at the top of your priority list.
Australian Shepherd Health
There are several health problems that an Australian shepherd can have. Vision problems are common. Epilepsy is also a concern. In merle to merle breeding, the puppies who have inherited two copies of the merle gene have an increased risk of being born blind, and/or deaf.
Results of a 1998 internet survey with a sample size of 614 Australian shepherds indicated a median longevity of about 12.5 years, but that longevity may be declining. A 2004 UK survey found a much shorter median longevity of 9 years, but their sample size was low (22 deceased dogs).
The median life spans for breeds similar in size to Australian shepherds are mostly between 11 and 13 years, so, assuming the results of the UK study are not representative of the population there, Aussies appear to have a typical life span for a breed their size. Leading causes of death in the UK survey were cancer (32%), “combinations” (18%), and old age (14%).
Based on a sample of 48 still-living dogs, the most common health issues noted by owners were eye problems (red eye, epiphora, conjunctivitis, and cataracts). Dermatological and respiratory problems also ranked high.
Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is rare in the breed, but it and cataracts are a concern in Aussies. Other conditions to note include iris coloboma, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), Pelger-Huet anomaly, hypothyroidism, and nasal solar dermatitis. Prior to breeding, the Aussie should be checked for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, DNA tests performed to show the dog to be free of the MDR1 mutation, cataract mutation, and CEA. Tests should also include those for thyroidism and clearances for other known eye diseases like colobomas, PRA and retinal folds.
Some Australian shepherds (as well as collies, German shepherds and many other herding dogs) are susceptible to a genetic mutation of the MDR1 gene. Dogs with the mutation can suffer toxicity from anti-parasitics such as Ivermectin in high doses, and other drugs. A test is available to determine if a particular dog carries the mutated gene.
An example of an abnormal eye of a double merle, aka “lethal white”, Australian Shepherd. The abnormally small left eye is known as microphthalmia, and the pupil shows signs of subluxation which is dropped, not centered. Double merling or homozygous merle occurs when the resulting offspring of two merled parents inherit two copies of the dominant merle gene.
Bellow Australian Shepherd with Scores:
|Watch Dog||:||60 Points|
|Guard Dog||:||20 Points|
|Ease of Training||:||90 Points|
|Good With Kids||:||100 Points|