Buying a puppy of any breed is a 12-15 year commitment that can be very rewarding or can develop into a negative experience. It is our purpose to help you make an educated decision so you can experience all the enjoyment possible with your Australian Shepherd if it is the right breed for you. So often people fall in love with a cute puppy for all the wrong reasons and end up with a lot of heartache. Knowing as much as possible about the breed you choose, so you will be sure it is the kind of dog you want to live with, only makes sense. We hope the following information will help you with your choice.
What Does an Aussie Look Like?
The Aussie comes in four acceptable colors: Black, Blue Merle (marbling of grey and black sometimes referred to as 'Salt & Pepper'), Red (ranging from light cinnamon to Liver, Red Merle (marbling have Red and silver or buff). A variety of white and or tan markings may appear on the face, chest, front and rear legs. The outer coat is of moderate length, straight to wavy and weather resistant. The undercoat is soft and dense, and the amount varies with the time of year. Tails are naturally bobbed or docked. Ears of moderate size and break forward or to the side for a Rose Ear. Males weigh approximately 23 to 29 Kilos measuring from 20 to 23 inches and females weigh approximately 19 to 25 kilos measuring 18 to 21 inches.
The eyes of the Australian Shepherd are perhaps one of his most commented on features because of variety of colors. They may be any color combination of colors from pale blue, amber, hazel, to all shades of brown.
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, medium sized dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. He is also a delightful and loyal companion and great family dog. He loves to be part of the daily bustle, and enjoys riding in the vehicle just to be with his beloved master. As a farm dog, he diligently carries out his responsibilities, be they bringing in the stock or finding a stray one that got tangled in the brush. He is easy to train, easy to housetrain and eager to please but can be quite verbal at times.
Aussies have been used as Guide Dogs for the Blind, SARDA Search and Rescue dogs, dogs for the physically handicapped and many go to do valuable work as PAT dogs in hospitals and homes. Truly, the Australian is a highly versatile dog.
The Aussie (as he is lovingly nicknamed) is a very active dog that needs a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent him from becoming bored or frustrated and developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a "job" to perform.
One of the most frequent reasons Aussies require rehoming is because their owners didn't realize how much energy the breed has, and weren't willing to channel that energy through training. Aussies are also quite demanding of their owners time and attention and want to be constantly with them, following from room to room in the house and go along in the car on errands. They can be highly territorial and protective of their masters' possessions, which can cause serious difficulties unless controlled with proper training. Therefore it is recommend that you enroll with your local dog training club as soon as you bring your puppy home and some vets even hold 'puppy parties' to help to socialize young puppies together.
History of the Breed
There are two main theories with regards to the origin of the Australian Shepherd, and as yet no one theory can be proved or disproved. Although the Australian Shepherd is called Australian it is in fact a bred that has been mainly developed in America, the origin of this breed goes back to the Basque/Spanish sheepdogs. It was in the late 1800's when the Basques emigrated to Australia to find work taking their sheepdogs with them, undoubtedly during the time in Australia some interbreeding took place. In the early 1900's the Basque's then moved on to America taking their sheep and dogs with them, whilst in America it is believed that further interbreeding took place, so that the dogs became more versatile and were able to work different stock, therefore becoming more useful to their owners.
Another theory as to the existence of the Australian shepherd is that as the new world (America) was opened up to trade it was also open to immigrants, and many nationalities from all over Europe traveled to find a different life and took with the a wide variety of dogs some for herding, some for guarding and of course some which were just pets, and through interbreeding of some of these selected dogs the Australian Shepherd was born, to work a variety of stock as they do today.
The Australian Shepherd was first imported in to this country 1985/86 by Mr. and Mrs. Jueckstock, since then many more dogs have been imported and they are growing in popularity all the time with now approximately 850 in the U.K with many breed lines that go back to the original breeding stock from America, and the gene pool is growing all the time.
About the Breed
As the Aussie was developed as a farm and ranch dog not only to work livestock but to be a companion and guardian of the family and the family's possessions. A unique trait of the Aussie is his devotion to his master and family. This trait makes him a dog that is equally happy working livestock all day or simply being with his owner and family and taking part in their activities. Because the Aussie is a breed developed to work for a master, he is very intelligent. Early day Aussies were often depended upon to guard the children while both parents were in the field. Valuable equipment and livestock were safe when the family Aussie was there.
Aussies have long been popular with small farmers who need a dog to help them but don't have enough work to keep the dog busy. Since most Aussies are content to be companions when there is no livestock work to be done, they can do well living in the home environment. Many Aussies are friendly with everyone, but the Australian Shepherd generally tends to be reserved and cautious with strangers. Reserved dogs can be encouraged to accept people with some success, but some dogs never accept strangers. Aussies tend to form a stronger bond with their family and owners than some other breeds. This trait causes some dogs to become protective against what they perceive as a threat. Remember that dogs of any breed may become aggressive if they are poorly socialized.
Because these dogs were developed to work and control livestock, their intelligence and energy needs to be used elsewhere if they are not to be worked. Obedience training is highly recommended, and Aussies will learn quickly. The Aussie needs to be occupied with play and training to benefit both the dog and the owner. When raised with children, Aussies love kids and quickly become a playmate. Aussies don't need a farm to exercise on but do need daily exercise and attention. Young dogs of any breed will require more exercise the first year of their life than an older dog. Most Aussies love to play ball and Frisbee, and most of them love water and swiming.
If you are looking for a dog with an intense desire to please and who is very loyal to you and your family, the Aussie will make you a wonderful companion as well as a great working partner if you have livestock. You should be aware of his territorial instincts and that he may be naturally possessive and protective of his owners and home. You and your environment will greatly determine the dog you end up with.
Hereditary Defects of the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is a healthy breed compared to many but is not without hereditary problems
Suggested Reading - Books
All About Aussies - Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor
The Champion of Versatility - Liz Palika
The Australian Shepherd Manual - Sue Helms
The Structure and Movement of the Australian Shepherd - Victoria Misstretta
The main question now is the aussie the right dog for you and your family. Talk to any responsible breeder and not someone that is just out to sell a puppy, for the Aussie may not be the right dog for you . Any good breeder should be honest enough to tell you if in their opinion if they think that an aussie is not the best choice to fit into your family.