Australian shepherd, the breed

Australian shepherd, the breed

The Australian shepherd is affectionately known as the “Aussie.” While its name suggests Australian heritage, this breed originates from the Mid-West Gold Rush of 1840’s America. Bred to shepherd livestock, the Aussie is a working dog at heart. Energetic and playful, this dog is a fantastic family pet. Its agile nature, intelligence and obedience make it the ideal service dog. As the 17th most popular dog breed in the United States, it’s gaining popularity fast all over Europe. So here is a quick catch up for you on these playful pups.

Characteristics

Intelligent, hard working, and versatile, the Aussie is a no-nonsense dog. They thrive in a home where their brains and energy are put to good use. They’re a high-energy dog who don’t know the meaning of couch potato and wouldn’t approve of it if he did. You don’t need to have him engaged on a task all the time, however smart toys come handy with them. Lacking a job to do they may easily become bored and destructive. They are high energy pups, and a quick stroll around the block won’t agree with them. So you are looking at frequent, long strolls to the park and a lot of play fetch. If they don’t get a task for you, they might invent their own jobs. So you can expect them to start herding the kids or other dogs around the house. All in all, if you don’t have the time to engage with them, this breed might not be for you.

But if you’re interested in competitive dog sports, the Aussie’s the one. They are top contenders in all levels of obedience, agility, flyball, and herding tests. They’re also successful as guide dogs, hearing dogs, assistance dogs, police dogs, and search and rescue work. You can even teach an Aussie to help you with chores around the house. Things like picking up dirty laundry off the floor and bringing it to you.

Personality

Bred to be pushy and firm with livestock, Australian Shepherds can and will take the dominant role in the house. If you don’t give them firm and confident leadership hey can get out hand quite quickly. So if you are first time owner you might want to opt for an easier personality. Like many herding dogs, Australian Shepherds are by nature loyal to their family but standoffish with strangers. They need early socialization, exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences, when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Aussie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Invite visitors over regularly, and take him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs. Make sure that they often meet strangers to avoid future trust issues.

Build and look

They have a fairly strong build, yet they are agile and fast. Coming at 45-55 cm tall, and weighing 25-35 kg make then a medium build. They only come in one size, so if you see toy, teacup or mini Assuis advertised that is a red flag. Breeders don’t recognize these dogs as Australian shepherd. Recognized Australian shepherd colors are solid black, solid red (liver), blue merle, and red/liver merle. Each of these colors have red spots and markings  around the face, legs and chest. Also there are four other color variations: black tricolor, red, blue merle and red merle. The stunning color variations make these these dogs so attractive.

Their coat often comes with striking blue, or bicolored eyes. This variation prompted their early nickname: “ghost-eye-dog”. Any combination of eye color is acceptable in the breed standard, so long as the eyes are healthy. In general, however, black Aussies (self, bi-color, or tri-color) tend to have brown eyes, while red (self, bi-color, or tri-color) Aussies tend to have amber eyes. Although some Aussies are born with naturally bobbed or partially bobbed tails, the majority are born with full, long tails. Breeders have historically docked the tails when the puppies are born.

Health

Australian Shepherds are generally a pretty healthy breed, but they can have several health problems. Vision problems are common, and epilepsy is also a concern. In merle-to-merle breeding, the puppies that have inherited two copies of the merle gene have an increased risk of being born blind or deaf.

“Australian shepherd owners have reported a number of different musculoskeletal problems. While it may seem overwhelming, we can diagnose each condition and treat them to prevent undue pain and suffering.” Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia. It is an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in the elbows or hips may become a problem, especially as they mature. Young Australian Shepherds may be prone to a painful degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. It usually occurs between 6-9 month of age.

Unfortunately epilepsy is quite a common in the Australian Shepherd. If they are prone to seizures, episodes will usually begin between six months and three years of age. “There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. The brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem causes reactive seizures. These are low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin etc. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If there are other causes, we call the disease primary or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, and Australian Shepherds are commonly afflicted.”

Australian shepherds commonly encounter eye problems. It has a dramatic impact on your dog’s life, so it is wise to monitor the issue carefully. We have a great read on how to spot that your pup is loosing his sight. Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs.

Care

  • Always supervise your dog. Keep sharp object out of the way, as these pups tend to be curious. When left alone and bored, they have a tendency to entertain themselves, and you don’t want any injuries.
  • They are very easy to groom. Just run a brush through her coat once in a while. Their coat is water resistant and it needs its own essential oils, so don’t over bathe them.
  • Australian Shepherds generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
  • Clean their ears weekly, even as a puppy.
  • Keep their mind and body active, or else they’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age, for expert tips on raw feeding read this article.

And after all, have fun with your pup! Aussies are amazing dogs and make the perfect four legged best friend.

Sources: Traditions Veterinary Centers, Dogtime.com, Wikipedia

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One comment

  1. Ellie Davis
    2 months ago

    I liked that you mentioned Australian shepherd dogs are agile and fast. My husband and I are thinking about adopting a dog, and we are looking for advice to find the perfect breed for us. I will let him know about the characteristics of Australian shepherd dogs to help his decision.

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