Breed standard: United Kennel Club, FCI | Size: Medium | Life expectancy: 13+ years | Temperament: Loyal, gentle, and playful | Coat: Medium length | Origin: Basque Country.
The Australian Shepherd is a gentle, lively, pleasant, and smart shepherd dog breed. Today, it is one of the most popular breeds in Europe and in the United States, well-loved for its qualities as a guardian and for its loyalty.
Australian Shepherd: the origins of the breed
Guardian of the Basque Country flocks
The Australian Shepherd is a sheepdog, also known as the Aussie. It is not, as its name suggests, a dog originating from Australia. Instead, its ancestors originated from the Basque Country.
It is believed that the Basque Shepherd Dog and the Pyrenean Sheepdog were sent to Australia in the 19th century. At the time, with the rise of sheep wool production, the Australian shepherds needed help to contain their flocks. These dog breeds were sent to Australia and then bred with the dogs already there.
The Gold Rush
The shepherds living in Australia were forced to leave their country for the plains of America in search of gold mines. The Australian shepherd dogs and their herds landed on American soil and were immediately welcomed and recognized for their strong working potential by the local ranchers. The Aussie naturally became the cowboy’s dog, which made it possible to keep the breed alive. This was because it was highly appreciated for guarding herds and watching over farms. The Australian Shepherd became the symbol of every good western, in life as well as on the big screen.
The Australian Shepherd’s personality
Australian Shepherds are excellent guardians. They are very pleasant companions, both with flocks and with people. They faithfully accompany their family and remain very attached to their owners.
The Australian Shepherd’s strengths
The Australian Shepherd is a very pleasant dog to live with. It is intelligent, attentive, and playful. It is also very calm and rarely shows aggression. This breed is particularly sociable with adults, children, strangers, and even other animals.
Australian Shepherds are very brave and resilient. They are not afraid to face danger to protect their owners and their herds. They like to accomplish their missions with strength and agility. They also like to show that they have succeeded and want more than anything else to satisfy their owner and those around them.
The Australian Shepherd is a very approachable dog and it is very easy to live with. Even though it has a strong character, it is nevertheless simple to train and pleasant to live with.
The Australian Shepherd enjoys nature and long walks in the open air. It is also very resistant to temperature changes and is not afraid to face difficult conditions.
The Australian Shepherd’s weaknesses
Although they are good-natured and pleasant to live with, they are also very energetic and need to exercise. The Australian Shepherd will not be satisfied with apartment life, limited to a few quick outings every day. They are very active and enjoy physical activities. It is a dog that loves the outdoors and has a real need to live in the country or to have open space outside.
Because of its taste for work and the accompaniment of herds, it is a dog that can bark a lot. It is thus necessary to allow it to live in spaces where this will not be a problem.
The Australian Shepherd also has a little bit of a stubborn side. It is best to train this breed from a young age so that it feels confident and willing to obedient in all situations. This breed is therefore not recommended for first-time dog owners.
As this breed is very sociable, it doesn’t like being alone and can’t stand to live without its owners.
The physical characteristics of the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is an athletic, robust and strong dog. They are medium-sized and evenly built. The breed is well-proportioned and has a proud demeanor.
The head is proportional to its size. The head is moderately wide and the muzzle is quite long and thin. The top of the skull is rather flat.
The nose is black or brown depending on the color of the dog’s coat.
The jaws are wide and the teeth are strong.
The eyes are slightly almond-shaped and give the Australian Shepherd a lively and intelligent look. The eye colors vary from black to brown with shades of golden hazel or amber. There are also speckled or marbled variants.
The ears are triangular and folded forward, set high on the skull.
The body is medium-sized, muscular, robust, and strong. This gives the Australian Shepherd a slender and athletic look. The back is straight, firm, and flat.
The chest is high and is not very wide.
The tail is straight and can be long or short.
Coat, color, and grooming
The Australian Shepherd’s coat is made up of straight or very slightly wavy semi-length hair. The undercoat adapts to the temperature and varies with the seasons.
The coat can be several colors:
- Blue merle, with white and tan, or blue merle and white/tan only,
- Red merle, with white and tan, or red merle and white/tan only,
- Black, with a possible variation of white and tan,
- Red, with a possible variation of tan and white.
Grooming the Australian Shepherd
They shed twice a year. For this reason, they need to be brushed regularly every week to remove dead hairs.
It is recommended to bathe an Australian Shepherd only once a year. This is so as to not reduce the micro-organisms that regulate and preserve their skin.
The Australian Shepherd at a glance
Size: 46 to 53 cm (18 to 21 in) for females, 51 to 58 cm (20 to 23 in) for males.
Weight: 18 to 26 kg (39 to 57 lbs) for females, 25 to 34 kg (55 to 75 lbs) for males.
Health: The Australian Shepherd is a robust and resilient dog. However, it is important to watch out for possible hip or elbow dysplasia, as well as eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy. It is also very important to avoid any contact with antiparasitic drugs containing ivermectin, which could cause serious brain disorders.
Is the Australan Shepherd good with children? This breed is the perfect companion for children because they are very attentive and protective. They are also very gentle and affectionate.
Is the Australian Shepherd easy to train? As Australian Shepherds are very intelligent and obedient, it is faily easy to train them.