If you have ever considered getting a dog for yourself, then you might have thought about an Australian Shepherd – one of the smartest, most loyal, most energetic and most adventurous dog breeds out there. Also known as Aussies for short, these dogs were bred to round up flocks of sheep and also guard the farm and property. Let us study the Aussie’s temperament, history, size and other fun facts every dog owner should know about.
Fun facts about Australian Shepherds
- Despite its name, the Aussie was developed in ranches of United States during the Gold Rush era. In fact, the Australian Shepherd shouldn’t even be referred to as an Australian. It is a completely American breed. The word ‘Australian’ might have come in their name because of one line of thought that believes that they may have originated from Australian Basque sheepherding dogs. In reality; even the Basque sheepherders originated in Europe.
- Many celebs have loved an Aussie including artist Norman Rockwell.
- An Australian shepherd named Chance won the Crufts Dog Show in 2006. This is the annual dog show held in England and is one of the largest dog shows to be held.
- Some American Indian tribes called the Aussies ‘ghost eyed dogs’ because of the breed’s vivid eye colors.
- Because of their loyalty and ease of trainability, many Aussies have performed in shows, alongside rodeo cowboys and even in TV shows and movies.
- Australian Shepherd size – This is a mid-sized dog. It stands about 58 cm or 20-23 inches at withers. Females are lighter and shorter. Aussies are solidly built muscular dogs having well-balanced bodies. Males generally weigh between 50-65 lbs and females weigh between 40-55 lbs.
- Colors – The Aussie comes in many colors like black, red, blue merle and red merle. Merle is a pattern made up of dark patches on light background. Some Aussies have spots called ‘tan points’. Black or red Aussies with white markings and tan points are described as tricolored dogs.
- Australian Shepherds are famous for their beautiful eyes. Eye colors in Aussies include brown, blue or amber. Some dogs also have beautiful flecks in eye colors.
- The Aussie’s ears give it a playful look. When your pet is alert, he will perk up his ears with its flaps hanging down.
- Tail is short and many breeders even choose to dock it.
Where to find an Australian Shepherd
Once you have decided that an Australian Shepherd belongs in your family, then the hunt begins for a good breeder. You can find many reputed and ethical breeders on the official website of the Australian Shepherd Club of America. You must also decide if you would rather adopt an Aussie from a rescue shelter. In any case, it is a good idea to talk to several Aussie parents first. Find out what it means to become an Aussie parent. You can also take a list of questions to ask the breeders. An ethical breeder will pay attention to the temperament and also ensure there are fewer genetic diseases in the puppies. Do not hesitate to ask the breeder the goals of his/her breeding program. Make sure that both parents are registered and also ask the breeder about health checks he/she has conducted on his dogs.
The temperament of the Aussie is quite difficult to pin down and many experts believe that this breed has ‘Split Personality’. What this means is that some of these dogs are capable of standing and working for long periods of time and will be busy all the time. They also have a higher prey drive. Physically too, these dogs are smaller in size with a sharper temperament. The other category of Aussies is the mellow type that wants to spend time with its family. This type is mainly bred for companionship and is much calmer and aren’t as driven as the other type.
What qualifies as exercise for an Aussie: running alongside while you ride your bike, playing a good game of Frisbee, or swimming several laps? Your Aussie does not consider simple 15-20 minute walks as exercise. So make sure you set aside time for your pet. If you are an active person who loves to trek, jog, climb, hike or swim, then the Aussie will be a great companion for all these energetic activities. But if you are a couch potato then it is best that you not take the Aussie as your companion. Do note that once your dog has come home after his exercise with you, he is not going to leave you alone. He will follow you around and sit where you sit. He will be content placing his head in your lap all day if you allow it. In short: an Aussie can adjust to any living conditions as long as his exercise requirements are met. The breed’s exercise needs also do not decrease during snow or rainy weather. An active Aussie is a happy Aussie.
Training your Australian Shepherd
Your Aussie needs early training and socialization. He is a naturally protective animal and he will even herd your children. So make sure you associate him with adults, kids and other pets. If your Aussie isn’t well socialized, he might develop shyness or fear around other people. In some dogs, lack of socialization can even lead to aggression.
It is important that you start training your Aussie right from his puppyhood. You can start with basics like crate training and housetraining. Then proceed to commands like come and fetch. Once he shows positive results, give him plenty of praise and a reward. Ignore unwanted or negative behavior. You must never shout at or punish your dog; simply do not give him any attention or praise when he doesn’t listen. Practice any training twice a day for 15-20 minutes. Make sure you have his attention and have some fun during training. Failure to do so could run the risk of not teaching him anything at all.
Every Aussie owner must invest in a slicker brush, a pin brush, a shedding blade and canine dental products. Australian shepherd shedding season comes twice a year as the breed has a top coat and an undercoat. Regular brushing can keep shedding under control. Grooming an Aussie also includes bathing him once a month. Also trim the hair around his ears and private areas. These areas tend to accommodate gunk and could develop infections. Clean your pet’s ears with olive oil, ear drops recommended by your vet or a bit of witch hazel solution.
On an average, an Australian Shepherd can live up to 12-15 years. Overall this is a healthy dog breed with few health issues. However, merle on merle dog breeding has resulted in deformities, neurological issues and even blindness in Aussies. Thus it is up to the breeders to ensure proper breeding in order to minimize these problems. Many Aussies are also afflicted with eye issues in old age including cataracts and PRA or progressive retinal atrophy. Hip dysplasia, skin allergies, food sensitivities, epilepsy, and thyroid issues are also common in the breed.
Check out these top names for your beautiful Australian Shepherd.