Protective, intelligent, active, charming, and lovable are all accurate descriptions of an Australian Shepherd. Sometimes called “Aussies,” these dogs are most often found in homes where young children live but can also be trained as service animals for the disabled. Smart and fiercely loyal, these dogs make great companions for any family that desires an active four-legged friend. While the origin of the Australian Shepherd is left up to much debate, it is believed that this breed descended from shepherds of either the Basque Region of the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain or from
Germany. While shepherds and prized sheep were shipped to Australia and later to America, the dogs used by the Basque shepherds are thought to be entirely different than the Aussies we are accustomed to today. Australian Shepherd is also known to be a popular choice for an emotional support animal.
Australian Shepherd-A misnomer
The name Australian Shepherd is a misnomer. Surprisingly, the Australian Shepherd isn’t even recognized in Australia as a native breed. A more accurate name for the Aussie would be the American Shepherd to reflect where the modern-day version was developed, the United States. Although the name American Shepherd has not been adopted, whatever their origin, Australian Shepherds are a fantastic breed that is not only an excellent herding dog but one that quickly wove its way into the hearts of American dog lovers.
When first introduced to the United States, the Australian Shepherd was a hardworking, athletic, herding dog. This quality attracted the American ranchers, who desperately needed protection for their livestock. Their looks and reputation helped to make them in high demand early on and ensured their place among other working dog breeds. The Australian Shepherd weighs between 35 to 65 pounds, and their height ranges from 18 to 23 inches. The Aussie has a medium-length double fur that can be either wavy or straight. Often, their coat is described as a merle, meaning that it has dark blotches against a light background of the same color. The distinctive look makes their coats stand out and even have a speckled freckled look to it, depending on how the pattern varies. Australian Shepherds are blessed with beautiful colors such as red or blue merle, black or red with white markings and copper points (markings located on the face, ears, legs, and the tail). Dogs of this breed who are mostly white are generally associated with health issues due to a genetic link that often leads to deafness or blindness. One of the most fascinating features of Aussies is their eye color. This breed’s eyes can be brown, blue, green, amber, hazel, or a combination of the above. The color of the eyes do not end with eyes of two different colors; they can also have “split eyes,” a condition that makes one half of an eye one color and the other half another color. These unique physical characteristics make the Aussie stand out from other herding dogs.
Australian Shepherds are well-known for their character and even temperament. These dogs seem to be bred to possess great traits that make one outstanding dog breed.
Some of their strongest attributes are their:
- Protective nature
- Willingness to please their owners
Caring for the Aussie involves the basics such as; high-quality dog food, limiting treats to prevent obesity from becoming a health issue and proper grooming. Unfortunately, during the shedding season, grooming an Australian Shepherd can be a great deal of work. This season is characterized by a coat that has become overrun with an abundance of dead hair making it tough to comb or brush. Patience during grooming will go a long way when this season comes around. Exercising the Aussie is a must and should be done on a daily basis. As a highly athletic, high-energy dog, Aussies need an appropriate outlet for all their energy. Owners who are less active can sometimes find it challenging to exercise Aussies. Before choosing this breed, potential owners need to consider the specific needs associated with Australian Shepherds. Just as with other working dogs, Aussie’s tend to get into trouble when their energy hasn’t been released through exercise or engaging activities. Some helpful activities to consider for the Aussie include:
- Obedience training (check the internet for local areas that offer obedience training)
- Dock Diving
- Herding and agility trails
- Other canine competing events that would engage the herding urge Aussie’s are born with
An Aussie’s need for a vast amount of activity creates several opportunities for training this athletic breed. Socialization should be a top priority early in life, and obedience training should begin as soon as the puppy is old enough to attend classes. Aussies can be very territorial and protective of their families so controlling that natural behavior is essential to having a well-behaved pet. The eagerness to please their owners usually overrides any negative behavior making an Aussie easily trainable. Channeling their energy into productive and rewarding behavior will help to create a satisfying and long-lasting relationship with your Aussie. The Australian Shepherd will always be a herding dog at heart no matter what training they have received. It is not unusual to hear funny stories of Aussies “herding” other animals or even small children around their homes. When outside, Aussies can often put themselves in dangerous situations. Responsible owners must ensure their dog’s safety by providing appropriate places for them to play when unsupervised such as a fenced-in area. Without supervision, Aussies have been known to “herd” automobiles on the roadway setting them up for serious accidents.
Once training and obedience goals are established within the Aussie’s mind, an owner can rest assured they will have a unique companion that will show their loyalty through thick and thin or an emotional support animal for those who qualify. If you would like to see a physician about an ESA Letter, please make an appointment for in-person or online.