The first choice of cowboys, the Australian Shepherd is an excellent herding dog packed with loads of energy. The name of the hard-working breed might be a misnomer because Australian Shepherds do not have Australian roots. Instead, the breed that hails from the Basque region of Spain served the Basque shepherds in the pastures of the Australian Outback and gained popularity. The medium-sized worker dog with a penetrating gaze in the eyes gained a high reputation as a remarkably energetic herder worldwide. Especially the ranch owners in California were the chief patrons of the breed. They started importing the dogs in large numbers to work on their ranches and, over time, perfected the standard of breed that we see today. Although meant to herd livestock, the dog breed gradually transformed into a working dog that can also be a good pet.
- Relentless workers, tricksters, and much more
Nicknamed Aussie, the Australian Shepherd prefers to have a job in hand. The innate affinity towards work helped the breed gain popularity by herding and performing feats and tricks at traveling rodeos. The transformation into tricksters started way back in the 1960s. Jay Sizzler, the owner of a famous rodeo, used the trained Aussies to promote his touring rodeo. Besides gaining popularity as a trickster, the inherent characteristic of the breed to execute jobs quickly soon allowed it to assume different roles such as search and rescue dogs, hearing dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, and sniffing dogs.
Aussies are intelligent medium-sized breed with herding solid instincts from which it derives the name. The breed’s inclination to be a part of the daily chores attaches it closely to the owners, who they love to accompany during car rides.
- They are suitable as pets, too
You will also find the Aussies in households because their affection for family and adaptability to apartment living makes them excellent pets. Moreover, the all-around friendliness of the Aussies helps them become the perfect companions for kids while going along well with other dog breeds and even strangers. However, the breed is so fond of working that they need constant stimulation, and pet owners must find ways to keep the dog busy. Therefore, pet owners must ensure jobs for the Aussies and allow enough scope for exercising. The dog will never allow its owners to stop thinking about keeping their pet busy, creating a closer bond with the faithful companion. To help the Aussies excel as pets, you must involve them in a good vocation. Therefore, couch potatoes should never think of adopting Aussies as family pets.
- Breed standards
The Australian Shepherd is a muscular, powerful, and athletic dog of medium size and can work all day relentlessly without affecting its agility and speed. The dog is an energy powerhouse with a freewheeling gait and can change speed and direction instantly. The intelligent, keen, and eager expression of the dog demonstrates its penchant for working tirelessly regardless of the role it has to play. Work and only work keeps the dog going in any setting, at home or on ranches.
Male Aussies measure 20-23 inches just above the shoulders and weigh 50-65 pounds, while the females are slightly smaller, between 18 and 21 inches at the shoulder, and weigh between 40 and 45 pounds. The coarse outer coat of moderate length has a soft undercoat, and the colors, according to the breed standards, are red, black, red merle, and blue merle. The owners might have their tails docked, which otherwise are bobbed naturally, and their ears flap forward and over, giving a friendly look.
The eyes of Aussies can be of different color combinations, and sometimes the colors of the two eyes might be different. Perhaps the pale blue eyes of many Aussies, which the Native Americans consider sacred, are why they are fond of the breed.
Generally, Aussies are healthy dog breed, yet breeders must keep a close watch for health issues such as epilepsy, hip dysplasia, certain forms of cancer, and cataracts. The periodic health check includes ophthalmic, elbow, and hip evaluations. Regular brushing of teeth is essential. The ears of Aussies accumulate foreign matter, and regular checking is necessary to remove these to keep the ears clean by preventing wax buildup.
A great deal of daily exercise helps athletic Aussies maintain high-energy levels. Allow your dog to run around for at least one to two hours daily inside a large fenced- area. Take your dog with you on long walks and hikes, as Aussies love staying close to their owners while enjoying a close bond. A full-grown Aussie can be an excellent running companion. However, the best option is to assign a job to the Aussie, whether shepherding children, herding livestock, or participating in canine events such as dock diving, obedience, agility, or herding trials.
Brush the double-layer waterproof coat at least once a week that makes the Australian Shepherd look its best. However, frequent brushing is necessary during the shedding season when using an undercoat rake at least twice or thrice a week to remove plenty of dead hair and finish it with a cleanup with a wire brush. Usually, Aussies can get dirty because of their extensive outdoor activities and exposure to the environment, and every time they return home; you must clean them. Bathing can be occasional unless your dog gets into a messy situation, leaving it dirtier than expected. As with other dog breeds, regular nail trimming is a must.
Obedience and early socialization training are a must for the Australian Shepherd. The owner’s inability to give enough work to the Aussie might often end up in rescue situations as the dog tries to find work independently and gets involved in an awkward situation. The strong family bonding tends to make the Aussies over-protective and sensitive to territorial protection, and if left without companionship for extended periods, it could turn them destructive.
Knowing what goes into owning an Aussie is essential to adopt the canine, or else it could be a forgettable experience.