A member of the herding group, Australian Shepherds stand between 18 to 23 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 40 to 65 pounds. Its lifespan is about 12 to 15 years and this is a dog who needs lots of exercise.
Interestingly, the Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. They started in the Western part of the United States in the 1840s and were bred to heard livestock. This is a breed that always needs to have a job whether that’s herding cattle, sheep or children.
While the ancestry of the Australian Shepherd – or Aussie – isn’t well known, it’s thought that the breed started when collies and shepherds were mated. These ancestors appear to be canines who were imported along with sheep from Australia during the Gold Rush. After World War II, there was an insurgence of popularity of western horseback riding and that gave the Aussie more exposure to a greater amount of people. The breed wasn’t recognized until 1993 by the American Kennel Club.
The Aussie’s coat is medium in length and water resistant so he’s comfortable in all kinds of weather. For those who live in very cold climates, this breed tens to grow an additional heavy undercoat.
He comes with straight or wavy hair all over his body but has short, smooth hair on his head and ears. His coat can come in a variety of colors such as blue merle, read merle, a tricolor of white black and tan, and even all black. The merle coat has dark blotches against a lighter background so he tends to look like he’s wearing a patchwork quilt.
This is the kind of dog who is not afraid to push back. Because he was bred to be the Alpha dog with livestock, he tends to take the same role in your home unless you teach him not to.
The Aussie is not the best choice for someone who has never had a dog before or tends to be shy around dogs.
He loves his family, but can be standoffish with strangers so make sure to socialize him early with humans and other dogs. Socialization can include enrolling your puppy in a kindergarten class that will help him learn manners and develop a calm temperament.
The Australian Shepherd’s health concerns … like hip or elbow dysplasia … stem from parents. Genetics plays an important role in any purebred’s health, so it’s important that you find a reputable breeder.
Ask for health certificates on the Australian Shepherd’s parents as well as for the puppy. Any breeder who says you don’t need those certificates is a breeder to walk away from.
If you start training early, the Aussie will excel at things like agility and flyball. He has lots of energy and loves to be out competing in dog sports.
Make sure your Aussie has plenty of exercise. If you don’t have time to take him to a dog park, having a yard where he can run and jump and play for between 30 and 60 minutes a day will make him very happy. Throwing a Frisbee or a ball for this dog will be his idea of nirvana.
Their coats need to be brushed weekly and even more so during the spring shedding season so that the fur doesn’t mat. Before brushing, give your dog’s coat a spritz with some hair conditioner diluted with water. This will help you de-tangle any fur that has started to mat. You can also use something called an undercoat rake which is handy to remove any loose undercoat.
If you keep him brushed regularly, you shouldn’t need to bathe him more than a couple of times a year. Trim his nails regularly so that they don’t splinter, and also make sure that the hair around his ears and between his toes is kept trimmed.
If you’re ready for a high energy full of life dog, Australian Shepherds could be right up your alley.
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