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Breed Spotlight: Focus On The Australian Shepherd

January 1 2024

One of the first things on our agenda for 2024 is celebrating a very special dog: the Australian Shepherd. January 9th is Aussie Day! This very good boy—also often called the Aussie—definitely deserves his turn in the spotlight!  In this article, a local Mt. Airy, MD veterinarian discusses this pup’s amazing and intelligent nature.

Basics of the Australian Shepherd Breed

The Aussie is a working dog known for its strength, loyalty, and intelligence. Fido is a member of the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes a number of high-performing dogs, including the German Shepherd and Corgi. Fido can live up to 15 years with good care. The Aussie normally weighs between 40 and 65 pounds and is about 22 inches high.

What Color Is The Aussie Shepherd?

Several pretty colors and patterns are available, including black, red, and merle, which is a pretty dappled or mottled pattern with lighter points. These guys are quite fluffy, and tend to shed heavily, especially in spring or fall. You’ll need to brush Fido regularly. Aussies are prone to wax buildup, so you’ll also need to clean your canine buddy’s ears. Aside from that, you’ll need to occasionally bathe your pooch, and keep up with his nail trims. Ask your Mt. Airy, MD  veterinarian for specific advice on your pup’s grooming needs.

The Aussie Stare: Is It Real? 

Australians are known for their intense gazes, often referred to as the “Aussie death stare.” This is just one of their many techniques for herding animals. It’s quite effective at intimidating cattle.

It’s not uncommon for these dogs to have heterochromia, or eyes of different colors, which adds to their striking looks. Fido may have brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes—or a mix of these shades. In fact, some Aussies even have multiple eye colors in one eye.

As you may know, some Aussies have striking pale blue eyes. The Native Americans referred to them as “ghost eye” dogs, and even considered them sacred.

What Are Other Names For The Australian Shepherd?

Aussies are also known as Spanish Shepherds, Pastor Dogs, Bob-Tails, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds. A dog by any other name is still adorable in our book! 

What Is The Australian Shepherd’s Temperament?

Fido is a natural working dog with a strong herding instinct. He may even attempt to herd his human companions! With their impressive intelligence, Aussies are frequently ranked among the top dogs in terms of smarts. These active pups require plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation. If you want a laid-back couch potato as a pet, an Aussie may not be the best fit for you. However, they are known for being friendly yet protective and have a strong desire to please their owners. Fido thoroughly enjoys going on walks with his humans. Hikes are even better!

Why Do Some Aussies Have Short Tails?

Another interesting thing about Fido? He doesn’t always have much of a tail to wag. About one in five Aussies are born with short tails. Some have no tails at all. This isn’t just a coincidence: ranchers selected pups with these abnormalities for breeding, for safety reasons. These wonderful dogs are still super cute! 

How Healthy Are Australian Shepherds?

Aussies are quite hardy, but they aren’t invulnerable to illness or injury. Eye problems are particularly common.  We recommend hip and elbow evaluations, as well as ophthalmologist evaluations. Ask your Mt. Airy, MD veterinarian for specific advice.

What Is The Australian Shepherd’s Activity Level?

The Aussie is often going full speed ahead. The breed is known for its agility and athleticism, and is most suited to homes with large, fenced yards. Fido also excels in various canine sports, such as agility, obedience, dock diving and flyball.

What Is The Australian Shepherd Really Good At, Besides Herding?

Dogs like Aussies are extremely smart, which makes them an excellent candidate for many jobs and fields. Fido’s original career was herding, but he has many other options as well. Aside from making great pets, Aussies are also excellent at working as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Of course, Fido also excels at being cute, scoring snacks and belly rubs, fetching tennis balls, and charming everyone he meets.

Training The Australian Shepherd 

Proper training and socialization is a must for all dogs. It’s crucial with these guys. Aussies are particularly high-energy and active.  When the Aussie gets bored or lonely, he can be destructive. Consult your Mt. Airy, MD veterinarian for specific care instructions.

Aussie Shepherd History 

There are numerous examples of breeders naming their pups after the region they originate from. A few examples of this include the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres, who will celebrate his own special day on the 16th. Therefore, one would assume—logically—that the Australian Shepherds are from Australia. Turns out … they aren’t. Fido is actually an American dog, who made his mark by helping cowboys herd sheep. He came into his own in Western U.S. states like Colorado, California, and Wyoming.

The origin of the Australian Shepherd is rather convoluted. To trace its roots, one must first go back to dogs brought by the Conquistadors and Basque shepherds who arrived in the New These individuals brought their dogs and sheep with them to both Australia and America. 

Interestingly, many of these sheep belonged to the Merino breed, known for their prized wool. In fact, the breed was so prized that shepherds faced a death penalty for taking them out of Spain. Germans mixed their own sheep with Merinos and then brought the resulting wooly offspring to the American West. They of course also brought dogs along with them. 

Those canines were characterized by a wolf-like appearance, and were described as being yellow, black, or tan. It is probable that Fido’s lineage also includes the Carea Leonés, an energetic and compact Spanish herding dog. While there is no evidence of Careas being brought over to the U.S., their striking similarities to Australian Shepherds suggest otherwise.

The Australian Shepherd’s Rise To Popularity

Fido took a detour from herding in the 1900s, and decided to join the rodeo. This turned out to be a smashing success. He charmed crowds with his intelligence and capacity for doing tricks. (Fun fact: rodeo star Jay Lister is credited with the Aussie’s rise to popularity.) This was likely the start of his popularity as a pet. 

Does the Australian Shepherd Bark A Lot?

Fido may never be the quietest dog on the block. Barking was essential to his early role as a herding dog, and he hasn’t yet outgrown his tendency to vocalize. However, this does vary from dog to dog.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Having Australian Shepherds?

Aussies make excellent pets. They enjoy playing with kids and are usually good with other dogs. However, just be sure you’re ready for a dog that is always on the move. Do plenty of research before opting for an Aussie. Adoption is forever, so it’s important to choose the right dog! 

If you have questions about caring for an Aussie, contact us here at Taylorsville Veterinary Clinic your local Mt. Airy, MD pet hospital.  We look forward to offering great veterinary care in 2024 and for many years to come!