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The Australian Shepherd: Breed Spotlight
January 1, 2024

We’ve already taken January to the dogs! Several cute pups are celebrating special days this month, including the Lab, Alaskan Malamute, Standard Poodle, and Australian Shepherd. While all of these are Very Good Boys, we’re spotlighting the Aussie in this blog. Here’s a Roanoke, VA vet’s take on this extraordinary pooch.

Australian Shepherd Basic Breed Information

Devoted, driven, and smart, the Aussie is known for energy and exuberance. Fido belongs to the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Corgis.

Aussies are active, obedient, and adorable. With good care, they can live for 12-15 years. They can weigh 40 to 65 pounds and reach a height of 22 inches. (There’s also a miniature version, which is basically the same dog in a smaller package.) 

This pretty pup has many nicknames, including Bob-Tails, New Mexican Shepherd, Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, and California Shepherd. They’re great dogs, no matter what you call them! 

What Makes The Australian Shepherd So Special?

Fido is loyal, loving, cute, and affectionate. As a result of their high intelligence, Aussies make excellent choices for many different careers. In addition to being amazing Seeing Eye dogs, they are also great hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. Furthermore, they excel in agility, obedience, dock diving, and flyball, among other dog sports.

Australian Shepherd Training

Aussies are very, very smart. Training is crucial for these guys! When Australians are rehomed, they are often accused of bad behavior. This is quite unfortunate, as Aussies really just want to please their humans. Behavioral issues are usually caused by a lack of training, excessive energy caused by a lack of exercise, or a combination of the two.

Don’t think of training as a chore. This cute pup usually enjoys learning tricks and complex commands. Fido looks adorable when he gets a command right! Keep up with your furry buddy’s training. These dogs need mental stimulation to thrive.

What Made The Australian Shepherd So Popular In The United States?

Because of their herding skills, Aussies quickly gained popularity among cowboys and ranchers. However, Fido did not gain much traction outside of that world until the nineteenth century, when rodeo star Jay Lister introduced him to the rodeo circuit. Lister’s pup won the hearts of crowds across the nation with his intelligence and ability to perform adorable (and often amazing) tricks. This ultimately led the Aussie to its next career: becoming a beloved pet.

What Are The Benefits Of Owning An Aussie Shepherd?

Most dog breeds were developed to perform certain tasks or roles. Fido is no different. As a herding dog, he needed to think carefully, have lots of endurance and stamina, and work well with others. These traits are still present in Fido today. There’s a lot to be said for having a dog that is both very smart and very active.

If properly socialized, the Aussie makes a wonderful pet. He is good with children and can get along well with other animals. He also loves taking walks and hikes with his humans. Friendly but protective, these guys need a lot of activity, and can get a bit destructive if bored. They also like to herd things: even you! Aussies usually thrive in a home with lots of room to play. A place with a large fenced yard is ideal.

That said, there are things to consider. As mentioned previously, the Aussie is an extraordinarily active and high-energy dog. Your canine friend will need lots of exercise, playtime, and activity, and he can become destructive if bored or lonely. If you’re looking for a calm, laid-back pet, the Aussie may not be a good match. They aren’t the quietest either.

Of course, people who don’t have the energy for a super-active pup may also find a good compromise in the Mini Aussie. They’re still very lively, but they can get a good workout in pretty quickly on those little legs.

Adoption is forever, so it’s very important to choose a pooch that is right for your household. Do a lot of research before adopting a pup, and speak with your local Roanoke, VA vet before adopting.

What Health Problems Do Australian Shepherds Have?

For the most part, Fido is healthy and hardy. However, like any purebred, they are prone to a few specific issues. We recommend hip and elbow examinations, as well as eye examinations.

Researchers recently divided our canine companions into different groups, or clades, based on their genetic makeup. The Aussie is a member of the UK Rural Clade, along with Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Border Collies. The MDR1 mutation is quite common among dogs in that group. This can cause a few problems, such as ivermectin sensitivities and eye problems. For more information, contact your veterinarian in Roanoke, VA.

Why Are Short Tails So Common With Aussies?

That wagging tail is one of Fido’s cutest traits! However, many Aussies don’t have a tail to wag. Ranchers deliberately bred pups with shorter tails for safety when herding. Around one in five Aussie puppies has a short tail. Some have none at all! (They’re still adorable, though.) 

Australian Shepherd History

Breeders often name pups after the regions they originated in. The German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres are a few examples of this. While it may seem logical to assume that Fido is Australian, that actually is not the case. Despite the name, Australian Shepherds are American dogs.

The Spanish Conquistadors and Basque shepherds who arrived in the New World during the 1500s played large roles in the origin of this Very Good Boy. Fido’s ancestry probably includes Pyrenean Shepherds, Collies, Border Collies, and the Carea Leonés, a small and lively Spanish breed commonly used for herding. (There are no records of the Careas being brought to America, but their remarkable resemblance to Australians probably didn’t happen by chance.)

The pooches first became popular in the American West due to their skills at herding sheep, which were in high demand at the time.

Australian Shepherd Grooming Needs

Aussies can come in black, red, or merle, a pretty dappled or mottled pattern. Their fur is fluffy and sheds a lot, especially in spring and fall. They should be brushed weekly to remove dead hair. The occasional bath is needed as well. The Aussie is prone to ear wax buildup, so you’ll need to clean your pup’s ears. Nail trims are important as well. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

The Aussie Stare

Australian Shepherds usually have striking eyes, which can be brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green. Fido may also have heterochromia, or different-colored eyes. Some even have more than one color per eye! Because of those stunning eyes, Native Americans called Aussies “ghost eye” and even considered them sacred. 

Speaking of those pretty eyes, Fido is known for his “Aussie death stare,” an intense gaze which proved to be very effective at intimidating cattle. That striking stare also provides his humans with some great photo opportunities as well!

Do you have questions about caring for an Aussie? Please feel free to contact us here at Southern Hills Animal Hospital, your Roanoke, VA pet hospital. We look forward to providing great care in 2024 and beyond! 

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