The Australian Shepherd is a very smart and loyal companion, but he is also a very active dog who needs to be kept occupied. The Australian Shepherd is excellent at dog sports such as herding trials, tracking, agility, flyball, tricks, and obedience. The Aussie, as they are commonly called, requires a family that is willing to provide structure, training and plenty of exercise. He will herd animals, people, and objects by nipping at them and barking. The Aussie can become very obnoxious and destructive if left alone without a job to do. The Australian Shepherd is actually not from Australia but rather was developed in the United States as a herding dog.
The Australian Shepherd originated not in Australia as the name suggests, but rather in the western United States during the Gold Rush in the 1840s. The Aussie was bred to herd livestock, particularly sheep. He is the happiest when he has a job to perform such as herding or performing tricks. The name, Australian Shepherd, most likely comes from their ancestors who likely came to the United States by way of Australia. It is claimed that the Basque people from Europe settled with their sheepdogs in Australia. These people then moved, with their sheepdogs, to the western United States. American herders working sheep herds probably began calling the dogs Australian Shepherds because of their previous residence in Australia.
In the 1950s the Australian Shepherd was a trick-dog in rodeos and films. This increased the breed’s popularity. Aussies were first registered with the National Stock Dog Registry, formerly the International English Shepherd Registry. In 1957, the Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed and quickly became the largest Australian Shepherd registry within the United States. The United States Australian Shepherd Association was formed to try to gain recognition by the American Kennel Club. In 1993, the American Kennel Club finally recognized the Australian Shepherd and began registering dogs and litters. The Aussie can be used as a working ranch dog, herding the livestock. He can also be a guide dog for the blind and/or hearing impaired. He has been used as a search and rescue dog, a drug detecting dog and a therapy dog. He also enjoys performing tricks and doing agility as well as playing with his family in the yard.
The Australian Shepherd should have a slightly longer body and should be active, agile and sturdy. His front legs and hind legs should be equal in width and standing square. The Aussie has almond shaped eyes that can be brown, blue or amber and are intelligent and alert. His ears should be triangular and set high on the head, ears should be folded over but not hanging. Blue merles and black must have a black nose but red merles and reds must have a liver colored nose. Most Australian Shepherds have their tails docked, but they can be left naturally bobbed. The Aussie has a double coat and is weather resistant. He does not have a long coat, but does have a dense coat. The undercoat will shed out usually in the spring or summer. Intact females will shed after each heat cycle. The outer coat should be straight but it is acceptable to have a slight curl.
The Australian Shepherd is not hypoallergenic is an average shedder. Their coat is easy to maintain and groom using a natural bristle brush and/or a comb. Simply brush and/or comb him a couple of times a week. When you are brushing check for burrs and other debris that could have snagged in their coat while outdoors. An Australian Shepherd should only be bathed on an as needed basis. Over-bathing can cause dry skin and hair loss. The undercoat will shed out once or twice a year depending on climate. Intact females will shed their undercoat after each heat cycle as their hormones fluctuate. When an Aussie is shedding, grooming will need to be done more often to remove the loose hair. Generally, the undercoat will come out in clumps of hair. Nails should be trimmed or a grinder can be used when needed. Generally, Australian Shepherds need to have their nails attended to every 2-3 weeks. Ears should be cleaned weekly to prevent infection.