THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD
The Australian Shepherd is the ultimate working dog!
The Australian Shepherd is the ultimate working dog!
Did you know that “Aussie”, nickname of the Australian Shepherds, is definitely not from Australia? Although, there are many theories about the origin of the Australian Shepherd, the breed as we know it today, was developed exclusively in the United States. The natives of North America called these dogs Ghost Eyes and considered them sacred. The name, Australian Shepherd, came from the Basque Shepherds, probably from the same region as the breed’s ancestors. These left Australia in the 1800s and took their sheep and working dogs to the old American west. In the United States, these dogs were crossed with other breeds, creating what is now known as the Australian Shepherd. Their versatile and easily trainable personality made them great assets for farms and ranches.
The breeders, currently all over the world, continued to develop this incredible breed, maintaining its versatility, keen intelligence, strong herding instincts and beautiful appearance, so characteristic. The Australian Shepherd’s popularity grew steadily with the horseback boom in the American West after World War II. Then, they were gaining fame as dogs of rodeo tricks, horse shows, films and television shows.
They were “built” to be of moderate size and bone. In general, they should be agile and fast, “light” when running and jumping, and everything in them should be rated “moderate” and “harmonic”. Males measure 51 to 58 cm in height at the withers and females from 46 to 53 cm. But, quality should NEVER be overlooked in favor of size!
Despite being easily recognized by their Merle coat, a pattern of light and dark areas, Australian Shepherds can have many color combinations. The recognized colors are: merle blue, red (liver) merle, solid black and solid red (liver), all with or without white spots and / or brown spots (copper) in no order of preference. Merle blue and black have black pigmentation on the nose, lips and eye contour, while red and merle reds have liver pigmentation on the nose, lips and eye contour. In all colors, the areas around the ears and eyes are dominated by colors other than white. The hairline of a white collar does not exceed the tip at the withers. Breeders have tried to breed Australian Shepherds only on the Merle standard, but being dogs with a very complex genetics, they have found that puppies born to both Merle parents, Merle dogs are “heterozygous Mm”, will necessarily produce 25% of dead puppies, whites ”who will have heart disease, blindness, deafness, among other diseases. Therefore, Merle dogs should not be crossed with each other. Aussie litters are beautiful and very welcome in all colors! The nickname Ghost Eyes refers to a second characteristic that is also very striking for Aussies: they can have different colors in each of their eyes or, even more than one color in the same eye or even, the eyes with solid solid colors, like a light blue or a strong amber.
This breed is the subject of the popular children’s book: Henry – The dog with no tail. The Australian Shepherd can be born naturally with a short tail, Bobtail, which disappears under its long hair. When they are grazing they work on the head and shin of the cattle and it is safer that they do not have a tail since their grazing is very close, which prevents their tail from being trampled.
He is a robust, resistant and versatile sheepdog, with an honest work ethic. His normal job includes moving very large flocks of sheep and cattle from the pastures, from summer to winter and back, pulling the cattle out of the closed forest and moving the cattle in tight places, such as ramps and alleys. These types of work are still where Australian shepherds excel and are most valued.
Despite being known for their herding skills, Australians take on all kinds of services, on and off the farm, because they are really smart. They are very good for many other types of work such as: service dogs for the blind and other disabled, search and rescue dogs, dogs for dogs, pet therapy, guard and many others! In addition to their job skills, Aussies are exceptional in sports and agility, flyball, frisbee and obedience competitions. Australian Shepherds are, without a doubt, one of the most athletic breeds, being able to jump really high in the air.
But, they are not a race just for work. They are the ideal companion for active families, who dedicate time to exercise and play, they love to please and learn new tricks and can be incredible companions on adventures, accompanying their owner on trails, waterfalls, diving in the sea and even surfing, climbing or jumping. parachute! They are geared towards people, having great need to be with their owner, following him at every step at home or outside. Isolation or exclusion from social life can alter or even ruin an Aussie’s temperament. They are not dogs to be “out in the yard”! They maintain a strong instinct for guarding and herding, being highly territorial. They are sociable and easy to train, and can be the ideal companion for a family. They are gentle guardians of children and love to play with them, have an extraordinary sense of humor and enormous disposition, although they are able to sit for hours with their owner. They are ACTIVE but not ELECTRICAL. They are very healthy and athletic, with a life expectancy of around 12 years. The dense, double-layered coat of the Australian Shepherd needs to be brushed in order for the dead hair to be removed and the coat maintained without knots. A tired Australian, he is a happy Australian!
Who doesn’t want a healthy best friend … someone who stays active until old age? Unfortunately, hereditary diseases are increasing in all races. An increasing number of dogs are dying before reaching old age or, reaching old age, but with chronic health problems. Therefore, understanding the genetics and potential health problems that affect this wonderful breed is a good first step to stop this upward trend. But, fortunately, for the Australian Shepherds, the “ASHGI”, Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, was founded to better understand the genetics behind this breed, develop tests for prevention and disseminate that knowledge to benefit current and future generations. Australian owners around the world owe a huge debt of gratitude to ASHGI. Like other herding breeds, Australian Shepherds can suffer from eye diseases, such as cataracts, collie eye abnormalities, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal detachment, Coloboma and Small Eye. Other common diseases are lame femoral dysplasia, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases and allergies. Of all these, the most prevalent are lame femoral dysplasia and genetic eye diseases.
The Australian Shepherd is an extremely lively, vibrant and easily recognizable breed and although each individual is unique, in colors and markings, all Australian Shepherds show an unbeatable devotion to their family. If, raised with children, they are extraordinary playmates! They adapt very well to any climate. Its many attributes have guaranteed the Australian Shepherd a special place among the other breeds!
It is very common for people to fall in love with a cute puppy and for the wrong reasons decide to own it and end up with a dog that is not suitable for their lifestyle. Owning a puppy, regardless of breed, is a serious commitment that should last at least 12 years. So, before buying or adopting an Aussie you need to understand as much as possible about the breed to have the clarity necessary to decide if this is the dog for you.
The Aussie having been developed to be the definitive farm dog is not only great for grazing several animals, working from cattle, sheep, goats to birds, but also being a companion and guardian of the family and property. They are equally happy doing the heavy lifting or just lying on their owner’s feet or in the company of his family, which he is incredibly dedicated to. Australian Shepherds are very popular with small farmers who need a dog to help but don’t have enough work to keep him constantly busy. The Australians’ strong connection to their owner is part of their genetic heritage. Australian Shepherds were often responsible for protecting children while both parents went to work in the field. With an Aussie in the family the valuable equipment, the cattle and the family itself were safe.
The Australian Shepherd tends to be cautious and reserved with strangers, although many are extremely friendly to everyone. This is a breed in which each dog has its individuality, with 16 different variations possible only in the color pattern, no dog is the same as the other. Because they form a stronger bond with their family than some other breeds, some dogs can become protective against what they perceive to be a threat. They can develop separation anxiety if they are not taught to relax alone, getting them used to the box is very useful, giving them a safe place and where they learn to be alone.
Since this breed was developed for work, their intelligence and energy need to be used elsewhere, if they do not have a job. Obedience training is highly recommended and they learn very quickly. If raised with children, they quickly become playmates giving them a lot of love and care. They adapt very well to life in a domestic environment, Australians do not necessarily need a farm to exercise, but they do need daily exercise and attention to occupy their mind and body.
If you are looking for a dog with an intense desire to please and that is very loyal to you and your family, the Aussie will be a great companion. You must be aware of your territorial instincts and that he can be naturally possessive and protective towards his owners and his home. You and your environment will greatly determine the dog you will have.
According to the description of the breed standard: “The Australian Shepherd is intelligent, mainly a working dog with strong herding and guardian instincts. He is an exceptional companion. He is versatile and easily trained, performing the assigned tasks with great style and enthusiasm. He is reserved with strangers, but does not show shyness. Although he is an aggressive and authoritarian worker, cruelty to people or animals is intolerable. ” If this description fits the description of the dog you are looking for for your lifestyle, enjoy your Aussie!
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