The Australian Shepherd is a working dog with a naturally bobbed tail, a unique coat – and a misleading name. Also referred to as Aussies, the Australian Shepherd was actually bred in the United States and doesn’t originate from Australia.
In this article, we will study the history of the breed, understand where the Australian Shepherd got its misleading name from, look at the characteristics of the breed, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Aussies.
Australian Shepherd breed characteristics
- Australian Shepherds often have different colored eyes, which can be brown, blue, green, hazel, or amber. Some Aussies even have split-colored eyes, making it unique among all breeds.
- Despite the name of the breed, Australian Shepherds do not originate from Australia. Much of the breeding of Australian Shepherds actually took place in the American West.
- The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed. The males weigh between 40 and 70 lbs, while the females are between 35 and 65 lbs. The male Aussies can stand as tall as 23 inches, and females are slightly shorter at 22 inches.
- Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colors. The most recognizable colors are red merle, black, blue merle, tan, copper, or a mixture of these colors with or without the markings.
- The Australian Shepherd has a naturally bobbed tail that often disappears under its long coat. The original breeders of the Aussies knowingly bred the tail in this fashion because it ensured that it could not get in the way of the work they were doing.
- Aussies are very energetic and require plenty of attention and physical activity. They love large open spaces where they can run freely. The breed is a great fit for families and individuals who live active lifestyles.
History of the Australian Shepherd
Not much is known about the early history of the Australian Shepherd. This is one of the reasons why the name of the breed is questionable. There were plenty of names used for the breed before it became the Australian Shepherd, such as Bob-Tail, Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Austrian Shepherd, and California Shepherd.
It is thought that the Australian Shepherd was bred and first used as a shepherd dog by the Basque people, a Southern European ethnic group. These shepherds immigrated to North America in the 19th and 20th centuries and brought their shepherd dogs with them. However, they did not directly move from the Basque region, but from Australia – as they already immigrated there before coming to North America.
Much of the breed’s development happened in the American West. The breeding for many generations focused on the most important aspects of a herding dog. They needed to have lots of speed, athleticism, agility, endurance while remaining intelligent, easy-to-train, obedient, and protective.
In 1957, the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was founded and set the breed standard for the Australian Shepherds. The modern Australian Shepherd we see today is the same as the breed standard set by the ASCA.
Current uses of the Australian Shepherd
While Australian Shepherds are still herding sheep to this day and work on farms, their highly trainable nature makes them adept at a number of tasks. They can be used as service dogs or even police and military dogs. Their high energy and stamina allow them to be extremely efficient in the tasks required by them. The breed is also a common choice for search and rescue.
Although Australian Shepherds have higher energy than most other breeds, they make excellent therapy dogs thanks to their intelligence and temperament. They are very much valued as family pets, but require plenty of space to roam freely and high-intensity exercises to keep them active. Australian Shepherds love to run and are one of the fastest among the breeds used for herding livestock.
Frequently Asked Questions About Australian Shepherds
How much exercise does an Australian Shepherd need?
Aussies are highly energetic dogs and require daily exercise. A minimum of one hour of exercise is enough for most Aussies. They love high-energy exercises such as playing fetch or frisbee. They love going out for long walks, jogs or even runs with their owners. Exercising together with your Australian Shepherd helps to create a strong bond.
Why do they dock Australian Shepherd tails?
The tail of Australian Shepherds is usually docked within the first week after birth. This procedure is done for multiple purposes but the main two reasons are therapeutic and cosmetic. Aussies’ tails are also docked to prevent injuries.
How do you groom an Australian Shepherd?
Aussies have a thick double coat that can grow reasonably long. Always start grooming by brushing the coat and using scissors to cut excess hair. If you’re not comfortable using scissors to groom your Australian Shepherd, use dog clippers, but don’t cut too short as cutting deep can lead to the coat not growing back properly.
Should you trim an Australian Shepherd for summer?
Australian Shepherds have a double coat that not only keeps them warm in the winter, but cool during the summer. The coat acts as an insulating barrier, keeping Australian Shepherds cool even in temperatures well above 90F and high humidity.
How much should you feed an Australian Shepherd?
A breed that weighs mostly between 45 and 55 lbs, Australian Shepherds need to be fed enough food to maintain their naturally high levels of energy. For most Australian Shepherds, three to four cups of dry dog food per day should be enough. It’s important to monitor your dog’s weight – if it is gaining weight too quickly, it is a strong indication to reduce their food intake.
How often should you bathe an Australian Shepherd?
A working dog requires more frequent bathing than dogs spending the majority of their time indoors. Australian Shepherds are active dogs and can get dirty frequently. Regular bathing once every five to six weeks is recommended. If your Aussie is spending a lot of time indoors, bathing once every two to three months should be sufficient.
Read more in this series:
- About The Breed: Basset Hound
- About The Breed: Beagle
- About The Breed: Bloodhound
- About The Breed: Bulldog
- About The Breed: Chihuahua
- About The Breed: Dachshund
- About The Breed: German Shepherd
- About The Breed: Greyhound
- About The Breed: Golden Retriever
- About The Breed: Labrador Retriever
- About The Breed: Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- About The Breed: Pomeranian
- About The Breed: Pug
- About The Breed: Siberian Husky
- About The Breed: Yorkshire Terrier