Happy New Year! It looks like January has already gone to the dogs. Quite a few pups are celebrating special days, including the Lab, Alaskan Malamute, Standard Poodle, and the Aussie, also known as the Australian Shepherd. We’re putting the Aussie in the spotlight for this post. January 9th is Australian Shepherd Day! A local Clinton, UT vet goes over some basic breed information about Fido in this article.
Aussie Breed Basics
Strong, loyal, and very, very smart, Fido is part of the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes the German Shepherd and Corgi. The Australian Shepherd usually weighs between 40 and 65 pounds, and can be up to 22 inches high. With good care, Fido can live about 12 to 15 years.
What Kind Of Temperament Do Aussies Have?
Fido is a working dog at heart, and has a built-in affinity for herding. In fact, he may even try to herd his humans! Australian Shepherds are incredibly smart, and often make the list of the most intelligent dogs. They are very, very active, and need lots of exercise and stimulation. This is not the dog for someone who wants a calm couch potato for a pet.
Australian Shepherds are friendly but protective, and are very driven to please their owners. Fido absolutely loves going for walks and hikes with his human buddies. Once he’s fully grown, he also makes a good jogging buddy.
What Are The Grooming Needs Of An Australian Shepherd Shepherd?
Australian Shepherds have double-layered coats. Fido should be brushed about once a week. However, your canine pal will shed quite heavily about twice a year. You’ll need to use a special brush, known as an undercoat rake, during those wardrobe changes. You’ll also need to brush your pet more than usual during shedding season. You may want to consider bringing your furry pal to the salon, especially during sheds. Ask your vet for specific advice.
Australian Shepherds are prone to ear wax buildup, so you’ll need to clean your furry friend’s ears regularly. Fido will need occasion baths and, of course, regular nail trims.
Are Aussies Healthy?
Australian Shepherds are usually healthy and hardy. We do recommend hip and elbow evaluations, as well as ophthalmologist evaluations. Eye problems are also not uncommon. Ask your vet for specific advice.
Training For The Aussie
Proper training and socialization are crucial for active, high-energy pups like the Australian Shepherd. When Australian Shepherds are rehomed, it is usually because of either a lack of exercise, a lack of training, or both. Fido gets very attached to his humans, but he can be territorial and possessive. He also can get destructive if he gets bored or lonely. Ask your vet for specific care tips.
Puppy Plot Twist: The Australian Shepherd Isn’t Australian
Many breeders name their pups after the region they originated in. There are numerous examples of this, such as the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres, who will have his own special day on the 16th. So, it just stands to reason that the Aussie is from Australia, right?
As it turns out, not so much.
Fido is actually an American dog.
To go back to the beginning, we have to look at the Conquistadors who came to the New World in the 1500s. Some of those settlers were shepherds from Basque, which is a small but culturally unique region between France and Spain. Basque settlers and Spanish Conquistadors took their dogs to Australia and the United States. They also brought sheep, which became increasingly popular after the California Gold Rush. (Fun fact: many of those sheep were Merinos, a breed whose wool was so valued that taking them out of Spain was punishable by death.)
At some point, Germans crossed their own sheep with the Merino, and then took the wooly progeny to the American West … along with other sheep dogs. Those dogs are described as yellow, black, or tan pooches with a wolf-like appearance. It’s likely that Fido’s family tree also includes the Carea Leonés, a small, active sheepdog from Spain. There are no records of the Careas coming to the U.S., but their remarkable resemblance to the Australian Shepherd seems unlikely to be coincidental.
What Color Is The Australian Shepherd?
These striking, fluffy dogs can wear several pretty colors and patterns, including black, red, and merle, which is a pretty dappled or mottled pattern. They may also have lighter points, or tips.
What Is The Australian Shepherd Stare?
Australian Shepherds are renowned for their stares. In fact, Fido’s compelling gaze is sometimes called the ‘Australian Shepherd death stare.’ That stare is just one of the many tactics these dogs learned to use when herding animals.
Another interesting thing about the Australian Shepherd’s eyes? It is not unusual for them to have heterochromia, or different-colored eyes. Fido’s peepers can be brown, blue, hazel, amber, green, or any combination. Some Australian Shepherds actually have multiple colors in one eye.
As you may know, Many Australian Shepherds have striking pale blue eyes. Native Americans called them “ghost eye dogs” and considered them sacred.
What Other Name Does The Aussie Go By?
Fido has certainly collected lots of ribbons and trophies along the way. He’s also picked up quite a few nicknames! These pooches are also known as Spanish Shepherds, Pastor Dogs, Bob-Tails, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds.
Why Do Australian Shepherds Have Short Tails?
Another interesting thing about Fido? He doesn’t always have much of a tail to wag. About one in five Australian Shepherds are born with short tails. Some have no tails at all. This isn’t a coincidence: ranchers selected the pups with this abnormality for breeding, because it was safer for the pups doing herding work.
Was The Australian Shepherd A Rodeo Dog?
By the twentieth century, Fido was a renowned rodeo dog, who both wowed crowds with his herding skills but charmed them by doing tricks. In fact, rodeo star Jay Lister is credited with the Australian Shepherd’s rise to popularity in the 1900’s. He brought the Australian Shepherd on the rodeo circuit, where the pup’s affinity for performing tricks helped win him hearts across the country. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1991.
How Active Is The Aussie?
The Australian Shepherd is known for being extremely agile and athletic. This pretty pooch is always on the go! Because they are so active, Australian Shepherds do best in homes with lots of room to roam. A large, fenced yard is ideal.
What Does The Aussie Excel At?
Australian Shepherds are extremely smart, which makes them a great dog for many fields and jobs. Herding is of course Fido’s original career, but it’s by no means his only option. These guys also do very well in various doggy sports, such as agility, obedience, dock diving, or flyball. Australian Shepherds also excel in many modern fields, and may be found working as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Of course, they can also make great pets!
Does The Aussie Bark A Lot?
Fido isn’t the quietest dog on the block. Barking was very important to his early role as a herding dog, and he hasn’t yet outgrown his tendency to vocalize. That is something to consider when choosing your canine buddy.
Are Aussies Good Family Dogs?
Though Fido is very active, he still has that exuberant doggy joy we all love. Australian Shepherds can make excellent pets. They enjoy playing with kids, and usually do well with other pets. (They’re also absolutely adorable.)
Do you have questions about caring for an Australian Shepherd? Do you need to schedule grooming? Contact us, your local Clinton, UT pet hospital, today!