The Australian Shepherd, first officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1991, is also known by the names of Australischer Schaferhund and Aussie. This breed is primarily used as a herding dog, though today they are companion dogs and working dogs. A potential owner of an Australian Shepherd should thoroughly research the breed to ensure that it is a suitable match for their family’s needs, wants and availability in terms of care and time for the dog.
Breed History: The Australian Shepherd
Many believe the Australian Shepherd hails from Australia, but in reality the breed received this name because of its introduction to America in the 1800s via a group of Basque shepherds who were from Australia. In reality, this dog is likely to have originated somewhere in the Pyrenees mountains.
Historically, this breed was referred to by multiple names including the California Shepherd, Blue Heeler, Bob-Tail, Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog and the New Mexican Shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd: Grooming and Appearance
The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful breed that comes in several colors: black, red merle, red with or without white markings and blue merle. Their fur coat is relatively easy to groom, requiring minimal attention including bathing only when necessary.
Owners can expect their Aussie pup to grow up to 23 inches in height if male and up to 21 inches in height if female. In terms of weight, the male can weigh up to 65 pounds with females weighing in at ten pounds less (55 pounds.)
The Temperament of an Australian Shepherd
Owners of the Australian Shepherd have been known to describe these dogs as puppy-like no matter what their age. That’s because this breed is known to be a playful, friendly and affectionate dog. Australian Shepherds are great with children of any age because they enjoy the attention and activity.
This breed is highly intelligent and therefore training is easy even for those who are new to the world of dog ownership. However, these dogs require plenty of regular exercise and playtime, as they can develop behavioral issues such as destructive tendencies due to boredom.
The Australian Shepherd: Potential Health Issues
Unfortunately, there are several potential health issues that can arise when breeding Australian Shepherds. This includes issues when breeding two merle Australian Shepherds together, which can result in puppies that are blind, deaf or both. Furthermore, breeding two natural bobtail Australian Shepherds can result in spinal defects in the puppies.
Outside of breeding, some lines of Aussies may suffer from cataracts, while other lines have issues with hip dysplasia. Other health issues of potential concern include nasal solar dermatitis (sunburn,) progressive retinal atrophy and epilepsy.
Australian Shepherds may also have a sensitivity to ivermectin, which is an ingredient in many heartworm preventatives; so alternative medications may be necessary.