Dog Breed Profiles: The Australian Shepherd

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.

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Your Pug’s Health: Understand Your Dog’s Potential Health Problems

If you’re like many dog owners, your pet is family: confidante, companion, and friend. If he also happens to be a pug, there are some health issues that you should know about and understand. Being aware of your pug’s potential health problems will help you to be a better pet parent. It may even save his (her) life one day.

Breathing Problems

Pug Specific Tracheal Collapse

Pugs have a delicate windpipe that can collapse easily. Breathing through a collapsed windpipe sounds harsher than normal ‘pug’ breathing and has been compared to a honking goose. The condition will worsen when your pug is straining on the leash, drinking water, eating, under stress, or excited. The condition is serious but can usually be successfully treated.

Elongated Soft Palate Problems in Pugs

An inherited abnormally, a long soft palate can extend into the throat, causing breathing complications. A vet can diagnose the condition and give you recommendations on trimming the palate.

Eye Problems

Dry Eye in Pugs

Dry eye (Keratoconjuctivitis sicca) occurs when the tear glands provide inadequate moisture to the eye. Although there are environmental factors that can lead to dry eye, in pugs it is usually inherited. Left untreated, dry eye can lead to infection, scarring, pigmentary keratitis, and blindness. It will typically present in both eyes and require treatment for the life of your pet. Watch for a chronic, thick discharge from the eyes, redness, and scratching. If diagnosed early, most pugs respond well to treatment.

Entropion in Pugs

Entropion is also a congenital eye condition in which the eyelid rolls in, resulting in the eyelashes touching the surface of the eye. This can occur with either the upper or lower lid, and usually involves both eyes as well. Watch for squinting and frequent tearing. Entropion can be successfully treated with surgery.

Pug Encephalitis (Pug Dog Encephalitis – PDE)

PDE is a fatal condition that results from the inflammation and death of brain tissue. An affected animal will look as though he has a stiff neck. This will progress to seizures, depression, staggering, and blindness. Pugs will usually start to show symptoms before they are two years old, although the onset of symptoms can be delayed to the age of about seven in a small percentage of pugs.

Hip Dysplasia in Pugs

A malformation of the hip joints, hip dysplasia causes excruciating pain. It often doesn’t present in pugs until they are two to three years old. Sometimes the condition can be treated surgically. If this is not the case with your pet, pain medication, warm bedding, regulated weight, and regular light exercise can help control secondary symptoms like arthritis and manage the pain associated with this condition.

Portosystemic Liver Shunt and Pugs

Usually affecting young pugs, liver shunts can present as seizures, walking in circles, and drooling. An overall smallness in size can also be a warning sign. Both internal and external shunts can be controlled with a combination of medication and diet. Treatment methods have improved over the years, and the prognosis for this condition is good.

Your pug is a powerhouse of personality, but he’s also more delicate than he might look. Keep his facial folds clean in order to avoid dermatitis, his fur brushed to guard against hot spots, and keep him out of the heat and humidity. Yearly medical visits can help keep him healthy and prolong his life. Be aware of pug related health problems in order to recognize the signs of trouble, and discuss them with your vet immediately. You’ll be glad you did.

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Dog Trick Training: Introduction to the Clicker: Click your way to a better relationship with your dog

“Clicker training” is a way of training animals that has become more popular in the last ten years or so because of its effectiveness and positive methods. The magic of clicker training is that it teaches your dog to think for himself and problem-solve. If one behavior is not getting the click and treat, a properly conditioned dog will seek out other behaviors until one gets the desired reward. Unlike using verbal praise to tell your pet when he has behaved correctly, the clicker allows for greater precision in training. You can mark the exact instant your dog does the correct action. The clicker is especially great for trick training because its fun and intuitive nature allows your dog to problem-solve (and practically train himself) to perform different tricks through trial and error.

The Science Behind It

The scientific term for clicker training is “operant conditioning,” which describes the philosophy that an animal will most often repeat a behavior that has a positive result, and tend not to repeat one that has a negative outcome. Dog trainers use the clicker tool to mark the exact moment when the dog performs the desired behavior. Following the “click,” the dog gets a food reward. When the dog performs an undesirable action, he does not get the click or food reward. There are no negative consequences used in clicker training; when the dog makes the wrong choice, he simply doesn’t get rewarded for it.

Choosing the Right Clicker

The clicker tool itself is rather ordinary looking; it is a small plastic box with a metal strip that makes a sharp—but not loud—clicking sound when the strip is pressed. The cool thing about the “click” sound is that it does not sound like talking or any noise normally found in the dog’s environment.

Several different styles of clicker are currently on the market to suit different trainers’ personal preferences as well as different temperaments of dogs. Some, like the Clicker+, make other noises besides the traditional “click.” Others, like my personal favorite the i-Click, make a softer noise than traditional clickers. Both of these “special” clickers are made by Karen Pryor Clicker Products. It is important to do your homework and consider your dog’s level of sound sensitivity when choosing the right clicker for you.

Charging the Clicker

The first step towards teaching your dog to respond to the clicker is to show him what the clicker is, and what the “click” means. This is called “charging the clicker.” To begin this step, take your clicker and a bunch of small, soft, bite-sized treats and take your dog to a quiet area away from distractions. Sitting next to your dog on the floor or in a chair, press the clicker and give your dog a treat. Repeat this many times until your dog looks expectantly at the food (or at your hand—you just want to see some sort of recognition in your dog that the click means that a treat is coming). Make sure that every time you click, your dog gets a reward. It is important to note that at this point you are not asking your dog to do anything, just recognize the clicker.

Gateway To Success

Once you have properly conditioned your dog to the clicker, he will be ready to learn real commands and behaviors. This incredibly versatile tool can be used to teach your dog anything from a reliable “come” when called to advanced trick or obedience training. The possibilities really are endless. Hopefully this article has inspired you to give clicker training a try. I know that your dog will thank you for it if you do. Good luck!

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