Everything You Need to Know about The Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd

Given the name, one might expect that the Australian Shepherd came from Australia. That isn’t the case. Instead, these dogs came into existence in the United States. The rest of the Australian Shepherd’s name is less misleading. These dogs were indeed used for herding livestock and continue to be used for herding livestock. However, it is interesting to note that the Australian Shepherd has also managed to become a very popular companion for interested individuals.

What Does the Australian  Shepherd Look Like?

The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized dog. Males can be expected to reach a height of 51 to 58 cm. Meanwhile, females can be expected to reach a height of 46 to 53 cm. Thanks to this, these dogs can be expected to a weight of 16 to 32 kg, meaning that there is a fair amount of variation among them in this regard. On top of this, it is interesting to note that the standard for Australian Shepherds is somewhat unusual in that individual animals are permitted to exceed these ranges by a small extent. When it comes to the coat, these dogs are notable in a number of ways. For starters, they have a double-layered coat, which makes sense because they would have been expected to spend a lot of time outdoors in their original role. However, while the coat is of moderate length for the most part, it sees some variation in some places. In particular, the fur is shorter on the Australian Shepherd’s face but longer on the back of the Australian Shepherd’s legs, thus providing the latter with a very recognizable feathered look. Having said that, the most unusual part about the coat of these dogs might be its color or colors. The Australian Shepherd is famous for showing enormous variation in both its coat colors and its coat patterns, so much so that each dog is said to possess its own unique coat. That might be a bit exaggerated, but there is a reason why people make the claim. In any case, these dogs are permitted to come in either blue merle, red merle, solid black, or solid red. They may or may not have white markings. Similarly, they may or may not have tan points. As such, it is no wonder that people like to make a note of the sheer variation that can be found in this dog breed in this regard.

Besides this, it is worth mentioning something about the Australian Shepherd’s tail as well. It is one of those dog breeds that can be born with either a short tail or a long tail. Historically speaking, the long-tailed dogs were docked. Nowadays, both the short-tailed dogs and the long-tailed dogs are now permitted by the standard, which should come as no surprise considering the shift in popular opinion on the matter. Chances are good that interested individuals can still find arguments in support of the practice that claim that doing so reduces the chances of a working dog in the course of its duties. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other reputable organizations disagree with these arguments. Unsurprisingly, people who are opposed to tail docking for practical purposes are even more opposed to tail docking for cosmetic purposes because the latter is meant purely for human benefit rather than canine benefit.

How Is the Australian Shepherd’s Health?

Moving on, the Australian Shepherd is supposed to have good health for the most part. After all, there wouldn’t be much point to a working dog that couldn’t actually do any work because it was too sick all of the time. Still, what is true in a general sense is by no means guaranteed to be true for every individual case out there, meaning that interested individuals should keep a watchful eye on their dog’s health for much the same reasons that they should keep a watchful eye on their own health. Hip dysplasia is something that can show up in Australian Shepherd. It is when the components of the hip joint don’t fit in the right manner, with the result that they rub against one another in a way that will lead to gradual deterioration over time. Hip dysplasia is stereotyped as something that happens to dogs that are on the bigger side of things, but in truth, it is something that can happen to dogs of all sizes. Genetics is a major factor in the chances of a particular dog developing this condition. Unfortunately, it is far from being the sole factor of relevance, as shown by how being overweight, having an excessive growth rate, and more can increase the chances.

On a similar note, the Australian Shepherd is also susceptible to vision problems, so much so that these are more common than either skin problems or respiratory problems in these dogs. This is particularly true when a dog has inherited not one but two copies of the dominant merle gene, which has 25 percent of happening for each dog born from a pair of merled parents. These dogs have much higher chances than normal of suffering from both vision problems and hearing problems because of how their development can be impacted. Even worse, there is no treatment for these issues. As such, Australian Shepherds with two copies of the dominant merle gene are sometimes described as having lethal white syndrome. Said name is rather misleading because the condition itself isn’t lethal for the dogs. Instead, a lot of dog breeders will choose to cull these dogs rather than sell them. Of course, there are also dog breeders who choose to these dogs, with some going even further by claiming that they are rarer and thus more valuable because of that rarity without mentioning anything about their potential health issues. Something that has resulted in more than one of these affected Australian Shepherds winding up in shelters and the like because of families that weren’t prepared for them. Regardless, Australian Shepherds can experience a wide range of other health issues as well. Due to this, interested individuals should keep a watchful eye out for potential problems. Something that should be combined with routine visits to the veterinarian for preventative healthcare. Like humans, dogs have better chances of getting better outcome when they are treated sooner rather than later, meaning it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

How Has the Australian Shepherd Fared Over Time?

It is believed that Australian Shepherds can trace their roots to a couple of sources. First, there were the shepherd dogs that saw use in California. There were dogs in the Americas before the Columbian Exchange. However, the Native Americans had a much more limited selection of livestock, meaning that they didn’t have the shepherd dogs that saw widespread use throughout the Old World. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that the shepherd dogs that saw use in California were brought over from the Old World, particularly since the overwhelming majority of the dogs that are now in the Americas are descended from the dogs of the Old World rather than the original dogs of the New World. In any case, it isn’t quite which dog breeds were brought over, but there are some dog breeds that get brought up more than others. To name an example, there is the Carea Leones, which is a shepherd dog from Leon that spread throughout the Spanish Empire in the Americas because they were brought along with their Churra charges. Thanks to that, this dog breed was an ancestor to shepherd dogs throughout California and the Southwestern United States because those places were once Spanish-controlled. Besides the Carea Leon, other dog breeds that get brought up include both the Basque Shepherd Dog, and the Pyrenean Sheepdog, which are shepherd dogs from Basque Country and the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains respectively.

Second, it is believed that Australian Shepherds are descended from collies that were brought over to California from Australia and New Zealand, which explains much about their name as well as their resemblance to said dog breeds. These shepherd dogs mixed together with the shepherd dogs that could already be found in the region to create the dog breed that now exists in the present time. For a long time, the Australian Shepherd was more-or-less unknown outside of the livestock industry because it was either always or almost always a working animal. That changed when a man named Jay Lister popularized the dog breed because of the performances put on by his Australian Shepherds at rodeo shows throughout the western United States. Since then, these dogs have continued to see use for herding. However, they have also managed to make a smooth transition to being a companion, so much so that they are one of the most popular dog breeds for companionship that can be found out there.

What Do You Need to Know about the Australian Shepherd’s Personality?

Personality-wise, Australian Shepherds are very similar to a lot of other shepherd dogs. For instance, they are both intelligent and independent because they were expected to be working animals that could make their own decisions without being supervised by their human masters on a constant basis. Furthermore, Australian Shepherds have plenty of both courage and confidence, which are useful characteristics to have when they were expected to herd animals that can be quite a bit bigger than they are. It is also common for these dogs to have a protective side. This can be seen in how they tend to be on the reserved side when interacting with strangers, though they aren’t what most people would consider to be very aggressive animals in most cases. After all, an excessive level of aggression is bad for both their role as herders and their role as companions, meaning that it isn’t something that was bred for to say the least.

In any case, these characteristics can mean problems for interested individuals. Australian Shepherds might not be as physically formidable as some of the other dogs that can be found out there. However, they are not recommended for people without previous experience being dog owners. This is because these dogs are intelligent enough to trick people, independent enough that they won’t automatically defer to people, and confident enough to make their own choices. As such, if interested individuals can’t establish their leadership over their Australian Shepherd, they can expect behavioral issues to come up sooner rather than later. Besides this, the usual considerations are also applicable. For instance, these dogs need early training and early socialization for much the same reasons as any other dog breed. If they get those things, they can turn out to be loyal, obedient, and extra-lovable animals; if they don’t get those things, well, suffice to say that they can exhibit aggression as well as other problematic behaviors.

Naturally, Australian Shepherds need both physical exercise and mental stimulation on a regular basis. As such, if interested individuals can’t ensure those things, they should look elsewhere because their dogs will get bored. Unfortunately, when Australian Shepherds get bored, they are known to get destructive as well as cause other problems, meaning that this is something that interested individuals will want to avoid. On top of this, it should be mentioned that even though some Australian Shepherds have been bred for companionship for a very long time, it is very common for them to have retained their herding instincts. Thanks to that, these dogs have been known to herd both children and small animals by nipping at them, which won’t be very fun for those being herded to say the least. Due to this, interested individuals might want to look up ways to curb such behaviors lest they need to put those methods to use.

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