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Celebration Of The Australian Shepherd
January 1, 2024

Happy New Year! One of our first plans for the year is to honor a very special dog, the Australian Shepherd. January 9th is Aussie Day! A local Southern Lake County, FL veterinarian goes over some basic breed information about the Aussie in this article.

Basics of the Australian Shepherd Dog Breed

Working dogs tend to be smart, active, and very loyal. Fido is no exception! The pup belongs to the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes German Shepherds and Corgis. They usually weigh between 40 and 65 pounds, and can be as tall as 22 inches. They can live 12-15 years with good care.

Where Is The Australian Shepherd From?

This may seem obvious, at least at first. After all, breeders often name pups after the region in which they originate. There are numerous examples of this, including the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres, who will celebrate his special day on the 16th.

Plot twist: Fido is actually an American pup. 

To trace the Australian Shepherd’s roots, we have to go back to the Conquistadors who arrived in the New World in the 1500s. Also arriving at that time were shepherds from Basque, a culturally distinct region located between France and Spain. These individuals brought both dogs and sheep with them to both Australia and the United States. Some of those dogs, which were described as yellow or tan and wolf-like, were among Fido’s ancestors. 

Later, the California Gold Rush created an even higher demand for sheep. This led to the importation of even more sheepdogs from other countries. The new arrivals included the Pyrenean Shepherds and Border Collies. The Carea Leonés, a Spanish sheepdog known for its small size and energy, may also have contributed to the Aussie’s family tree. Although there are no official records of Carea Leonés coming to the U.S., their striking similarity to Australian Shepherd suggests otherwise.

What Color Is The Aussie?

Aussies can be black, red, or merle, which is a pretty dappled or mottled pattern. They may have lighter points or tips. They do have quite fluffy fur and are fairly heavy shedders. (More on that later.)

Is The Aussie Death Stare Actually Real?

The Australian Shepherd tends to have very striking eyes. These cute canines often have heterochromia, or different-colored eyes, which only enhances their striking appearance. Fido may have brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes. Some Aussies even have a combination of colors within one eye.

Aussies are well-known for their intense gazes, also known as the “Aussie death stare.” This is just one of several methods these dogs have mastered for herding animals.

Another interesting note? Many Aussies boast pale blue eyes. Native Americans referred to them as “ghost eye dogs” and regarded them as sacred animals.

What Is The Australian Shepherd’s Personality?

Friendly yet protective, Aussies have a strong desire to please their owners. Aussies are known for their intelligence and are often ranked among the smartest breeds. Fido has a natural inclination for herding. He may even try to herd his owners!

These guys have high energy levels and require plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation. They are probably not the best choice for those seeking a laid-back, inactive pet. 

Does The Aussie Shepherd Need A Lot Of Grooming? 

The Aussie falls in the middle of the beauty care needs spectrum. He is a fairly heavy shedder, so he’ll need weekly brushing to remove dead hair from his fluffy, double-layered coat. He’ll also blow his coat about twice a year. During those sheds, you’ll need to brush your pet more often, and you may need to use an undercoat rake. (Tip: take your dog outside to brush him, and wear an apron. That way, the fur will blow away, and you won’t end up wearing it.)

Aside from that, Aussies are prone to wax buildup in their ears, so regular ear cleaning is important. Other grooming tasks include occasional baths, doggy dental care, and routine nail trims.

Is The Australian Shepherd Prone To Health Issues? 

Most Aussies are healthy and hardy. However, they can be prone to a few conditions. Eye problems are not uncommon. We recommend hip and elbow examinations, as well as eye evaluations.

You may be interested to learn that recent studies have divided our four-legged companions into different groups, or clades, based on their genomes. Aussie was assigned to the U.K. Rural Clade, which also includes the Shetland Sheepdog, Collie, and Border Collie. MDR1 mutations are common among dogs in that group. That specific genetic mutation can lead to ivermectin sensitivity and the eye problems we noted above. 

What Does The Australian Shepherd Excel At? 

Fido’s original career was herding, but that isn’t the only thing he excels at. The Aussie is extremely smart, which makes him an excellent choice for many different fields and jobs. These guys can be found working as seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. They also do well in various doggy sports, including agility, obedience, dock diving, and flyball.

What Kind Of Training Does The Australian Shepherd Need?

Proper training and socialization are crucial for active, high-energy dogs like the Aussie. 

The majority of Aussies who are rehomed are often accused of bad behavior. This is very unfortunate, because that ‘bad behavior’ is often due to a lack of training, excess energy from a lack of exercise, or both. 

Fido’s petucation doesn’t have to stop once he’s learned basic obedience. These guys often love learning tricks and complex commands. Fido strives to please, and looks adorably proud of himself for getting a command. Ask your Southern Lake County, FL vet for specific advice.

When Did The Aussie Become Popular?

Though the Aussie quickly became a beloved favorite of ranchers and cowboys, he didn’t attract much interest outside of that world until later. His rise in popularity may be credited to rodeo star Jay Lister, who brought his Australian Shepherd on the rodeo circuit. That pup’s remarkable affinity for performing tricks helped him woo crowds and win hearts across the country.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Having An Australian Shepherd?

Aussies make excellent pets. They are good with children and can be great with other animals. 

However, they are very active, and need a lot of exercise and stimulation. If Fido gets bored or lonely, he can be destructive. He also isn’t the quietest dog, as he hasn’t yet outgrown his tendency to bark, which was important to his early role as a herding dog. 

What Are Some Other Names For The Aussie?

In addition to ribbons and trophies, Fido has earned quite a few nicknames! These dogs are also known as Spanish Shepherds, Pastor Dogs, Bob-Tails, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds.

Why Does The Aussie Have A Short Tail? 

We often mention tail wags when speaking of our canine buddies. However, the Aussie doesn’t always have a tail to wag. Approximately one in five of these pups are born with short tails or no tails at all. This isn’t a coincidence: ranchers specifically chose dogs with this abnormality for breeding, since they were safer for herding.

Happy New Year from Royal Oaks Veterinary Hospital! Please feel free to contact us, your Southern Lake County, FL pet clinic, anytime!