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The Australian Shepherd (also known as the Aussie) is loveable medium sized working dog with a huge amount of energy and drive. This breed is ideal for an active family because they love plenty of exercise and most of all they love to work.
While this dog is known as the Aussie, it actually hails from the United States where it is used as a working dog. The Aussie has a coat that is straight to slightly wavy and they also have a naturally bobbed tail. They do tend to shed a fair bit so regular brushing is recommended especially when they shed heavily twice a year due to seasonal changes in the weather.
Aussies come in a variety of colours including blue merle, black, red merle and solid colours with or without white markings. Their eyes can be a variety of colours including Blue Merle, Red Merle, Red, and Black.
Male Aussie’s usually weigh between 23 and 29 kg and stand at about 50-58 cm tall. Females should weigh about 14 to 20 kg and stand at 45 – 53 cm tall. The average life span of the Aussie is 13 to 15 years.
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Australian Shepherds can have a variety of temperaments from very outgoing to quite shy around new people. They are very intelligent dogs and love having things to do, they also love the company of people and crave human contact. They are the perfect dog for an active individual or family and they love to have something to do, whether that’s going for a run or playing fetch. There are plenty of fun games that you can play with your Aussie including hide and seek, fly-ball and agility activities.
This is a breed that requires plenty of exercise to stop them from becoming bored. They are bred to work and have a natural herding instinct. This instinct does not always go well with other small animals like cats or birds. Their herding instinct can also be quite dangerous if they are not trained and it can lead to try and herd anything from young children to bikes and cars.
This is a breed that needs set boundaries. While they are not aggressive they are good watch dogs. Aussie are very loyal and affectionate to their families but they tend to be a bit reserved with strangers who are not part of their family.
While the Aussie is relatively easy to train they can also have their own minds, so persistence and mixing things up a bit and teaching them new tricks is often the way to go. It’s also suggested that you socialise your Aussie well when they are a puppy.
It is often suggested that you find out as much as you can about the temperament of the parents before deciding on your Aussie.
While Aussie are generally healthy dogs they can also suffer from a number of illnesses and diseases that include:
Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that occurs when the bones and joints do not fit together properly. As this conditions can cause arthritis later in the dog’s life, it is essential to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Genetic eye problems. Aussie are susceptible to a number of eye problems including Progressive Retinal Atrophy that is cause be a recessive gene that can result in blindness. This disease may not be evident until later in a dog’s life. Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is also a hereditary disease that can be diagnosed in the Australian Shepherd. Juvenile cataracts are also a serious defect that can lead to blindness. Colobomas is also a genetic eye problem where part of the structure of the eye is missing. Puppies can have their eyes examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist to determine defects.
Multiple Drug Sensitivity (MDS). MDS can also affect Australian Shepherds. MDS occurs when dogs are susceptible to having fatal reactions to common veterinary drugs including heartworm prevention medicine. There is a simple vet test that can determine whether the dog has MDS.
Epilepsy. Australian Shepherds can also suffer from epilepsy.
Congenital Deafness. Aussies with white or merle coats are more susceptible to congenital deafness. This deafness occurs when the blood supply to the cochlea degenerates leading to the death of the nerve cells. This defective gene is inherited.
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Even though this dog is called an Australian Shepherd it has not been registered in Australia as a native breed. The breed originally hails from the Pyrenees Mountains that form a natural border between France and Spain. The breed was associated with Basque shepherds who travelled to the United Sates from Australia in the 1800s.
The Aussie was known by a variety of names including the Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, Californian Shepherd, Spanish Shepherd and Blue Heeler.
The strong herding instinct of the dog continued to be developed by cattle ranchers who put the dog to work herding cattle on farms and ranches across America. The Aussie also became popular with the growth of Western style horse riding following the end of the Second World War.
This intelligent breed of dog continues to be engaged by a wide variety of people including those with hearing and sight issues. They are also used as drug detector dogs and for search and rescue efforts right across the world.