Did you know the Australian Shepherd is descended from a line of Europe’s finest herders.The Aussie’s world tour began in Europe, near the Pyrenees Mountains. It was here, in the borderlands between France and Spain, where the indigenous people known as the Basques built their centuries-old reputation as world-class shepherds. Their herding dog of choice was called the Pyrenean Shepherd, progenitor of our modern Aussie.
In the early 1800s, Australia’s Anglo émigrés began a push into the continent’s vast interior in search of rich pastureland for cattle ranching. Eventually, many Basques, with their faithful shepherd dogs in tow, sailed east to try their luck on the virgin Australian continent, a wide-open paradise for sheep herders.
During their long sojourn in Australia, the Basque shepherd refined their dogs with judicious crosses to Australia’s British imports, Collies and Border Collies, among them. After building up their flocks, the intrepid Basques left Australia for greener pastures—literally—and set sail to California.
California ranchers admired the Basques’ herding dogs and assumed they were an Australian breed—thus the misleading name Australian Shepherd. Aussies, further refined and perfected in America, have been an iconic part of cowboy culture ever since. Many are still happily herding in the American West, others earn their feed as rodeo performers, and still others of this exuberantly versatile breed work as therapy dogs, drug detectors, service dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. The Australian Shepherd entered the AKC Herding Group in 1993.
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts. He is a loyal companion and has the stamina to work all day. He is well balanced, slightly longer than tall, of medium size and bone, with coloring that offers variety and individuality. He is attentive and animated, lithe and agile, solid and muscular without cloddiness. He has a coat of moderate length and coarseness. He has a docked or natural bobbed tail.
A high-energy, athletic dog, the Aussie needs a great deal of exercise on a daily basis. At minimum, he should have a large, fenced-in yard to run around in for at least an hour or two daily. Aussies bond closely with their owners and love to accompany them on long walks—or, better yet, hikes. Once an Aussie leaves puppyhood behind, and his skeletal system is fully formed, he can make a great running companion. The best course, however, is to give the Aussie a job, whether that is herding livestock, shepherding children, or competing in canine events such as obedience, herding or agility trials, or dock diving.
Early socialization and obedience training are both musts for the Australian Shepherd. One of the most frequent reasons Aussies end up in rescue situations is owners couldn’t (or wouldn’t) constructively channel the breed’s boundless energy through training. Aussies bond strongly to their families and so can be territorial and overprotective of their owners’ property, and they can become destructive if left without companionship for long periods too often. Fortunately, that loyalty combined with the breed’s keen intelligence and high energy makes them very easy to train.
Aussies are generally healthy dogs, and a responsible breeder will test breeding stock for health concerns such as hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts and certain forms of cancer. An Aussie’s ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and his teeth should be brushed regularly.
Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation