Australian Shepherd (Herding Group)
The Australian Shepherd is a bold, loving, smart and energetic member of the Herding Group. These dogs have an athletic build and are medium in size. With amazing agility and a powerful body, they can work hard all day without sacrificing speed or stamina. Australian Shepherd dogs were bred to guard livestock and to this day maintains the genetic drive to herd.
The temperament of the breed can vary from being overly playful with its owners to an imposing and courageous watchdog against intruders. They are typically friendly towards other dogs and pets, but reserved around strange people. Without proper exercise and mental stimulation through games and dog training, the Australian Shepherd tends to become bored and may act out in a destructive manner through barking and chewing.
A Brief History of The Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd’s assumed area of origin can be misleading because it is not actually an Australian Breed. Although the exact details of the dog’s history is unclear, we do know that they made their way to the United States, from Australia, where they were used to herd sheep.
One theory suggests that the breed started when the Basque people of Europe settled in Australia with their sheepdogs, then relocated to America, bringing their dogs with them. The name “Australian Shepherd” was given due to the breed’s past residence and function, but they were still largely known as the Basque dog.
The Australian Shepherd excelled at overcoming the harsh conditions of herding through rough terrain in both Australia and western America. They were crossed with various other breeds and were mostly kept under the radar in terms of popularity. During the 1950s, the breed gained exposure as they were seen in various dog trick shows and even in film.
The International English Shepherd Registry registered the very first Australian Shepherd (today known as the National Stock Dog Registry). The Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed in 1957, and in 1993 the AKC officially recognized the breed. Today the Australian Shepherd is still used as a sheep herder and can be seen winning herding trials.
Upkeep Requirements for The Australian Shepherd
This breed must have vigorous exercise on a daily basis, both physically and mentally. And with its ease of training ability and high intellectual levels, the Australian Shepherd is the perfect candidate for advanced obedience training. These dogs thrive on human contact and are not meant for sitting around the house all day.
Australian Shepherds can tolerate both hot and cool temperatures but should not live outdoors completely. The ideal living arrangement is to allow the Aussie to have access to a safe outdoors area during the day and to sleep inside with the family at night. Grooming requirements call for a heavy brushing of its thick coat about two to three times weekly.
The average lifespan of the Australian Shepherd is between twelve and fifteen years. Major Health Concerns that run common in the breed are CEA and cataracts. Minor health issues include CEA, Pelger-Huet syndrome, hypothyroidism, CHD, iris coloboma, and nasal solar dermatitis. Rarely seen is PRA, PPM, distichiasis, PDA, epilepsy, lumbar sacral syndrome, and vWD. Veterinarians suggest that the Australian Shepherd get specifically tested for DNA for CEA, hip, thyroid, and eye problems.