Australian Shepherd – Hard-Working, Demanding Bundle of Energy
This four-legged friend is electric – the Australian Shepherd would be the wrong choice as a family pet or uncomplicated leisure companion. The temperamental workaholic wants to work or be employed, if possible to the point of exhaustion – namely that of the owner! If you have experience and enough breed-appropriate tasks to offer, you will get an active and loyal dog with the Australian Shepherd.
Newsletter Australian Shepherd
- BreedAustralian Shepherd
- ClassificationCattle and herding dogs
- SizeMales 51 to 58 cm at shoulder height – females 46 to 53 cm at shoulder height
- Weight16 to 32 kilograms
- Physiquemedium sized, well proportioned, slightly longer than tall, sometimes with a natural bobtail
- Eyesmedium-sized, almond-shaped; blue, amber or brown, also speckled, mottled or of different colours
- EarsTriangular folded ears, rounded at the top
- Coat and colourSemi-long fur with a dense, weatherproof undercoat; primary colours black, red, mottled black with grey background, mottled red-brown, mottled with light red or beige background; each can be combined with white and copper-colored badges
- Special featuresA total of 16 different colour variants are recognised by combining the basic colour and, if necessary, marking
- NatureAlert, intelligent, quick to learn, tireless, willing to work
- CareBrush weekly, daily when moulting
- HealthMust be tested for PRA and CEA before the age of eight weeks, be sure to go to a reputable breeder who does not allow merle-merle mating, as this is where genetic diseases very often arise, prone to dental defects
The American that came from Australia
Its name causes confusion because the Australian Shepherd is not an Australian dog breed. It’s more complicated than that. At the turn of the 20th century, the export of sheep from Australia to the USA was booming. The herds were managed by trained herding dogs. These clever dogs found many friends in the States who used them for breeding, but the first pedigree book was not published there until 1957, and since 1977 there has been a binding breed standard. The official recognition as a dog breed was only in 1996 by the FCI; the beautiful animals have been widespread in Europe since the 1970s. The FCI divides dog breeds into groups and sections. The Australian Shepherd belongs to Group 1: Guard dogs and herding dogs. Other dogs from the same FCI group are the Shetland Sheepdog and the Collie.
Nature and character of the Australian Shepherd
As with most German Shepherds, the Australian Shepherd’s personality is characterised by numerous virtues. The dogs are alert and intelligent, just as it should be with four-legged herd leaders. By nature the animals are docile and hardworking, but also demanding. If you are able to offer the dog tasks that match its needs, for example, actually use it as a herding dog, it will feel completely at ease and do its work conscientiously. If it is not challenged enough, its pronounced guarding instinct can quickly change into undesirable attributes. However, its will to please its owner and to fulfill the tasks required is predominant. It is always loving and friendly to those it trusts. With strangers, it requires some time before it comes to trust them and becomes approachable. Many people see the Australian Shepherd as a difficult breed with a strong character that wants to assert itself stubbornly. However, as a herding dog, it was bred to act independently. Thanks to its good observation skills, nothing escapes it. Joggers, children playing, cyclists and other pets can also stimulate its herding instinct. Therefore, as the owner, you also need good observation skills and consistent training so that your Australian Shepherd does not herd all joggers or children together on the next walk.
Training and husbandry of the Australian Shepherd
This dog’s intelligence and enormous willingness to work places high demands on its owner. The Australian Shepherd can weigh up to 32 kilos. Its size should not be neglected either – depending on gender, the shoulder height is between 46 and 58 centimetres. If you add the animal’s lively temperament to this, it becomes evident that you cannot keep this four-legged whirlwind in a flat in a species-appropriate manner. In any case, the big city is only a suitable environment for the Australian Shepherd to a limited extent, as the animal needs fresh air and as many tasks as possible in order to be able to live out its breed-typical characteristics and not to develop any behavioural problems.
The condition of the dog can push you to your limits – even a full programme with agility and retrieval games simply stokes up the dog’s desire for more. Tracking games challenge the dog more intellectually. The most difficult training goal in the Australian Shepherd is teaching it to rest and to balance activity and relaxation. In order to achieve this, you will need time, patience and empathy.
The great willingness to learn and the constant urge to please its owner should not be classified as easy to train. Because just as quickly as it implements commands, the Australian Shepherd also learns undesirable behaviour. Therefore, training this breed is particularly difficult for beginners. Because patience, loving consistency, but also straightforwardness are required here. It shamelessly exploits errors or deviations. Especially when the Australian Shepherd is not challenged or has to be left alone for a long time, it develops undesirable behavioural problems. The strong desire to be busy makes it difficult for it to fully relax. It is not uncommon that living room furniture suffers due to its urge to do something.
Who would suit an Australian Shepherd based on its nature?
If you offer your dog mental and physical tasks, are patient in training and react in a straightforward and loving manner, you will find a loyal companion in the Australian Shepherd. Inexperienced dog owners, however, quickly sense what a bundle of energy this breed is when it is underused. Its owner has to spend a lot of time with it. Therefore, it is rather unsuitable for older individuals and professionals who leave the house for several hours. A good mix of physical endurance such as jogging, cycling, hiking or long walks coupled with mental activity such as tracking or mantrailing are ideal for this breed. The Australian Shepherd can also be found in the field of rescue and drug detection work and as a guide dog, because there it can really express its intelligence and eager nature.
Care, diet and health of the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd’s coat is fairly easy to care for. It is sufficient if you brush it weekly, daily during the period of shedding, to remove the loose undercoat. The life expectancy of the Australian Shepherd is 12 to 15 years. Unfortunately, the breed is prone to hereditary diseases and disabilities such as deafness and blindness. Make sure you buy from a responsible breeder. Because of the growing popularity of the dogs, more and more uncontrolled breedings are taking place. Hip and elbow dysplasia as well as malocclusions, eye diseases and epilepsy are among the breed-specific diseases of the Australian Shepherd.
The diet should be adapted to the physical activity of the dog. A balanced proportion of carbohydrates is used to generate energy, especially in active animals. Nutritional needs are based on height, weight, age and activity level. The daily ration should also include the administration of additional treats as a reward or training motivation.
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What you should consider when buying an Australian Shepherd
Because of their energetic nature, the Australian Shepherd is not a dog for everyone. Before your purchase, you should think twice about whether you are able to meet this breed’s high demands and be aware that the whole family has to pull together when raising a dog. Look for a reputable breeder who allows the animals good socialisation right from the start. The majority of Australian Shepherds are now kept as family and companion dogs. However, it still serves as a herding dog in many regions. Therefore, there is a working line and a calmer breeding line in which the temperament has been somewhat restrained. So be sure to ask the breeder about the breeding goal so you can find the dog that fits your lifestyle and activity level. Before the purchase, you should get a good picture of the kennels and, if possible, visit the dog a few times before you finally take it home. Vaccinations, worming and a purchase contract are standard with a reputable breeder.