1. We’re interested in or have a “Miniature Australian Shepherd”. They’re the same as Aussies, just smaller, right?
No, the “mini” started from dogs that were completely unrelated to the dogs that were the foundation of the Australian Shepherd. However, “mini” breeders have bred Australian Shepherds into their bloodlines, so that today the “mini” is related to and resembles, but is not the same as the Australian Shepherd. The “mini” is currently being considered for eventual recognition as an AKC breed in its own right – separate and distinct from the Australian Shepherd.
2. Are Aussies from Australia?
Legend has it that the original Aussies came to the west coast with Basque Shepherds, following the sheep/wool industry from their country to Australia, and then on to the U.S. Another history is that the Aussie is a mix of various collie breeds that accompanied European settlers as they migrated westward. In any event, the Australian Shepherd is very much an American breed, developed on western ranches and farms. The only examples of the breed found in Australia are those descended from American parentage.
3. How much exercise do they need?
Aussies are very active and athletic dogs, so they need regular and thorough exercise. An owner should ideally have a fenced in yard where his/her Aussie can run and play for at least an hour or two every day. On the other hand, a consistent regimen of long walks and/or hikes will also keep an Aussie happy and healthy. Aussies, when they are structurally mature, make great running companions.
4. Can one responsibly own an Aussie in the city?
Aussies thrive on being with their families; they do not do well if they are left alone for too long and too often without that companionship. If one can make the commitment to being a good and constant companion, while providing the necessary exercise and care, then there is no reason one cannot have an Aussie in the city.
5. How are Aussies with children?
No dog should ever be left alone with small children and Aussies are no exception. If children are supervised and trained so they behave appropriately, Aussies are wonderful companions for children.
6. How big do Aussies grow?
Males will normally stand between 20” – 23” at the shoulder, usually weighing somewhere between 45 – 60 lbs. Females will normally stand between 18’ – 21” at the shoulder, weighing somewhere between 35 – 45 lbs. Every now and then one will find Aussies that are a bit smaller or larger than these norms.
7. How long do Aussies live?
The average lifespan of an Aussie is between 12 – 15 years.
8. Do Aussies have any particular health problems?
The Australian Shepherd is a generally healthy breed. However, a small percentage of Aussies are affected – but no more so than other healthy breeds – by such ailments as canine hip dysplasia, cataracts, various cancers, and epilepsy.
9. What should Aussies be fed?
There are a large variety of perfectly good diets for this breed, ranging from specially prepared food at home to commercial kibble. If an Aussie is lively, alert, and active, if its coat is healthy, its skin is not itchy or flaky, and there are no signs of a food allergy, then probably its diet is good.
10. How are Aussies with cats?
Like most dogs, if Aussies are properly socialized with cats, especially from a young age, they make fine companions for their feline friends.
11. Why are Aussie tails docked?
The tradition began on ranches and farms where tails were docked in order to avoid infections from burrs, foxtails, and other sources of injury. Sometimes taxes have been assessed on “non-working” dogs and this was a way of identifying these dogs as “working” stock and therefore not subject to taxes. Aussies do not have their tails docked for cosmetic reasons.
12. How do we find a good breeder?
The United States Australian Shepherd Association has an excellent breeder referral directory, which one can access by going to the club website at www.australianshepherds.org.
13. Where can I find more information about the breed?
Go to www.australianshepherds.org, the website of the United States Australian Shepherd Association. Also, if you wish to support various charitable efforts in support of the breed, go to the web site of the United States Australian Shepherd Foundation at www.usasf.org.