As the breed's name implies, the Miniature Australian Shepherd was born and bred to be a herder. Its natural instinct to herd can be traced, much like every other facet of the Miniature Australian Shepherd, to the Australian Shepherd, to which it shares a history until 1968, when the miniature breed was first created.
On working farms and ranches, the Miniature Australian Shepherd can be found doing the same tasks as full-sized Australian Shepherds. Karen Keller of Timeless Aussies, the 2006-08 President of the North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA, said that the miniature dogs are more effective on working farms than their larger counterparts. Instead of going all the way around the flock, they go over the backs of flocks while working, she said.
But for people who don't have a working farm or ranch but still want to see their Miniature Australian Shepherd do what comes naturally, there's competition herding, or Stockdog. There are many organizations and resources devoted to Stockdog (sometimes called Stock Dog), including Stock Dog Server at www.stockdog.com, Stockdogs Magazine, and the brand new Stockdog University in East Central Indiana. Depending on the country, the rules, the association, the livestock used, or the dogs involved, herding can take many forms, especially in competition.
Probably the most compatible program for the Miniature Australian Shepherd is the Australian Shepherd Club of America's Stockdog Program. The program was created to preserve and promote the instinct of the full-sized Australian Shepherd to be a versatile stockdog, showcasing the innate working ability of the breed through certification programs with several types of livestock. These competitions have a wide range of levels, with classes for first-time handlers and their dogs, beginner handlers and dogs, advanced handlers and dogs, and working handlers and dogs.
The ASCA Stockdog Program is open to breeds recognized as herding dogs by the ASCA in its rule book. The Miniature Australian Shepherd falls into this category. The Minis can compete to earn titles at any ASCA-sanctioned events, but they can't qualify or compete for merit awards or the ASCA Stockdog finals.
For pet owners who are interested in getting your Miniature Australian Shepherd involved in herding, the very best way is to go to an experienced herding trainer. The trainer can provide one-on-one instruction and attention suited to your dog. The livestock and the facility will be fine for beginners as well as for dogs that have a bit more experience. Sessions aren't strictly private set up in one set amount of time, but usually involve several short lessons with several rest periods thrown in. Clinics can also be helpful if private lessons are out of the question.
Itâ€™s important to remember that it takes quite a bit of time and effort from the owner to see results. This is not something your Miniature Australian Shepherd, no matter how intelligent, will pick up on the first try. However, with the right amount of dedication, youâ€™ll find this a rewarding and enjoyable sport for both you and your dog.