Blue merle, red merle, black, and red. Each of these colors may also have tan points on the eyebrows, cheeks, and/or legs; thus also creating a black tri and red tri color variations.
20-23 inches at the withers
18-21 inches at the withers
Not recommended for living in the city. They need a large fenced in yard and open country.
Sometimes referred to as "ghost eye", the eyes can either be green, hazel, amber, brown, or blue. They may also have bi-colored eyes (each eye is a different color), split eyes (eye is half-green, half-brown), or merled eyes (one color is mixed in and swirled with another); any of these colors are accepted. The eyes should be expressive, almond-shaped, and well-defined. Their eye rim color is vital in avoiding flying hooves, as it absorbs sunlight and reflects the suns' rays away from the eyes; black and liver rims are best.
Blue merles, blacks, and black-tri colored dogs will usually have black noses, while the red merles, reds, and red-tri colored dogs, will have liver noses. Merles are allowed small pink spots on their nose, but must not make up more than 25%. The skull ranges from flat to slightly domed shaped with a well-defined stop. The length and width should be equal, with the overall size in proportion to the rest of the body. The ears should be triangular in shape, and rounded at the tip; they should be long enough for the tips to reach the inside corner of the eye. Teeth are to meet in either a scissors or level bite.
The tail can either be straight, docked, or naturally bobbed; it should be no more than 4 inches long. Since tails are docked anyways, they are not necessarily breed for, which can result in having puppies born with wide varieties of tail length. Breeders will usually dock tails at 2-3 days of age. The shoulders are well laid back, long, and flat, and lay fairly close to the withers. The neck is slightly arched of medium length, well set into the shoulders in proportioned to the body. The chest is long and deep, with well-sprung ribs that help increase lung capacity. The topline is flat and level. The front legs should be strong, straight, and oval-shaped. Removal of dewclaws on the front legs are optional, but must be removed from the rear legs; this is done between 2-3 days of age as well. The feet are oval shaped, compact, with well-arched toes; the pads should be black or liver.
The Australian Shepherd is a double coated breed. The overcoat varies from straight to wavy to curly, and is of medium length and texture; it is also weather proof. Like all other double coated breeds, the undercoat is soft and dense. Most Australian Shepherds will blow their coat once a year in the early summer months, though some may blow twice a year. It is found that Australian Shepherds kept inside shed all year long.
There should be feathering on the backs of forelegs and britches, as well as a moderate mane and frill around the neck. Males usually have a thicker mane than females. The hair on the head and front of the forelegs is shorter than the rest of the coat.
White is acceptable on the neck, chest, legs, muzzle, underparts, and blaze. A white collar must not exceed to the point of the withers.
The Australian Shepherd was developed in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries, in western North America. It is unclear to where the name "Australian" came from, other than the only dogs coming from Australia were merle in color. European settlers immigrating to the United States brought over many herding breeds to take care of the livestock. Breeds thought to be used in the makeup of the breed include the: English Shepherd, Dorset Blue Shag, Cumberland Sheepdog, Scottish Collie, Glenwherry Collie, Bouvier des Flandres, and the Welsh Sheepdog. It is believed that most of the dogs that contributed to the breed came from Great Britain and Scotland. It wasn't until later on, that shepherds began to breed dogs that excelled in watching the flock and weathered well in the area; other than at random. Those that worked well in hot and cold climates, as well as being tough enough to work cattle unaccustomed to dogs, were used for breeding.
After World War II, they were used regularly in Western movies, television shows, and in rodeos. They soon became a popular addition to farms and ranches.
The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent, active dog. Though somewhat shy around strangers, they are good natured and delightful companions. Because of their love for play, they make great family dogs, always wanting to be in the midst of their family. They are great with children, though some may try to herd them by nipping at their heels; this can be prevented with proper training. These loyal companions are eager to please and never want to leave your side; the term "Velcro dog" comes to mind. They form powerful bonds with their people, which can sometimes lead them to be very protective and territorial of their families' possessions. Courageous, yet affectionate, this breed is highly versatile in adapting to whatever their family asks of them.
Dogs of strong working lines may be more reserved, protective and territorial than ones bred for a family-oriented environment.
Major Health concerns for the Australian Shepherd are:
The breed is also very sensitive to ivermectin (used in heartworm medicines).
Mostly all of their Health Problems are hereditary, such as Heart disease, elbow dysplasia, cancer, Allergies, and thyroid dysfunction. As early as 6 weeks, they can be checked by a veterinarian to determine whether any eye defects are present; at 2 years of age they can also be checked for hip dysplasia. Those dogs found to have any hereditary defects, should be spayed and neutered, and removed from the Breeding program. The gene that creates the merle patterning also carries a blind/deaf factor. Breeding merle-to-merle can result in deaf or blind puppies, as well as other defects; breeding natural bobtails-to-natural bobtails can also result in spinal defects.
The Australian Shepherd is an average to heavy shedder. One should plan on vacuuming often, as even after a thorough brushing more loose hair will fall off. Weekly brushing with a slicker brush, followed by a series of comb-outs, is best; start with a coarse comb and then moving on to the medium comb. A shedding rake is also recommended, as it will remove all of the dead hair in the undercoat, making it easier to comb through. If mats are found on the dog, shaving is not recommended, as it can leave them vulnerable to sunburn and possibly scarring; pin brushes work great for removal of mats. Pay close attention to the feathering on the front and back legs, as well as behind the ears, as these are where most mats are found. A thorough brushing is recommended every 6-8 weeks.
Most Australian Shepherd owners find there is a process that works well in giving the coat a good, complete brush through. Begin by brushing with the grain of the hair, in small section to be sure the undercoat is being reached; then against the grain with a pin brush. Finally, work the coat back to its original place. Do not bathe too often, is it removals the natural oils in the coat, and can leave them with dry skin. Brushing and dematting should be done before bathing.
After bathing, you will want to blow dry them until completely dry. Left with a damp coat can create skin problems. Keeping at least a foot away on medium heat, and using a pin brush, will hurry up the process. Finish up with another comb-out.
Australian Shepherds require a great deal of vigorous exercise, and athletic activities to keep them satisfied. Daily walks are a must to give them the opportunity to vent their energy as well as mental stimulation. Getting involved in agility, herding, rally, or obedience are perfect outlets for all that energy.
They are not intended to be a house pet; They require a job to perform. When they become bored, they get out of hand, destroy things (by chewing), and endlessly bark. They demand constant attention and want to be by your side no matter what. Working lines may also be too energetic to be a suitable pet; they are more at home in wide open country working with livestock.
One of the most common reasons Australian Shepherds are brought to shelters, is because their owners had no idea on how much energy they have and were not willing to help channel that energy through exercise.
The key to a well-balanced Australian Shepherd is through training and socialization. Providing enough socialization should include exposure to people and animals, as well as areas with varying levels of distractions. The breed can become very suspicious around unusual people, due to the fact that they are very territorial and protective of their family.
Australian Shepherds were bred to work livestock on daily basis. Because not everyone has a flock of sheep in their backyard, this breed requires a "job". Whether it is given toys focused on mind-stimulation, being engaged in play, or focused on training, this breed needs something to do.
This breed is very intelligent, and learns very quickly. They excel at, and enjoy agility, rally, flyball, frisbee, and obedience. A lot of time, attention, and training is needed to handle such a strong-minded breed. Attending training classes is a must for owners and their Australian Shepherd, especially in their first year.