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Australian Shepherd - Breed Profile

The Australian Shepherd known simply as the "Aussie" is a medium-sized breed of dog that was, despite its name, developed on ranches in the United States during the 19th century.

The Australian Shepherd has a great deal of stamina and is loving, bold, alert, confident, independent, smart and responsive. 
For many years, Aussies have been valued by stockmen for their versatility and trainability.


The Australian Shepherd's history is vague as is the reason for its misleading name!

The breed was initially called by many names, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, California Shepherd, and Austrian Shepherd!

It is believed by some that the breed has Basque origins in Spain and was used there by shepherds. Those shepherds might then have emigrated to the West Coast of the United States via Australia. 

However, scientific evidence has shown that the breed has lineage from American dogs that originally came over the Bering Land Bridge. 
What is known is that it was developed in western North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Australian Shepherd was a particularly tireless sheep herder in the Rocky Mountains because it is relatively unaffected by altitude. 

A theory suggests that they were named for the imported sheep that they herded. It is also possible that many of the dogs coming from Australia were blue merle and the adjective "Australian" became associated with any dogs of that coat colour.

There are different theories regarding the association of the breed with Australia, but there is no consensus on why it was adopted. Genetic research has found that Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are closely related to each other; both are slightly more distantly related to other kinds of Collies and to Shetland SheepdogsAussies rose in popularity after World War II and became known to the general public through rodeos, horse shows, and Disney movies.

Whilst they continue to work as stock dogs and compete in herding trials, the breed has earned recognition in other roles due to their trainability and eagerness to please and Aussies are highly regarded for their skills in obedience. 
Like all working breeds, the Aussie has considerable energy and drive and usually needs a job to do. It often excels at dog sports such as herdingdog agilitycanine disc and flyball. They are also highly successful search and rescue dogs, disaster dogs, detection dogs, guide dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs. 


The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed of solid build. Aussie colours are black, red (sometimes called 'liver'), blue merle (marbled black, white, and grey), and red merle (marbled red, white, and buff).
Each of these colours may also have copper (tan) points or white markings in various combinations on the face, chest, and legs. 

A black or red dog with copper and white trim is called 'tricolour' or 'tri', a black or red dog with white trim but no copper is called 'bicolour' or 'bi'. 

White, rather than pigment, on or around the ears is an indicator of increased risk for white-related deafness. Excessive white on the face and ears can place an individual dog at greater risk for sunburn and subsequent skin cancer.

All black and blue merle dogs have black noses, eye rims, and lips. All red and red merle dogs have liver or brown noses, eye rims, and lips. Red merle with copper points and one brown eye and one blue eye, blue merle with copper points with blue eyes.

Also, great variety is seen in the Aussie's eye colour, and they are often heterochromatic. An early nickname for the breed was "ghost-eye dog". 

Aussie eyes may be any shade of brown, or blue; they may have two differently coloured eyes, or even have bicoloured or "split eyes" (for example, a half-brown, half-blue eye), which appear to be linked to the merle coloration. Merle eyes occur as well, where one colour is mixed in and swirled with another. 

Some Aussies are born with naturally bobbed tails. Others have full long tails, and others with natural partial bobs, where the tail is shorter and appears stubby. 

For the Australian Shepherd Breed Standard, please visit Dogs Australia


The Australian Shepherd is typically highly energetic, requiring a great deal of exercise and attention. Teaching them tricks keeps them focused and happy, which also keeps their minds working. 

The Aussie is intelligent, learns quickly, and loves to play. This means that a bored, neglected, unexercised Aussie may invent its own games and jobs, which to a busy owner might appear to be hyperactivity. Without something to amuse them, Aussies can become destructive.

Because the breed was developed to serve on farms, a job which includes being protective of its property, it is inclined to bark warnings about neighbourhood activity. Dogs may show reserved and cautious guarding behaviours with strangers but they are kind, loving, and very loyal to their owners. 

Aussies also do best with plenty of human companionship: they are often called "Velcro dogs" for their strong desire to always be near their owners and for their tendency to form intense, devoted bonds with select people.

The Australian Shepherd has a reputation as a highly intelligent and versatile stock dog with a range of working styles. 

A good working Aussie is quick, thoughtful, and easy with its stock. For this reason, the Aussie is often chosen to work unusual livestock such as ducks, geese, and commercially raised rabbits.

Health & Lifespan

Australian Shepherd can suffer from a number of health issues. Vision problems are common and epilepsy is also a concern.

Collie Eye Anomaly
(CEA) is rare in the breed but both this and cataracts are a concern in Aussies. 

Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition where the femur does not fit securely in the pelvic socket of the hip joint. This problem can exist with or without clinical signs, meaning some dogs feel pain in one or both rear legs. 
Ensure that both parents of any puppy have been tested for Hip Dysplasia and that both parents and pups have clear eye certificates. 

Double merle issues
In merle-to-merle breeding, the puppies that have inherited two copies of the merle gene have an increased risk of being born blind and/or deaf. However, deaf or blind Australian Shepherds can make wonderful pets given a home prepared for their special needs. They are an intelligent breed, which generally learn hand signals with ease.

Their average lifespan is between 12 to 15 years.


Australian Shepherds have a medium-length, water-resistant coat. With the coat being somewhat long and wavy or curly, this breed does shed, mostly in the spring to get rid of the winter coat. The Aussie should be brushed weekly to maintain a healthy and clean coat and also to prevent matting. 

With being a "working dog", this breed should be outside to get its needed exercise. If your dog is dirty, a basic bath can be given, but not too frequently as this can dry out the dog's skin and coat.

For more information on the Australian Shepherd breed, please contact:

The Australian Shepherd Club of VIC Inc. 

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