Australian Shepherds, whether a Standard, Miniature or Toy variety are a very intelligent breed with herding and guardian instincts. They make themselves a loyal companion to their owners and are a great family dog. Because of their intelligence, they want to be included in whatever you are doing. The Australian Shepherd is a sensitive dog. They thrive in an environment that allows them to be part of the family. They fall into routine easily.
The Australian Shepherds' eager attitude and learning capability makes them fun to teach. They do need some basic training to curb their herding instinct and to learn their place in your family. Taking a local puppy/ obedience class with your dog is recommended. This can also be a great socialization tool for your puppy. Early socialization is very important for a new Aussie puppy, as they can learn to become a bit "reserved" with strangers without it.
When raised with children, they love kids and quickly make it one of their "jobs" to watch and protect their family, even becoming the family babysitter. When one of the kids gets into trouble, the Aussie may tell on them before one of their siblings gets a chance too!
The more that you teach an Aussie, the more that they will learn. They often make excellent obedience, agility, flyball, and disc dogs. There is no limit to the variety of different things that you can teach them with patience and understanding.
They do not have to have a large yard to run in, but they do need daily exercise and attention and thrive best when able to get both. The use of a ball and/or Frisbee is a good source of exercise most Aussie's enjoy. During bad weather a good game of Tug-of-War works well. They love to spend time with you.
There are certain bloodlines that have more herding instinct that others. It is important to work with a reputable breeder that has a good extended pedigree history on the dog that you are thinking of purchasing so that you get the type of personality/ energy level that you are looking for. Herding instinct will affect the personality of your dog. If the breeder that you are working with does not try and match the dogs personality with your needs, look for another breeder. See the page titled "Quality Breeders" for more information on selecting a breeder.
HOW DID THE BREED GET STARTED?
The Australian Shepherds, or "Aussies" as they are often called, that we know today come from the United States. They get the name Australian Shepherd, but were most likely Basque Shepherds that were brought to the United States from Australia in the late 1800's through the early 1900's. During this time a large number of sheep were being imported through the Basque regions of Spain to Australia. When western American ranchers found out about the quality of these sheep, word spread fast and many were imported to the United States from Australia. When these herds were shipped many of the same sheep herders, and the dogs that accompanied them to Australia continued on with their herds to the United States to take care of them on the trip. American ranchers were very impressed with these midsized herding dogs. At the time, Blue Merle's were the dominant color and were often referred to as the "little blue dogs". Impressed with the athletic ability, intelligence and herding instinct many of these dogs were crossed with the herding dogs the American ranchers were using such as the Scotch Collie, Border Collie and English Shepherd. Working ability was the largest consideration during the early years, rather than conformation, but a distinct breed of moderate size and coat emerged. These "little blue dogs" were soon highly esteemed on ranches and farms throughout western America.
The Australian Shepherds gained popularity with the general public following the end of World War II with the upswing in rodeo as a source of reasonable entertainment. Many Aussie's were used as "trick dogs" in rodeo acts due to their ability to learn quick and the need to learn new acts on a regular basis. Many of these dogs were on the smaller end of the scale for easy transporting and working out their acts. They were a natural to have along on a trail ride and to take to horse shows. American cattle ranchers and farmers were drawn to the breed as well to work cattle. It was the American rancher that continued to develop the breed, being careful to maintain the versatility, intelligence, herding instinct and loyalty the dog still has today. The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was formed in 1957 to promote and preserve the breed. In 1991 The American Kennel Club (AKC) granted recognition to the Australian Shepherd. Shortly following the stud books were closed. This means only registered Australian Shepherd females could be bred to registered Australian Shepherd males to have registered Australian offspring.
THE MINIATURE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD
The Miniature Australian Shepherd "Mini Aussie" was developed directly from the Standard Australian Shepherd. As with every breed of dog, there are certain pedigree crosses that produce offspring that are smaller than other crosses and end up too small to meet the breed standard. In the late 60'S and early 70'S these smaller aussies were starting to attract the attention of experienced Australian Shepherd breeders as a more practical size for the general public. Such began the process of experimenting with crossing small Aussie's to small Aussies, watching pedigrees and recording results to eventually get the dogs that are 14" to 18" that are true Australian Shepherds. These were experienced breeders with years of knowledge and pedigree research behind them, careful to maintain the intelligence and all of the traits that make the Aussie the wonderful dog that he still is today. It is believed that the original"little blue dogs" were a smaller dog. As the herding requirements of the dogs leaned to more cattle than sheep, the ranchers philosophy was the larger the animal to herd, the larger the dog to herd it. The same theory that was discussed above to make the dog smaller was used in the mid 1900'S to give the dog more size. Throughout history photos can be seen of the original "little blue dogs" and they were more the size of the mini's of today. The miniature Australian Shepherd "Mini Aussie" has the same breed standard requirements as the Standard Australian Shepherd, except for size. They are by no means a lesser dog, just a smaller version of the Standard.
TOY AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD
The Toy Australian Shepherd "Toy Aussie" is the newest division of the Australian Shepherd. It was a natural step that from the Miniature would come the Toys. The Toys are Miniature Aussies that are too small to meet breed height requirements to be classified as Miniature. The Toy Aussie is a Australian Shepherd only through generation after generation bred to be smaller. This newest division of the Australian Shepherd is growing very fast in popularity as house pets and lap dogs. This is mainly due to their intelligence level, ease to train, desire to be a part of the family and the fact that the Toy size makes a great travel companion! If bred by a reputable breeder, they have all of the same traits as the Standard Aussie! The Toy Australian Shepherd "Toy Aussie" was first recognized by the National Stock Dog Registry. They were also the first to recognize the Standard Aussie and the Miniature Aussie. Standard, Miniature and Toy Aussies are also recognized by the American Stock Dog Registry. The Toy Australian Shepherd Association of America was founded in 2004. The Toy Aussie must meet the same breed standard requirements as the Standard Australian Shepherd and the Minature Australian Shepherd, except for size. They are by no means a lesser dog, just the smallest and newest version of the Standard.