The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, medium-sized dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. He is also a delightful and loyal companion and a great family dog. He loves to be part of the daily hustle and bustle, and enjoys riding in the vehicle just to be with his beloved master. As a farm dog, he diligently carries out his responsibilities, be they bringing in the stock or finding that stray one that got tangled in the brush. He is easy to train, easy to housebreak, and eager to please.
Aussies have been used as seeing-eye dogs, as utility dogs to the physically handicapped, hearing aid dogs, police and narcotics dogs and search and rescue dogs. In the northern areas they have also been used as sled dogs. Many go with their masters as volunteers to children's homes and nursing homes to do therapy work. Truly, the Australian Shepherd is a highly versatile dog.
The Aussie (as he is lovingly nicknamed) is a very active dog that needs a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent him from become bored or frustrated and developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a "job" to perform, be it shepherding the children, protecting the house, herding livestock or competing in dog events.
One of the most frequent reasons Aussies are turned over to rescue groups is because their owners didn't realize how much energy the breed has, and weren't willing to channel that energy through training. Aussies are also quite demanding of their owners' time and attention and want to be constantly with them, following them from room to room in the house, and going along in the car or truck on errands. They can be highly territorial and protective of their masters' possessions, which can cause serious difficulties unless controlled with proper training.
The Australian Shepherd comes in four acceptable colors: black, blue merle (a marbling of gray and black), red (ranging from light cinnamon to liver), and red merle (marbling of red and silver or buff). A variety of white and tan markings may appear on the face, chest, front and rear legs. The outer coat is of moderate length, with a texture that is straight to wavy and weather resistant. The undercoat is soft and dense, and the amount varies with climate. Tails are naturally bobbed or docked. Ears are moderately sized, and break forward and over, or the side as rose ears. Males weigh approximately 50 to 65 pounds, measuring from 20 to 23 inches, and females weigh about 40 to 55 pounds, measuring from 18 to 21 inches.
The eyes of the Australian Shepherd are perhaps one of his most commented on features because of the variety of colors. They may be any color or combination of colors from glassy blue, amber, hazel, to all shades of brown.
While there are many theories as to the origin of the Australian Shepherd, the breed as we know it today developed exclusively in the United States. The Australian Shepherd was given its name because of their association with the Basque sheepherders who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800's. The Aussie rose rapidly in popularity with the boom of western riding after World War II, becoming known to the general public via rodeos, horse shows, movies and television. Their inherent versatility and trainability made them useful on American farms and ranches. The American stockmen continued the development of the breed, maintaining the versatility, keen intelligence, strong herding instinct and eye-catching appearance.
Australian Shepherds have been registered by various registries since the early 1950's. In 1990, the United States Australian Shepherd Association was established as the parent club of the Australian Shepherd representing the breed to the American Kennel Club. On September 1, 1991, the AKC recognized the Australian Shepherd breed and on January 1, 1993, accepted them into the Herding Group.