The Australian Shepherd, Energetic, Loyal Working Dogs

australian shepherd energeticIn line with the shepherd label the Australian Shepherd has been bred for their tireless energy and work ethic. Contrary to their Australian label, they originated in the Western United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As ranch work has declined the breed has risen to popularity in dog sports and competitions. They are extremely trainable, loyal and eager to please. They have also found success in more urban work environments such as search and rescue in disaster areas, detection dogs and as guide and therapy animals.

Australian Shepherd History

It’s unclear where the Australian Shepherd originated, but it emerged as a separate breed among the higher altitude farmers of the American West. Their immunity to the enervating effects of life in the mountains made them well suited for herd management in the Rockies and Sierras.

Australian Shepherds were originally known under a few names including Spanish Shepherd, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, Pastor Dog, and California Shepherd. Where the Australian name cam from is disputed. Some think the appellation followed from Basques immigrating by way of Australia. It’s also possible they were named for the Australian sheep that they often were in charge of herding. In any case the name remains, and so do the dogs.

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Australian Shepherds are known for being easy-going, loyal and tireless. They are intelligent, trainable and eager to please. While certain other working dogs can be aggressive, or get cranky in old age, Australian Shepherds are known for maintaining an almost puppy-like friendliness into adulthood. In the context of a ranch or other working environment they will be effective and easy to handle. As pets they will need high levels of attention and exercise for mind and body to be happy.

Any working dog will need attention and exercise to be kept happy as a pet. 2-3 hours of walking, running and playing should be daily standards. If they are not given work and play they will make up their own games free of the social niceties that they’re masters might prefer. Left alone and unstimulated an Australian Shepherd is likely to be destructive and unhappy. For someone living an active lifestyle they will be loving companions, for the less active, or simply less dedicated they could prove to be something of a chore.

As working dogs their independence, versatility and amiability makes them suitable not only for sheep, but also small livestock that require a lighter touch. They have found happy homes herding ducks, geese and even rabbits.

Physical Characteristics

According to the ASCA Australian Shepherds should be between 18 and 23 inches tall at the withers (between the front shoulder blades). Weight should be between 40 and 65 pounds with females being on the smaller side.

Coloring can be black, red, red merle and blue merle. White and tan markings are very common and hold no positive or negative connotations. White markings on the ears of a merled dog could indicate a high chance of deafness or blindness. All merled or pure white dogs should be checked for blindness and deafness.

Eye color varies widely and dogs with differently colored, and even swirled, eyes are not uncommon.

They have an average lifespan for a dog of their size, usually living between 11 and 13 years.