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Meet The Australian Shepherd

January 1, 2024

We can’t believe it’s already 2024! One of the first things on our agenda this year is celebrating an exceptional dog: the Australian Shepherd. Quite a few pups have special days this month, including the Standard Poodle, Australian Shepherd, and Labrador Retriever. We’re focusing on the Australian Shepherd in this blog. Also known as Spanish Shepherds, Pastor Dogs, Bob-Tails, New Mexican Shepherds, and California Shepherds, Aussies are friendly yet protective, and have a strong desire to please their owners. This amazing, intelligent pooch gets his own day to shine: January 9th is Aussie Day! A local Newburgh, NY vet discusses the Australian Shepherd below.

Aussie Shepherd Basics

A member of the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes a number of high-performing dogs, including the German Shepherd and Corgi, the Aussie is known for his intelligence, loyalty, and stamina. Fido normally weighs between 40 and 65 pounds and is about 22 inches high. He can live up to 15 years with good care. 

Australian Shepherd: Coat And Grooming Needs

As far as coat colors, Aussies can wear several pretty colors and patterns, specifically black, red, and merle, which is a pretty dappled or mottled pattern. These guys are quite fluffy, and tend to shed heavily, especially in spring or fall. 

Fido falls in the middle of the beauty care needs spectrum. He’ll need weekly grooming to remove dead hair from his double-layered coat. He’ll also blow his coat about twice a year. During those sheds, you’ll need to brush your pet more often, and you may need to use an undercoat rake. (Tip: you may want to head outside for these brushing sessions, and wear an apron. The dead fur will blow away, and you won’t end up with it all over your clothes.)

Aussies are prone to wax buildup, so you’ll also need to clean your canine friend’s ears. Aside from that, you’ll need to occasionally bathe your pooch and keep his nails trimmed. Ask your Newburgh, NY veterinarian for specific advice on your pup’s grooming needs.

Is An Aussie Shepherd A Good Pet?

Often ranked among the most intelligent breeds, Aussies are known for being hardworking, active, and loyal. These pretty pups can make lovely pets. They’re usually quite good with children and, as long as they have been properly socialized, get along well with other animals. However, while the Aussie is a great dog, he isn’t the right match for everyone. These guys may not be the best breed for those looking for an inactive, laid-back pooch. They also aren’t the quietest pups, though this of course varies from dog to dog.

All breeds have specific characteristics, as most pups were developed to perform certain tasks or roles. That is true with the Aussie, who was developed as a herding dog. That line of work required careful thinking, endurance, stamina, and teamwork. Those traits are still present in Fido today. For instance, your canine pal may try to herd you. However, the biggest thing to consider is the fact that the Aussie is a very active and high-energy dog. Fido will require a lot of exercise, playtime, and activity, and he can be destructive when bored or lonely. These guys do best in a home with lots of room to run and play. A fenced yard is ideal.

The key is to find the dog that’s right for you. Do lots of research before adopting! 

What Is The Aussie’s Death Stare?

Fido has also earned a reputation for his intense eyes and gaze. This fierce look, known as the “Aussie death stare,” is very effective at intimidating cattle. (It also provides his humans with some great photo opps!)

Where did the stare come from? The Australian Shepherd has very striking eyes, which can be brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes. Aussies also sometimes have heterochromia, or different-colored eyes. In fact, they can even have more than one color per eye.

(Fun fact: Native Americans considered some Aussies “ghost eye” because of their pale blue eyes and intense stares. They even regarded these extraordinary dogs as sacred.)

 Why Do Australian Shepherds Have Short Tails?

Another fascinating thing about Fido? He doesn’t always have much of a tail to wag.

Roughly one in five Australian Shepherds have short tails. Some have no tails. This isn’t a coincidence: ranchers deliberately selected the pups with this abnormality for breeding, because it was safer for the pups doing herding work.

Aussie Breed History

Many of our canine friends were named after the region they originated in. Examples of this include the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres, who will celebrate  his own special day on the 16th. 

One would logically assume that the Australian Shepherd is from Australia, right?

Not so much. As it turns out, Fido is actually an American dog, who first became very popular as a herding dog, specifically with ranchers in western American states.

As you can probably tell, the Australian Shepherd’s history is a bit confusing. To go back to the beginning, we must look at the Conquistadors who came to the New World. They were eventually joined by shepherds from Germany and Basque, a small but culturally unique region between France and Spain. They brought sheep along with them, as well as dogs to watch them. Those dogs are described as yellow, black, or tan pooches with a wolf-like appearance. Sheep became increasingly popular during the California Gold Rush, which led to even more sheep and sheep dogs appearing on the scene. 

The breeds in Fido’s family tree include several sheep dogs, such as the Collie. Another ancestor may be the Carea Leonés, a small, active sheepdog from Spain. There aren’t any records of the Carea in America, but their resemblance to the Aussie definitely leaves room for speculation.

By the early 1900s, Fido was a renowned rodeo dog who not only wowed crowds with his herding skills but also charmed them by doing tricks. In fact, rodeo star Jay Lister is credited with the Aussie’s rise to popularity. Lister brought Fido on the rodeo circuit. Unsurprisingly, crowds were smitten by the pup’s looks, intelligence, and affinity for performing tricks.

Why Do Aussies Have Such Short Tails?

Unlike most of our canine buddies, the Aussie doesn’t always have much of a tail to wag. About a fifth of the pups are born with short tails or even no tails at all! This is no coincidence: ranchers specifically selected pups with these abnormalities for breeding, for safety reasons. 

What Activities And Jobs Are Aussie Shepherds Good At? 

Aside from being champion herders and great pets, Aussies are also excellent working dogs. They can do well in many jobs, and are often found working as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. They also do well at many doggy sports, such as flyball and agility training. Of course, Fido is also very good at being cute, scoring snacks and belly rubs, fetching tennis balls, and charming everyone he meets. 

Do you have questions about caring for an Aussie? Please feel free to contact us here at Stone Cottage Veterinary Hospital, your Newburgh, NY pet hospital. We look forward to providing excellent care in 2024 and beyond!