The main theory with regards to the origin of the Australian Shepherd is that although the Australian Shepherd is called Australian it is in fact a breed that has been mainly developed in America, the origin of this breed goes back to the Basque/Spanish sheepdogs.
It was in the late 1800's that the Basques emigrated to Australia to find work taking their sheepdogs with them. Undoubtedly during the time in Australia some interbreeding took place. In the early 1900's the Basque's then moved on to America taking their sheep and dogs with them. Whilst in America it is believed that further interbreeding took place, so that the dogs became more versatile and were able to work different stock, therefore becoming more useful to their owners.
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, medium sized dog and can have strong herding and guarding instincts. They can be easy to train and eager to please, but can be quite vocal at times. They are not the dog for the first time dog owner as behind their good looks, they are extremely clever, fast thinking and have a high energy level which needs to be channelled in the right direction.
Socialisation is very important in Aussies. From day one they love human interaction, but do need guidelines and boundaries setting. ‘Give them an inch, and they will take a mile’ quite happily.
Tails are no longer docked, but the breed does have a natural bob gene so tail lengths in a litter can vary from nothing to a full tail.
The Australian Shepherd is usually a relatively healthy breed. All breeding stock MUST be hip scored with a preferable score under 14. A lot of breeders also elbow score, and both sire and dam must be eyed tested annually and have clear eye certificates before breeding. Puppies should also be eye tested clear before they leave for new homes at 8 weeks.
Aussies should also be tested for MDR1 (Multi Drug Resistance Gene which can cause reactions to certain medications) and also HSF4 Hereditary Cataracts (clear) before being used in a breeding programme and it is strongly recommended that they are also tested for CEA/PRA and wherever possible for Cobalamine Malabsorption and Pelger Heut Anomaly.
Other health issues in the Australian Shepherd include epilepsy, vitamin B12 deficiency and cancer. More information on the health of the Aussie can be found at www.ashgi.org or by contacting the breed clubs.
- Australian Shepherd Breed Guide
- Understanding and Applying the AHT's Hereditary Cataract Test (external link opens in a new window)