Breeds 101: The Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are intelligent, hard-working and athletic, making an Australian Shepherd pretty much the perfect farm dog.

The Australian Shepherd is intelligent, hard-working and incredibly athletic, in addition to being really beautiful as well.  Is it any wonder that they’re the American Kennel Club’s 17th most popular breed of 2018? (This is the most recent year stats are available.)

They are a medium-sized breed, with females typically standing around 18 to 21 inches at the withers (shoulders) and weighing 40 to 55 pounds, while males usually stand around 20 to 23 inches at the withers and weigh anywhere from 50 to 65 pounds.

Aussies live a fairly long time, around 12 to 15 years, which is about 84 to 99 in dog years.

Classified very appropriately into the Herding Group when it comes to dog shows, Australian Shepherds can come in a variety of coat colors, often in a tricolor pattern or something called “merle” (a two-toned swirled pattern), and occasionally have blue eyes.

Their coat is medium length and like most double-layered coats is water-resistant.

According to the AKC Breed Standard, the ideal Australian Shepherd is an “intelligent working dog of herding of guarding instincts,” who is a loyal companion with the stamina to work all day.

For show dogs, the Breed Standard calls for docking the tail, though if left alone it becomes a beautiful flag tail like the Golden Retriever‘s.

While no one really knows how the Australian Shepherd got its name, the only real thing known about it is that they didn’t come from Australia, being solidly an American breed that developed on cattle ranches throughout the later parts of the Old West and the early years of the twentieth century.

The Australian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1957, while the AKC didn’t recognize the breed until 1991. This is partially responsible for a split within the ASCA, which led to the AKC-affiliated United States Australian Shepherd Association.

The Miniature American Shepherd is a spinoff breed recognized in 2012, much like the Sheltie’s relationship to the Collie.

They make excellent guard dogs, though attach very specifically to their family and don’t warm up to strangers. They are also highly rambunctious as puppies and can accidentally bowl over small children – the first dog Wesley’s family had was Sport, a purebred Aussie, would often tackle him and his friends while playing soccer or tag in the backyard.

Though smart, they require a large investment of time in training to keep them mentally stimulated, and if left alone without something to do they can improvise with unpredictable results – Sport visited Grandpa’s farm once as a teenage puppy, and despite never seeing cows before in his life, had them all promptly rounded up by the front gate when we got back from grabbing dinner.

When it comes to sports, Aussies make good running partners, excel at agility and freestyle flying disc, and many love water, which makes them a good candidate for dock diving. (Sport was an exception to this rule – he HATED water of all types, though he loved snow.)

Next: Rover unveils helpful dog breed selector tool to website

An Australian Shepherd named Steve was a character in the very first Disney Channel Original Series Flash Forward, which starred Jewel Staite years before she played the eternally perky mechanic Kaylee Frye on Firefly.