So, you're thinking about getting a new pet.
And having looked at all of the available breed, the Australian Shepherd has caught your eye. That's perfectly understandable. Few other dogs possess as much personality and charisma, as the "Aussie." But before you rush out and buy a pup, there's a couple of things you should know about the breed.
The Australian Shepherd, also known as the Aussie, first appeared in Australia in the early 1800s. It's commonly believed that Basques settlers brought the first herding dogs to Australia, and through breeding, eventually turned out the dog we now know as the Aussie. Coloring ranges from near black to blue merle. It's original purpose was to serve as a herder and guardian for sheep and cattle herds. It didn't long for the breed to develop a reputation for loyalty and intelligence.
Aussies are long-lived, with an average lifespan of 12 years. However, it's not uncommon to see one live well past 15. The Aussie can either be a sleek, gangly animal or short and stocky, more along the lines of the Australian Cattle Dog, or "Blue Heeler." Weight can range from 35 to 65 pounds and many of this breed possess the famous, "one blue eye, one brown eye" combination. And true to their breed, they're determined to "herd" anything that moves, including other dogs.
The Aussie grins like a Cheshire cat and seldom has "mood swings." Few other animals have the Aussies capacity for "humor" and enjoys a well earned reputation at AKC dog shows, for it's pranks. It's also a hearty dog and not given to the illnesses that plague many other breeds.
But despite the breed's endearing qualities, the Aussie isn't for everyone. This dog is anathema to apartments. The two seldom mix. Oh, there are exceptions, to be certain. But I assure you, the exceptions are far and few between. Aussies are doers', not watchers. There's nothing they enjoy better than a romp through, over and around your furniture. Energetic to an extreme, they thrive when given ample opportunity to run, outside. If you live in an apartment, be prepared to take up "canine Frisbee" or jogging.
This dog won't be content to lay at you feet while you type or watch television. If the Aussie can't lure you into a wrestling match, and it will try, it will find its own amusement. And that's not always a good thing. They love balls and other pet toys, but be warned, they tend to "eat" the toy as fast as you can buy them. In the Aussie's defense, I can honestly say that I've never had one eat my shoes or the furniture. And I've had dozens of these beautiful dogs.
The Aussie ranks near or at the top in intelligence. Thus, they have a deep rooted need to "investigate" everything. If you're cooking, the Aussie will have to examine the pots, pans and can opener. If you're taking a shower, don't be surprised if it joins you. They also have a low tolerance for other animals and tend to establish dominance early on in the relationship. Males of the breed can be extremely territorial and will challenge any unknown intruders. They simply do not have a sense of humor where uninvited guests are involved.
One of the breeds most unusual qualities is its’ tendency to "adopt" pets of its’ own. I heard tales of Aussies adopting hamsters, cats, and other dogs. Of course, this will generally occur, only if the animals were raised together. I know of one instance that involves an Aussie and its’ pet Schnauzer. The Schnauzer is considerably larger, older and somewhat temperamental, though it accepts the Aussies’ attention with little resistance. There's an old folk tale about shepherds trying to herd small children. While there may some very unusual instances where this has occurred, in most cases, it involved a puppy who was merely following his instincts. There's an old saying about the Aussie, "If it moves, the Aussie will herd it." While generally considered a dog better suited for adults than children, the Aussie will form strong and lasting bonds with kids. They tend to view small children as "funny looking siblings." The Aussie is family oriented and a staunch defender of the "pack."
Caring for the breed is rather simple. Your vet can recommend a proper food and show you how to trim the claws. They seem to grow overly fast and that means trouble for the back of you couch or favorite chair. Most Aussies have very short coats, and only shed for a few weeks, in early spring. You'll need a good brush to collect the "fallout."
The Australian Shepherd may not be for everyone. But if you're one of the fortunate people that has the time and patience to devote, the Aussie will prove itself as a boon companion and stalwart friend. I can offer no better endorsement.