Buying a puppy of any breed is a 12-15 year commitment that can be very rewarding or can develop into a negative experience. It is our purpose to help you make an educated decision so you can experience all the enjoyment possible with your Australian Shepherd if it is the right breed for you. So often people fall in love with a cute puppy for all the wrong reasons and end up with a lot of heartache. Knowing as much as possible about the breed you choose, so you will be sure it is the kind of dog you want to live with, only makes sense. We hope the following information will help you with your choice.
What Does an Aussie Look Like?
The Aussie comes in four acceptable colours: Black, Blue Merle (marbling of grey and black sometimes referred to as 'Salt & Pepper'), Red (ranging from light cinnamon to Liver, Red Merle (marbling have Red and silver or buff). A variety of white and or tan markings may appear on the face, chest, front and rear legs. The outer coat is of moderate length, straight to wavy and weather resistant. The undercoat is soft and dense, and the amount varies with the time of year. Tails are various lengths from a natural bob to a full tail. Ears of moderate size and break forward or to the side for a Rose Ear. Males weigh approximately 23 to 29 Kilos measuring from 20 to 23 inches and females weigh approximately 19 to 25 kilos measuring 18 to 21 inches.
The eyes of the Australian Shepherd are perhaps one of his most commented on features because of variety of colours. They may be any colour combination of colours from pale blue, amber, hazel, to all shades of brown.
The main question now is " Is the Aussie the right dog for you and your family" ?? Talk to any responsible breeder and not someone that is just out to sell a puppy, for the Aussie may not be the right dog for you . Any good breeder should be honest enough to tell you if in their opinion if they think that an Aussie is not the best choice to fit into your family.
Suggested Reading - Books
All About Aussies - Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor
The Champion of Versatility - Liz Palika
The Australian Shepherd Manual - Sue Helms
The Structure and Movement of the Australian Shepherd - Victoria Mistretta
The Aussie is an energetic dog, and needs plenty of exercise. While they aren’t quite as hyperactive as some breeds, they do need lots of exercise, physical and mental. If you are looking for a dog who is content with nothing more than a pleasant walk in the evening, go elsewhere. Better behaviour through exhaustion is the rule for living with an Aussie. If you don’t have time to give this breed at least an hour of exercise a day, every day then you will find that an Aussie with excess energy will find another outlet for his drive, and the results are seldom pleasant.
2). SMART, SMART, SMART
It cannot be stressed enough that this is a dog with brains to spare. Keeping all that intelligence focused and busy is a big challenge. These dogs MUST be given at least basic obedience training, and many Aussie owners are active in several dog activities (herding, agility, flyball, tracking and competitive obedience) just to keep their Aussies occupied. Even an Aussie who is “just a pet” MUST have basic obedience training and the chance to use their brains (teach them to bring the paper, have them carry the mail in, teach them tricks) or they have the potential to become downright obnoxious around the house.
3). JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU !
Aussies are not always as easy to train as other breeds. They need to be challenged and engaged by their work, or they get bored and stop paying attention. They may also try things a dozen ways before they get around to doing what you’re looking for. Patience, inventiveness and flexibility are the rules.
4). DID YOU SAY NO ???
If you give an Aussie an inch, they will take a mile and come back for another. Aussies are generally too smart to engage in out and out dominance battles. Instead they sense power vacuums, and exploit them. If you are unable to be firm (kind, but firm) about the rules of your household, and to enforce them consistently, you will find that the ruler of your household has four legs.
“If you are not in charge, they will be :-( ”
5). NOT EVERYBODYS’ BEST FRIEND
It is essential from the earliest point that Aussies are well socialized with both people and other animals. If you are looking for a dog who wants to be the world’s best friend, the Aussie may not be for you. Aussies are gentle and kindly and many can be quite outgoing, but if you are looking for a dog with that Lab “I just met you and you’re my best friend” attitude, the Aussie may be wrong for you. The Aussie will greet strangers happily, but generally reserve true enthusiasm for their family and special people. !! REMEMBER DOGS OF ANY BREED CAN BECOME AGGRESSIVE IF POORLY SOCIALISED!!
Aussies are a herding breed, and are bred to be working dogs. They can have a frantic drive to work which will lead to them working you, your family and other pets.
7). SHEDDING COAT AND MESS
Aussies do blow their coat seasonally however if asked about shedding the standard answer should be once a year for 365 days. The fur ends up everywhere, clothes, work surfaces, even your food! They are not the dog for the fastidious or the allergic.
On the whole the Australian Shepherd is a healthy dog but that is only through responsible breeders keeping it that way. All Sires and Dams should be clear of any eye defects and tested every year. They should also be hip scored before the breeding takes place and all the puppies should be eye tested at between 6 – 8 weeks of age. A responsible breeder will be able to give you copies of all the documentation and not be hesitant or excuse the lack of it. A responsible breeder will also realize that an Aussie under 2 years old is not physically and mentally mature enough to have a litter and wouldn’t attempt to do it.
Consider your own lifestyle before considering an Aussie!! If you are up and off early and spend large portions of your time out then an Aussie won’t be the dog for you. They thrive on companionship and interaction with others.
Do you really want a puppy? Whilst the Australian Shepherd is numerically low in numbers there are still dogs who for whatever reason need to find another home. Could you offer one of these dogs a long and happy life?
ASCUK is the foundation Australian Shepherd Club in the UK and was formed in 1986 by a few dedicated breed enthusiasts.
If you would like to become a member, please fill in the contact form on the Membership page on the 'About ASCUK' tab.