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May 01, 2006
Breed Profile: Aussie
When it comes to describing Australian Shepherds, use a capital “E” when you spell out the word, “Energy.”
That’s not the only word that applies to this intelligent working dog. You’ll use many capital A’s, too. “Active,” “Animated” and “Attentive” are words that also come to mind.
These natural herders live strong on instincts – especially those related to guarding and working in any way to please its owner. If that means chasing after strays from the herd of sheep or cattle, running through brush and dust and dirt – all day long – the Australian Shepherd never hesitates.
Let’s put it another way: You won’t be searching for the words “couch potato” for the Australian Shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd can have lots of energy and endurance – so be ready to find an outlet for this companion. To do what they do, rounding up livestock by out-thinking, maneuvering and controlling these animals, Australian Shepherds are naturally highly intelligent and know how to trick and turn things around. In turn, for everyday living in the world away from the ranch, Australian Shepherds need an outlet for this characteristic.
Whether it’s a tennis ball tossed up a steep hill, a dog park with a host of sights and smells, or a running partner who likes to put on some miles, the Australian Shepherd needs activity – and then some. Leashes and fenced-in yards are a must, too, as these herders will be tempted to shepherd other dogs, children, or passing cars if left unattended and out on its own.
So if you don’t live on a ranch and with intentions of using your Australian Shepherd to drive cattle across to the next county, plan to enroll in obedience classes and be committed to serious training efforts to give your companion the appropriate outlet for this powerful, creative behavior characteristic.
Without the right obedience and coaching, this energy and enthusiasm could easily be channeled into the wrong behavior, experts warn. Digging, chewing, and other destructive behaviors can be found if you’re not careful.
In other words, Australian Shepherd owners must be careful to find the right activities and outlets to give their canine companies a “purpose in life,” breeders recommend. Never underestimate the intelligence and motivation of an Australian Shepherd. Many consider the breed intelligent enough to even out-smart and out-maneuver its owners at times.
The Australian Shepherd can be considered a reliable family dog – for the right active family. As with many breeds, Australian Shepherds can be quite protective of its family pack – some say overly protective at times. Some Australian Shepherds have been known never to accept strangers, another sign of its extreme loyalty. To offset this concern, trainers recommend socializing the animal earlier than later, to get the Australian Shepherd familiar with chance encounters and new people and fellow hounds.
The Australian Shepherd Appearance
Generally speaking, the standard Australian Shepherd is known for its balanced appearance, that is, medium size, being slightly longer than tall, wearing a coat of varying color and individuality. Females can grow between 18 inches and 21 inches tall, while males stand 20 inches to 23 inches high. The Australian Shepherd has a docked or natural bobbed tail.
According to the American Kennel Club, the breed’s color standard can be blue merle, black or red merle. White markings, along with tan or copper points, are common. White body spaces, however, are considered a disqualification in the minds of judges. Australian Shepherds wear a straight to wavy, medium textured coat- short and smooth on the head and moderately feathered on its forelegs and britches.
Judges look for a smooth, free and easy gait when the Australian Shepherd enters the show arena, with a well-balanced stride that covers a good amount of ground, according to the AKC. Naturally, the Australian Shepherd must be able to change direction and demonstrate its agility it uses to excel out at the ranch when it’s called into action.
When on stage for judges to see, the Australian Shepherd must show off its extreme attentiveness and intelligence, according to AKC standards, and be ready, alert and eager to please. Through its brown, blue, or amber eyes, the Australian Shepherd’s gaze should be keen, but friendly.
Puppy or Not a Puppy
As with any type of dog, sometimes breeders are reluctant to part with a puppy if it’s going to be placed in the wrong scenario. Granted, the Australian Shepherd puppy is probably the cutest at eight weeks old, but that soon gives way to the awkward, growing pain stage. Older puppies and adult Australian Shepherd are often for sale.
Some potential owners may hesitate to adopt an older companion, fearing that they won’t adjust or take to the new owner as quickly as possible. This breed can certainly relate and bond to anyone who’s committed to loving, training and spending time with them, according to many rescue groups.
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