1) Not from Australia
The Australian Shepherd is not a dog breed from Australia, as generally perceived. It is most likely the only officially recognized livestock working breed developed in United States of America. The Australian Shepherd was developed in 1800s California for working on farms and ranches with livestock animals. But why are they named Australian and not American? Well, we are not sure on 100%, but the most accepted theory is, that the breeds main ancestor is a Basque Shepherd. The Basque Shepherd is Spanish breed, but they were most likely brought to America from Australia, and thus, the breed got its name Australian Shepherd. The breed is sometimes also nicknamed as Spanish Shepherd, which makes more sense than Australian Shepherd, as Pastor dog, Bob-Tail or Californian Shepherd.
We are not sure on 100% about the breeds ancestry. Generally, it is believed that the Basque Shepherd is one of the main ancestor of this breed, but it is definitely not the only one. Back in 1800s, sheeps from all around the world were imported to California, from places such as France, Spain, New Zealand or Australia. And very often, these sheeps came into California alongside their shepherds and working dogs. Different other Collie type of dogs probably also played a role in the breeds development and it is very likely that the Pyrenean Sheepdog is also one of the ancestor. But eventhough the exact origin is unknown due to lack of documentation, there is no doubt that the Australian Shepherd breed was developed in the western part United States of America.
Australian Shepherds have been used for many purposes and they quickly became popular as farm and ranch working dogs. They are natural workers, they just love to have some kind of a job in their life and they are easy to train. Originally, they were used for herding the livestock and they truly possess strong herding instinct. But mostly because of their devoted and loyal temperament towards their owners and family, they quickly became a favourite companion dogs and they were ideal family farm dogs. In modern times, they found utilization in many other fields as well, such as search and rescue, as service dogs, drug detection dogs, but you can still find them herding on ranches as well. These dogs also excell at various dog sports like agility, rally, tracking, dock diving, disc, flyball and of course herding events. You can do virtually any sport with Australian Shepherd and they will do it very well.
Of course, the Australian Shepherd is not only a working breed as majority of them are living the happy spoiled life of family companions these days. And they are amazing companions, especially for active owners. It is because these dogs are very energetic and they need regular outdoor exercise to stay happy! These dogs tend to be alert and reserved with people they do not know, but once they get to know the person, they are typically very friendly and playful. They are extremely intelligent and loyal. Actually some people describe them as velcro dog, which means they want to be next to the owner all the time and they follow the owner everywhere. Australian Shepherd can live with other dogs in the family, especially if socialized together from the puppyhood and they are typically good playful and tolerant partners for kids, but of course, you should never leave a young child with any dog breed unsupervised. It is also important to say, that many Aussies have strong herding instincts and some of them might want to herd other family pets or even the kids, so be aware of that. But overall, if you want an intelligent dog that will learn any trick you want and energetic dog that will be alway happy to go on a walk or a hike, than the Australian Shepherd might be a perfect dog for you.
5) Eyes and tail
Now lets talk a little bit about the appearance of the Australian Shepherd. And one of the most interesting parts of Aussies body are the eyes and tail. They have almond shape eyes with curious and alert expression that come in many different colors. Most commonly in brown, hazel, green, blue or amber. The Australian Shepherd is one of the few breeds where heterochromia is quite common. This means, that they can have each eye in different color. Some Aussies even display more than one color within the same eye, but this is quite rare. And what about the tail? Most Aussies are born with long tail, but some of them, approximtely one in five, is born with naturally bobbed tail. And ranchers purposely bred Aussies that had these naturally short tails because they are safer when it comes to herding and very often the long tails were docked.
The Australian Shepherd is a very athletic, medium sized dog breed with average height between 18-23 inch, which is 46-58 cm and weight between 35-70 lbs, which is 16-32 kg. Females are naturally slightly smaller than males. They should have slightly longer body and the body should be lean, athletic and agile.
7) Smart and energetic
The Aussie is a very energetic and very intelligent dog breed. Which means they need a lot of daily physical and mental stimulation. I would not say that they are completely hyperactive, but they will definitely need daily longer walks, jogs, playtime and fun training sessions to stay healthy and happy. This is not a coach potatoe! Exercise is a must for these dogs. Without enough exercise, they might develop some unwanted behaviour, such as excessive barking or destruction. As i already mentioned earlier in the video, a good way how to deal with the Aussies physical and mental exercise needs is through some dog sport like agility, or any other sport actually. And about their intelligence? Well, it cannot be stressed enough that this is a dog with brains to spare. These dogs are fast learners and they can learn almost any trick and command. And most of the time, they will enjoy the training and learning new tricks and you should train them regularly! It is an amazing way how to create a great bond between you and your Aussie.
8) Coat and color
One of the first thing you will definitely notice about the Australian Shepherd is its georgeous coat and coloration. It is a dense doublecoat of medium length, which is weather resistant. The outercoat is typically straight, but there can be little curls as well. The breed standard allows several colors and color combinations, which are blue merle, black, red merle, red all with or without white markings and copper points. White is acceptable on the neck, legs, chest and muzzle underpants. Merles characteristically become darker with increasing age.
Speaking of the coat, it is important to mention the grooming and maintenance as well. It is important to say that the Australian Shepherd does shed all year long, more heavily twice a year during shedding seasons in the spring and autumn, so be prepared for that. To minimize the shedding and to keep the coat in best possible condition, regular brushing is absolute must. Regular brushing is a key to keep the coat shiny, mat and tangle free, to remove any dirt and loose hair and to redistribute natural oils all over the coat. There is no need for trimming or shaving the coat and it is recommended to not shave this breed, or any other doublecoated dog. You can trim some parts of the dogs body, such as feet, tail, legs or ears, but it is not necessary. Just like with any other breed, you should also regularly check their eyes, ears, nails and teeth and clip them or clean them if needed.
The Australian Shepherd is usually very healthy dog breed with average lifespan somewhere around 14 years. Just like any other breed, they can suffer from some more or less serious health issues, such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, collie eye anomaly or von willebrands disease. It is also important to never breed two merle dogs together, as this can cause deafness and blindness next to some other serious health issues. But serious breeder would never use two merle dogs in breeding program.