The “Aussies” Taking the World by Storm (Though They’re Not Really Australian) 

May 15,2024

Animal Care And Farming

The "Aussies" Taking the World by Storm (Though They're Not Really Australian) 

You might think the dog breed proudly named "Australian shepherd" hails from the outback, but think again! These stunning and capable canines actually trace their roots back to the American West. Don't let the name fool you – they're conquering dog shows and winning hearts across the globe. A recent Australian shepherd named Viking took home the top prize at Crufts, proving the breed's undeniable appeal. 

A Family of Champions 

It seems like winning runs in the family! Viking's uncle, Bradley, is an Australian-based champion with quite the trophy collection. Bradley's success in both international and domestic dog shows speaks volumes about the Australian Shepherd's consistent beauty and impressive temperament. 

What's the Big Deal About Dog Shows? 

Organizations like Dogs Australia host dog shows throughout the country. Think of these events as canine beauty pageants where dogs are judged against the 'perfect' standard for their breed. Australian shepherds frequently dazzle the judges, thanks to their eye-catching looks and the breed's signature smooth, flowing movement. 

Aussies: More Than Just a Pretty Face 

Breeders like Paulene Andrews are smitten with Australian Shepherds for good reason. "They are incredibly beautiful, but their gentle nature and sharp minds are just as impressive," she says. It's that combination of beauty, brains, and a strong work ethic that makes these dogs so trainable and a pleasure to have as companions. 

Originating as ranch dogs bred for herding, the Aussie still retains that 'can-do' attitude. However, they're just as happy to relax as loyal family pets. It's this adaptability that adds to their wide-spread popularity. 

Popularity Comes with a Warning 

Unfortunately, the Australian Shepherd's rising fame attracts some less-than-ethical breeders. It's always important to seek out reputable breeders who understand the importance of health testing and prioritize the well-being of the dogs. Doing so helps protect the future of this wonderful breed. 

Colors that Captivate 

Australian shepherds make a bold statement with their stunning coat colors. These dogs come in a variety of eye-catching patterns, including blue merle, red merle, solid black, and striking red hues. Viking, the recent Crufts winner, sports a beautiful blue merle pattern. Their distinctive colors surely contribute to their success in the show ring. 

Where Did They Come From? 

Despite the name, the exact origins of the Australian shepherd breed are a bit hazy. The prevailing belief is that they developed on ranches in the Western United States. Skilled at herding sheep, these dogs likely gained their name from the flocks they tended, some of which were imported from Australia. However, some historians suggest a more complex history with roots in the Basque region of Europe. 

Basque Shepherds and Beyond 

Some believe that Australian shepherds might share ancestry with the Pyrenean Shepherd, a breed hailing from the Basque country between Spain and France. When Basque shepherds emigrated to Australia, it's possible their dogs came along, eventually making their way to the United States. There, they might have mixed with various herding breeds, including British imports, resulting in the Aussie we know and love today. 

A Breed on the Rise 

The Australian shepherd officially gained recognition by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) in 1994. Now, they're a mainstay among the working dog group, known for their herding talents. However, it seems working dogs are having a moment in the spotlight beyond the ranch. 

The Oscars Go to the Dogs 

Just look at Messi, the seven-year-old border collie who recently charmed viewers at the Oscars. This highlights a growing appreciation for the intelligence and versatility of working dog breeds. Australian shepherds, with their eagerness to please and boundless energy, fit perfectly into this trend. 

A Word about Backyard Breeders 

Paulene Andrews, a dedicated Aussie breeder, expresses concern about the breed's newfound popularity. "Unfortunately, some less responsible people jumped on the trend without proper knowledge of breeding practices," she warns. This can lead to dogs with health or temperament issues. It's crucial to find an ethical breeder committed to responsible practices and the well-being of their dogs. 

Potential Challenges of the Breed 

Like any dog breed, Australian shepherds come with a set of considerations for potential owners. Their deep-rooted herding instincts are something to be mindful of. Even in the absence of livestock, these dogs might try to 'herd' young children, other pets, or even cars! Early socialization and dedicated training are crucial to channel these instincts in a positive direction. 

australian shepherd

Energy That Needs an Outlet 

Aussies are not couch potatoes. Bred to work long hours on ranches, they possess an abundance of energy. Regular exercise, both physical and mental, is essential to keep an Australian shepherd happy and well-adjusted. Long walks, games of fetch, and even dog sports like agility provide essential outlets for their athleticism and natural intelligence. 

"They might settle down after a good morning run and play," says Paulene Andrews, "but they're definitely not a low-maintenance breed." If you're searching for a laidback lapdog, an Australian shepherd might not be the best fit. 

The Issue of Separation Anxiety 

Australian shepherds form strong bonds with their families. While this creates a devoted companion, it can also lead to some separation anxiety if the dog is left alone for extended periods. This might result in destructive behaviors like chewing or excessive barking. Crate training and providing plenty of mental stimulation with interactive toys can help mitigate these issues. 

Are Aussies Good Family Pets? 

With proper training and an active lifestyle to match their energy, Australian shepherds absolutely can thrive in family settings. Their gentle nature and playful spirit often make them wonderful companions for children. However, their innate herding instincts require supervision and guidance around younger family members. 

These dogs are exceptionally loyal and eager to please. With consistent training, they quickly learn good house manners and become cherished members of the family. If you have the time, dedication, and active lifestyle to meet their needs, an Aussie might be the perfect match. 

Concerns for Show Dogs 

After the recent Crufts win, animal welfare organizations raised concerns about certain breeding practices that can prioritize appearance over health. The example cited was a French bulldog with breathing difficulties, likely due to its exaggerated features. Responsible breeding, with a focus on overall health and temperament, is essential for the well-being of any breed, including Australian shepherds. 

The Ideal Aussie Owner 

So, who is the perfect match for an Australian shepherd? Someone who enjoys an active lifestyle holds a distinct advantage. These dogs thrive when they have a sense of purpose, whether that's participating in dog sports, learning tricks, or joining you on hikes and adventures. 

Experience with dogs is also a plus. While Aussies are incredibly smart and trainable, their intelligence can sometimes lead to a bit of mischief if not properly channeled. A seasoned dog owner will appreciate their quick wit and be prepared to provide consistent guidance and stimulating activities. 

"Australian shepherds want to be a part of everything you do," remarks Paulene Andrews. This breed craves companionship and doesn't do well if left isolated for long periods. The ideal Aussie owner is someone who embraces the idea of having a furry shadow tagging along on most outings. 

Families with older children can be a great fit for the breed. Aussies generally get along well with kids, especially if they have the opportunity to socialize with them from a young age. Their playful nature meshes well with the energy of older children, and they can be trained to respect boundaries around small toddlers. 

Finding Your Aussie 

If you've decided an Australian shepherd is the right dog for you, the first step is to do your research. Seeking out ethical breeders who prioritize the overall health and temperament of their dogs is paramount. Organizations like Dogs Australia can be a useful starting point for your search. 

Breeders should be transparent about any health testing performed on their breeding pairs. Certain issues like hip dysplasia, eye problems, and epilepsy can be found in the breed. Conscientious breeders work hard to minimize these risks through careful selection. 

"Talk to multiple breeders," advises Andrews. "Ask lots of questions, and trust your gut feeling." A reputable breeder will prioritize the long-term well-being of their dogs and ensure each puppy goes to the best possible home. 

The Possibility of Rescue 

Sometimes, even purebred dogs end up in need of a new home. Breed-specific rescues may exist in your area, offering Australian shepherds a second chance. Adopting a rescue dog can be incredibly rewarding, as you'll be providing a loving home to a dog in need. 

Rescues often have adult dogs available, giving you a chance to experience the breed's full personality before committing. Be aware that rescue dogs sometimes come with their own set of baggage. Previous neglect or unknown history can create behavioral challenges. Work with the rescue organization to understand an individual dog's needs before making a decision. 

Aussies: A Breed Worth Considering 

Australian shepherds are captivating canines, winning over hearts with their beauty, intelligence, and affectionate nature. It's no wonder they're becoming increasingly popular companions and fierce competitors in the show ring. With their striking looks and captivating personalities, they stand out from the crowd. 

While Aussies are incredible dogs, they aren't the right fit for everyone. Their high energy levels and need for mental stimulation require an active owner willing to dedicate time to training and exercise. If a dog that happily lounges on the couch all day is what you're after, this breed might not be the best match. 

However, if you're drawn to a loyal and loving companion with a zest for life, the Australian shepherd has a lot to offer. Their incredible intelligence makes training a joy, and their playful spirit brings a delightful energy to any household. Before welcoming an Aussie into your family, take an honest assessment of your lifestyle to ensure you can meet their unique needs. 

A Final Word on Responsible Ownership 

Whether you choose a puppy from a reputable breeder or adopt a deserving rescue dog, responsible pet ownership is essential. Spaying or neutering your Aussie, staying up-to-date on vaccinations, and providing proper nutrition and exercise are crucial for ensuring a long and healthy life for your furry friend. 

Remember, choosing a dog breed is a big decision. Doing thorough research and understanding the breed's history, temperament, and needs are crucial steps. The Australian shepherd can be a wonderful choice, bringing years of companionship and adventure to the right family. 

Key Takeaways 

Despite their name, Australian shepherds originated in the United States. 

Their eye-catching colors and effortless movement contribute to their success in dog shows. 

Aussies are intelligent, energetic, and incredibly loyal dogs. 

They do best in active homes and require commitment to training and exercise. 

Choosing a responsible breeder or considering rescue are important ways to find the perfect Aussie companion. 

Wrapping Up 

I hope this deep dive into the world of Australian shepherds has provided valuable information and inspiration! With their winning combination of beauty, brains, and unwavering loyalty, it's easy to understand why these dogs are capturing hearts everywhere. 

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