Happy New Year! It seems that January is going to the dogs. Several cute pups are celebrating special days this month! That list includes the Lab, Alaskan Malamute, Standard Poodle, and the star of this particular blog, the Australian Shepherd. January 9th is Aussie Day! Read on as a local Plano, IL vet discusses this very good boy.
Strong, loyal, and extremely intelligent, the Aussie is part of the AKC’s Herding Group, which also includes some high-performing working dogs, such as the German Shepherd, Border Collie, and Corgi. This Very Good Boy usually weighs between 40 and 65 pounds, and can be up to 22 inches high. With good care, Aussies can live about 12 to 15 years.
Aussies are known for a fixed, intense stare, which is sometimes called the ‘Aussie death stare.’ This tactic helps keep wayward cattle in line.
Many Aussies have heterochromia, or different colored eyes. Their eyes can be blue, brown, hazel, amber, or green, or a mix. In fact, some Aussies have multiple colors within one eye.
These dogs often have striking pale blue eyes. Because of this, Native Americans called them “ghost eye” and considered them sacred.
Friendly but protective, Australian Shepherds are very driven to please their humans. Fido is very loyal and obedient, and absolutely loves going for walks with his humans. Once he’s fully grown, he also makes a good jogging buddy. They do sometimes tend to pick a favorite person, but are generally affectionate to their entire families.
A working dog at heart, the Aussie has a built-in affinity for herding. In fact, he may even try to herd his human pals!
Aussies are incredibly smart, and often make the list of the most intelligent dogs. They’re extremely active, and require a lot of exercise and stimulation. Our take? The Aussie is a great dog, but is probably a better fit for an active hiker than for someone who wants a calm couch potato for a pet.
Aussies are very striking in appearance. They have thick, fluffy fur, and can wear several pretty colors and patterns, including black, red, and merle, which is a pretty dappled or mottled pattern.
Aussies have double layered coats, and should be brushed at least once a week. However, your canine buddy will shed quite heavily about twice a year. You’ll need to use a special brush, known as an undercoat rake, to get that dead fur out of Fido’s coat during those wardrobe changes.
Aussies are also prone to wax buildup, so you’ll need to clean your pup’s ears. Aside from that, you’ll need to occasionally bathe your pooch, and keep up with his nail trims. Ask your vet for more information.
Most of the time, Aussies are healthy and hardy. However, they are prone to a few conditions. Eye problems are not uncommon in the breed. We recommend hip and elbow evaluations, as well as ophthalmologist evaluations. Ask your Plano, IL vet for specific advice.
By the late 1800’s, Fido had taken a detour from herding jobs to join the rodeo. He wowed and charmed crowds by doing complex tricks. In fact, rodeo star Jay Lister is credited with the Aussie’s rise to popularity. In the 1900’s, Lister brought his Aussie on the rodeo circuit. This helped the Aussie win hearts across the country … and later, opened the doors for his popularity as a pet.
Fido isn’t the quietest dog on the block. There is a good reason for this! Barking was very important to the Aussie’s early role as a herding dog, and he hasn’t yet outgrown his tendency to vocalize.
Aussies can make excellent pets. Fido is very active, and still has that exuberant doggy joy we all love. He also enjoys playing with kids, and is an absolutely adorable addition to any family photo.
Fido is known for being extremely agile and athletic, and is that dog who is always on the go. Because they are so lively, Aussies do best in homes with large, fenced yards. They also do very well in various doggy sports, such as agility, obedience, dock diving, or flyball.
Herding is of course Fido’s original career, but it’s by no means his only option. These amazing pooches truly excel in many modern fields. These beautiful dogs may be found working as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Proper training and socialization are particularly crucial for active, high-energy pups like the Aussie. When Aussies are rehomed, behavioral issues are often blamed. The truth is, not everyone can keep up with these active pooches. Any behavioral issues are usually caused by a lack of exercise, a lack of training, or both.
Although some dogs only need basic training, this cute pup usually loves to learn tricks and complex commands. Fido looks adorable when he gets a command right! Keep up with his petucation! These pretty pups need a lot of mental stimulation, which is extremely important to them. Ask your Plano, IL veterinarian for specific care tips.
Breeders often name their pups after the region they originated in. Examples of this include the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and Bouvier des Flandres, who will have his own special day on the 16th. So, it seems logical that the Australian Shepherd is from Australia, right?
Actually, not so much.
Fido is actually an American dog. His first official job was helping cowboys herd sheep, which was particularly skilled at.
As you can probably already tell, The Australian Shepherd’s history is a bit confusing. Fido traces his family tree back to dogs brought by the Conquistadors who came to the New World in the 1500’s. Shepherds from Basque, which is a small but culturally unique region between France and Spain, also played a role.
Meanwhile, Germans were also bringing sheep over to the U.S. West, along with dogs to protect them. Fido’s family tree likely includes the Pyrenean Shepherds, Collies, Border Collies, and Carea Leonés, Carea Leonés, a small, active sheepdog from Spain. There are no records of the Careas coming to the U.S., but their remarkable resemblance to the Aussie seems unlikely to be coincidental. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1991.
Fido has picked up quite a few nicknames over the years He is also known as Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.
Another interesting thing about Fido? He doesn’t always have much of a tail to wag. About a fifth of Aussies are born with short tails. Some don’t have any tails at all. This isn’t a coincidence: ranchers selected the pups with this abnormality for breeding, for safety reasons.
Do you have questions about caring for an Aussie? Contact us, your local Plano, IL pet hospital, today!