The Australian Shepherd of North America is believed to have come from a mix between several strands of Collie Cattle-dogs and the wild dingo in Australia. When the British came to Australia to raise cattle and sheep, they brought with them common herding dogs such as the black Border collie, and the Lassie type collie, which is predominantly red in color. These bred with the wild dingo of the local territories, which were grayish to buff in color. The Australian Shepherd ranges in color from solid black with white markings to red with white markings, and from blue merle*, which is black mixed with grey giving it a bluish tint to red merle*, which are a mixture of red and buff colors. There are also tricolors, which have deeper colors with copper and white markings. Merles should never be bred together due to probable genetic abnormalities.
Aussies came to North America with sheepherders sometime around 1800 and have remained pretty close to the original breed brought over from Australia. Aussies usually have medium to long hair with a slight wave to it, males generally having slightly longer hair than females. Occasionally a more shorthaired animal will appear in litters, probably due to their dingo ancestry. Eye colors range from blue to hazel to brown, sometimes with different color eyes on the same animal, or sometimes with multi-colored eyes. Aussies are medium size dogs with females ranging from 40-50 lbs and about 20” in height, while males range from about 50-60 lbs and are about 22” high.
Australian Shepherds are generally healthy animals and live 10-12 years with proper care. Some Aussies are particularly prone to demodectic mange and should be dipped at 3, 6, and 8 weeks and regularly thereafter (about every 3-6 months). All puppies should be regularly wormed, vaccinated, properly sheltered, and fed with a good diet for longer life.
Aussies are very active dogs, which were originally bred for working dogs. They will naturally “herd” chickens, cats, children, vehicles, or anything else if they are not properly trained to contain their natural instincts. They don’t necessarily need a large yard to run in, but it is preferable to have ample space for such an energetic dog. As long as they are given adequate time and attention from their owners, they do fine in just about any setting. They love to play ball, Frisbee, and water sports. Any regular activity will keep their natural instincts and energy in check.
Aussies are very intelligent as well as active. They were bred for intelligence to outsmart their herds, and have been known to out smart their owners as well. Aussies are also very social animals and need to be included in family activities as much as possible. They are both quick learners and very loyal animals that love to please their owners, so they can be trained quite easily. When properly trained a commanding voice is usually all the discipline needed. They have very good guarding instincts, are naturally territorial and possessive, so they are good watchdogs as well. They are generally good natured with children and are naturally protective over them, but they may try to herd running children* and may even nip at their heels if left unattended and untrained. *Very small children should never be left unattended with any kind of dog.
Good purebred pet quality Aussies sell for about $150 with or without papers. Purebred, breeding quality puppies sell from between $300 – $1000, usually with papers.