He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.
-- Author Unknown
There are numerous stories about the origins of Australian Shepherds. The one that seems most "true" to us is that the Basque Shepherds developed them over years in the mountainous regions of France and Spain to help with the sheep herds. One source of information told me that her Grandfather had Aussies in the Philippines where she grew up….he had a red merle and a blue merle, descendants of the dogs he had brought from Spain as a boy moving to the Philippines. Yes he was the son of a Basque shepherd!
Aussies come in a variety of colours, they are not just "the little blue dog". The four "accepted" colours are Red with or without copper and/or white, Red Merle, Blue Merle and Black, again with or without copper and/or white. For excellent pictures and explanations of the accepted and unaccepted colours please use this link to A Field Guide To Coloration of Australian Shepherds which is now included on the ASHGI (Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute) website. On the ASHGI site you'll find a wealth of health and genetics information about Aussies.
The Australian Shepherd dog, by heritage, is a herder and guardian. Sometimes their instinct to herd can be mistaken as "meanness" when they are trying to herd other animals and/or children. Nipping at the ankles is not an uncommon trait in young Aussies with herding instinct, but is easily discouraged with a gentle shake and an "ah-ah" sound. All of our Aussies have learned not to nip ankles within a few days but, taught in this manner, it has not destroyed their natural herding instincts. Aussies, properly trained and socialized make wonderful companions, they are highly intelligent, loyal, affectionate and protective of their property and their human family. Their high-spirits and eagerness to please make them an easy to train dog who will generally show great enthusiasm for learning new things and being challenged on a daily basis. Aussies excel in the show ring, trial arena, obedience ring, and they can be wonderfully athletic agility and flyball dogs. Their high energy makes them a serious candidate for lots of daily exercise and play. Aussies are generally good with children and other pets, although they usually try to keep the "herd" together! With strangers, Aussies can be aloof and show reserve but this should not be taken as shyness, they are generally just keeping an eye on things and making sure that the new person is acceptable before making them a friend. As a rule if you, as their owner, tell them the person is acceptable they will accept your word for it. Once an Aussie makes a friend, they are a friend for life.
The ASCA breed standard for Aussies is 20-23 inches for males and 18-21 inches for females measured at the wither; and the weight guidelines are 25 to 65 pounds. The Aussie lifespan is usually 12 to 14 years but there are Aussies who have lived to be 20+!
Aussies have a double coat (downy undercoat with coarser guard hairs) that requires moderate grooming, a thorough weekly brushing is usually sufficient. It is said that it's common for Aussies to shed twice yearly, spring and fall and during these times brushing more often is recommended. Our dogs live in the house and shed year-round, so if you're after a dog that doesn't shed much an Aussie isn't for you!
Aussies, in general, do not have many health problems. Reputable breeders OFA or PennHip (for hip problems) and CERF (for eye problems) they're breeding dogs before allowing them to be bred. Dogs without good OFA or PennHip and CERF results should never be bred. Generally a good diet and regular exercise along with regular vet checkups and annual vaccinations, once past the puppy shots, are all that is necessary to keep your Aussie in good health. For more information on diseases that have been found in Aussies, please go to our genetics page.
One extremely important thing to remember...
some Aussies have shown a very bad reaction to heartworm medication
containing Ivomectin and also Piperazine is in a LOT of wormers and
Aussie show a sensitivity to this drug in some studies that were reported
in the AVMA. For this reason no heartworm medication except
INTERCEPTOR should ever be given to an Aussie and if you use worming
medication containing Ivomectin on any other animals (cattle, horses etc.)
your Aussies should not be allowed anywhere near the area until all
traces of the medication are eradicated.
The ideal owner of an Aussie is someone who not only wants a companion who desires to be with you all the time if possible, but should be a person who has the patience and time to ensure their companion gets proper training. As well, lots of regular exercise and play are necessary to keep your dog in good physical and mental condition. Aussies who do not get enough exercise and/or play time can tend to make their own fun by getting into mischief! A rural or suburban lifestyle is best for an Aussie and their immediate home should include a large fenced yard. Aussies should not be allowed to run free, their herding instincts make them ideal candidates for chasing cars and livestock if they are not kept in their own area. We strongly recommend that puppy owners take their Aussie pup to "kindergarten" for training with a reputable trainer. Your vet or pet supply store can be good sources to recommend trainers but always be sure to get references from people who have trained their dogs with them….most trainers will even let you go sit in on a session before deciding to train with them.
At Lakehills, our Aussies are our companions first and foremost. They love to travel in the trucks or van, no matter whether it's a 5 minute drive, a 20 minute drive to town or a 15 hour trip to somewhere new…..they want to go. They go visiting our friends, go camping in the Sierra’s and keep me company when I'm in town shopping, it's all the same to them since they're out "seeing the world" and keeping us company. They don't like being left "home alone" but are well behaved and we always get the famous "Aussie grin" and dance routine when we return. It matters not if it's only been 15 minutes, they are always excited to see us and resume the companionship.
If you are thinking about adding an Aussie pup to your home please also read
Recommended Reading, Books & DVDs:
There are many excellent books that have been written on Aussies. Some of them are listed below.
To start with is a wonderful list of books and DVDs by various members of the Hartnagle family, owners of Las Rocosa Australian Shepherds, the Australian Shepherd Club of America #1 Hall of Fame kennel. The Hartnagle family have been raising Aussies for over 50 years and most of the family are herding and/or breeder judges with a wealth of knowledge to share. You can purchase any of the Hartnagles books and/or DVDs directly from their website by clicking here.
All About Aussies - This beautiful autographed hardcover book is just that - all you'd want to know about Aussies and more! By award-winning author, breeder, trainer, and judge, Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor. Known as the "bible" on the breed, this book is a must for every Aussie enthusiast. I have all three editions of the book and all are slightly dog-eared from being read over and over again…each time I read them I remember or learn something new. Jeanne's book has more information about Aussies than any other book I've seen and is packed with wonderful photos. All About Aussies retails for around $60.00 (including shipping) and is worth it's weight in gold and I believe is a "must have" for any Aussie owner.
The Total Australian Shepherd: Beyond the Beginning - this fascinating book is a comprehensive history of the Australian Shepherd. Ernest Hartnagle & his daughter Carol Ann Hartnagle-Madsen have collaborated and their work begins where all the other Aussie books leave off. It illustrates key dogs in the Spider Web and is a most exciting and interesting work on the breed. The History Chapter puts the faces with names as they document the past to the present with some never before published photographs and information from early owners of the breed. Instead of telling the reader about the character of an Aussie, they bring the personality to life with anecdotes from actual owners of the foundation bloodlines over the past 50 years…all this and much more!
Stockdog Savvy - written by Jeanne Joy and her husband Ty Taylorl
Herding Dogs: Selecting and Training the Working Farm Dog - written by Chris Hartnagle-Renna,
The Spider Web (Australian Shepherd Genealogy Chart) is one of the most important documents ever written for the Australian Shepherd breed. A complete research tracing 40 years of the foundation dogs of the breed of record. Researched & written by Ernest Hartnagle, this document is a “must have” for any Aussie enthusiast!
If you've an interest in herding, you will also find a list of available DVD's by the Hartnagles:
Herding I - (Overview) This video provides an overview of stockdog training basics.
Herding II - (Young dog work) Deals with introducing the young dogs to the skills needed for working livestock.
Herding III - (Advanced penning & shedding) Details advanced skills.
Herding Series - All three DVDs from the herding series.
In The Ribbons - The Dog Show - preparing & competing with your Aussies.
An Evening With Ernie Hartnagle - Ernie brings to life the Australian Shepherd’s development from obscurity to mainstream popularity during the past 50 years.
The Bandit Project ~ The Making of "Down from the Mountain: The story of Bandit and the Wolf" - this is a great book by Jim MacKrell. Not only is it a wonderful story but the "hero" is based on one of the all-time great Aussies "HOF VCH WTCH CH Shopes Goodnight Bandit CDX RTDsc HAs HXd" who was owned by Steve & Anne Shope of New Mexico. Click here to visit Jim's blog and there is a link available to order his wonderful book. A portion of the proceeds from the book is going to be donated to the National Canine Cancer Foundation and the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute to help in their search for a cure for cancer in pets.
There is a widespread variety of books written on training dogs for a wide variety of venues, far too many to listed them all here. There are also wonderful resources available on the internet. Clicker training, obedience training, agility training and so on are all interesting reading and I'm sure any good bookstore will carry a good collection and would be happy to recommend several to you. Try doing a Google search on the subject of your choice.
Again a vast amount of information can be had on just about any topic to do with dogs and we recommend you read everything you can, and choose what you wish to do once you've you finish your reading. A couple of good sites to start with are Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot The Dog and Suzanne Clothier's Flying Dog Press.
Although there are numerous articles written about dogs, we have chosen to name two that we believe should be very important to all dog owners. Both articles are written by Sheila Boneham, Ph.D.
Who Will Care for Your Pets? A very well written article by Shelia Boneham, Ph.D. about planning for the future of your dog if you become incapacitated or die.
So you want to breed? A series of stories from breeders all about the trials and tribulations of breeding dogs.
Sheila has also written a great Breed Rescue Book and many books on dog ownership and training...her website offers a wealth of information. Visit Sheila's site at by clicking here.
My friend sent me this link and said "my most most favorite purchase of canine first aid "books" came from a Vet in British Columbia. The 'set' has information about diseases, health issues, first aid, dog food, so much that I can't list it all here. Since I purchased it three months ago I've saved the cost in vet bills alone!" Take charge of your pet's health and check out The Online Vet.
Several good books on canine health and/or first aid are:
The Nature of Animal Healing (The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide To Caring For Your Dog & Cat),
by Martin Goldstein, DVM, ISBN #0-345-43919-8
Pet First Aid by Bobbie Mammato, DVM, published by Mosby -- recommended by the American Red Cross
Dog First Aid-Emergency Care for the Hunting, Working and Outdoor Dog by Randy Acker, DVM available by clicking here.
First Aid for Dogs by Bruce Fogel, DVM
There are also a number of e-mail discussion lists available for Aussie owners. Aussie-L is a list with almost 1,000 Aussie owners, breeders, judges from all over the world and people discuss their joys, sorrows, ask for help with questions on all sorts of things and generally just enjoy talking to other Aussie lovers. Herders-L is a list for people with interests in herding dogs. Hoflin has an Aussie list but it is primarily a more serious discussion list concerning health, behavior, training, etc.
©Written by Jeni Gallichan 01-06-99
Regarding 'mini' Aussies...
Recently there has been a rise in the movement to breed “miniature”, and sadly, even a “toy” version of the Australian Shepherd.
Neither of these are recognized by any of the official Australian Shepherd clubs/organizations. The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), the American Kennel Club (AKC), nor the United States Australian Shepherd Association, Inc. (USASA), recognize nor register these dogs. The dogs are only recognized by their own breed clubs which have been formed since they were denied recognition by the above clubs. They are NOT a 'variety' of the true Australian Shepherd, they are a totally separate breed.
We do not breed "mini's", will not allow our males to be used to breed to a "mini" and will not recommend a breeder to you because we personally do not support the purposeful breeding of 'miniature” or “toy” dogs that are then passed off as Australian Shepherds. We breed our Aussies to the ASCA and CKC recognized standard of excellence. These clubs require all of their members to abide by their rules and regulations and their Code of Ethics, and to be ever vigilant in the preservation and protection of the true Australian Shepherd. RETURN TO UPCOMING LITTERS PAGE