Our Breed" reflects the opinions of the Stevens
Opinions differ, and other Breeders may think differently.
The exact origin of
the Australian Shepherd is unknown. However, it is generally
accepted that it evolved from sheep dogs imported into the Western U.S. by
the Basque shepherds from the Pyrenees mountain region of Spain. The
Aussie's heritage almost certainly includes a variety of different herding
breeds and good ranch dogs, but whatever its family tree, it is a
wonderful breed - just ask any Aussie owner!! However, its
uniqueness, much of which is derived from its herding origin, also makes
it a breed that is not for everyone. In the right home, under the
right circumstances, the Aussie can be the most wonderful
"dog" experience you will ever have. But the wrong Aussie,
in the wrong home, with the wrong owners, can be a disaster. If you
are a first time Aussie owner, please research the breed thoroughly and
carefully before you acquire one. We would like to point out the
"types" of Aussies have evolved within our breed, and the two
are rather different in appearance and frequently in temperament.
There is the "conformation", or "show" type Aussie,
which in general is larger, has more bone and coat, and has a more mellow
temperament than the "working" type. The
"working" type resembles more closely the "old time"
Australian Shepherd that was found solely on farms and ranches, many years
ago before conformation shows were held for Aussies and before they became
popular as companions. If you are not familiar with the different
types the best thing to do is to attend some ASCA events where you can see
both types competing in conformation, herding, obedience, and
agility. Then be sure to select a breeder that produces the
type you like.
Our breed has
experienced a vast increase in popularity over the past few years.
As popularity increases, so does the number of people who produce Aussies
only for the fun of it or to try and make a few dollars. These
people do not have the best interest of our breed (nor their puppy buyers)
at heart and often are ignorant of the genetic and health problems that
Aussies can have. If you plan to acquire an Aussie, buy only from a
reputable breeder that knows the breed thoroughly and doesn't hesitate to
discuss not only its good points, but its faults, with you. Be
certain a written guarantee is given, even on pet quality puppies.
Don't be offended if the Breeder questions you at length about your
lifestyle, location, goals for the puppy, etc. A good Breeder is
genuinely concerned about their dogs and wants to be sure that they, as
well as the new owner, will be happy. Interview several
different breeders and find one that you are comfortable with and that
produces the type Aussie you are looking for. Be clear about what you
expect from the dog you acquire and ask if the Breeder thinks their dog
will meet your expectations. Respect the Breeder who tells you they
don't think an Aussie is the dog for you, or that their Aussies don't fit
your particular need. You and the Breeder will likely have a long
relationship, so be sure it's a good one!!
Shepherd was developed as a herding breed. Most Australian Shepherds
will exhibit herding traits, including some nipping of heels, attempts to
herd objects (and people) together, and a desire to stop motion.
Some people find this behavior objectionable.
Shepherd is normally protective of its territory and family. How
protective it becomes is determined by its heritage, socialization, and
are normally high energy dogs and are very intelligent. They require
regular and adequate exercise. If left alone and not given adequate
attention and exercise they will become bored and seek to amuse themselves
in ways you will not find amusing -- like barking, howling, digging, being
destructive, etc. In our opinion apartments and condos are not well
suited to Aussies although some do reside there quite happily. City
homes can be acceptable if a large fenced in exercise area is available,
and if the family includes the dog in their activities so that it receives
intelligence and herding heritage makes some Aussies a challenge to the
novice pet owner. Basic obedience training is a must, as it is with
any dog. They are normally very eager to please their owner, but can
be quite strong-willed.
Australian Shepherds have very moderate coats, this is a long haired and
double coated breed. Shedding is normal, especially about two times
a year when the undercoat sheds. Bitches also shed after their heat
cycle or after weaning a litter. Aussies kept inside most of the
time may not experience seasonal shedding but will shed to some extent all
during the year. Regular brushing will be needed to remove loose
hair and prevent mats.
are normally good with children, particularly if raised up with
them. The energetic, fun loving Aussie is often well paired with
active young people. However, very young children must not be
allowed to dominate or aggravate an Aussie, as this can have a lifelong
adverse effect on their relationship.
The merling gene that
gives merle colored Aussies their beautiful distinctive coat pattern can
also cause defects in merle puppies that result from the breeding of
two merle parents, and happen to inherit the merle gene from each
parent. These puppies are called "merle whites",
homozygous merles, or "lethal whites" and will normally be deaf
or blind, or both. They usually can be identified readily at birth
but sometimes look quite normal and the defect is not apparent until they
are older. Be especially careful if you are purchasing a puppy from
a litter which resulted from a merle to merle breeding. For further
explanation of the merle gene,
Aussies come in four
acceptable main colors: black, blue merle, red, and red merle.
yellow are unacceptable colors. Each color can occur without or
without copper and/or white trim. A non-merle Aussie is generally
referred to as a solid, even though it may have white and/or copper
trim. The red gene is recessive and can be carried by black or blue
dogs. For picture examples and further explanation of coat colors in
the Australian Shepherd
Although the Aussie is
considered to be a "healthy" breed, it is not without its health
problems. Any breeder who tells you they have never had any genetic
problems with their dogs either has not bred very many litters, doesn't
check for genetic disorders, or isn't being truthful with you. Dogs
are not physically perfect (neither are humans!) and it is not a crime to
produce a dog with a defect. The crime occurs when the breeder hides
it, denies it, and isn't truthful when asked about it. Click on the
name to learn more about the following disorders which may affect your
Collie Eye Anomaly
Papillary Membrane (PPM),
bites and missing teeth,
Arteriosis (PDA). As you can see, it is important to ask
questions and acquire an Aussie from relatively
genetic lines (no line is "perfectly clean"). For a
complete list of Aussie health articles,
If you have never
owned an Aussie, it is imperative that you understand its temperament and
tendencies before acquiring one. Please read the following regarding
TEMPERAMENT, which is an excerpt from our standard Purchase Contracts:
- According to the A.S.C.A... breed standard, the Australian Shepherd is
"...intelligent, primarily a working dog of strong herding and
guardian instincts. ...He is reserved with strangers...."
...Strong herding instincts are
sometimes misinterpreted as aggressiveness ("herding" groups
of people together, "heading" or "heeling" to stop
or start motion while going for walks, playing, etc.) While nipping of
people should never be permitted, future owners should be aware of
behavior that is unique to herding breeds. Aussies normally become
protective of their territory and family, particularly any children in
the family. Some are more protective than others. They usually make
excellent watchdogs. You must be aware of the guardian tendency and
understand that normal precautions should be taken when introducing
strangers to the Aussie’s territory and family. Also, if there are
children, the Aussie may exhibit its protective nature when
"its" children play with other children, particularly if the
play involves running and rough-housing.
strangers", in our interpretation of the breed standard, means that
the Aussie does not normally greet every strange person with a smile and
wagging tail, begging to be petted. They are ordinarily solemn and would
rather not be directly approached or touched until properly
"introduced" to the stranger and allowed sufficient time to
accept them. Usually very affectionate toward their master and family,
Aussies may not desire affection from other people.
It is very important that an
Australian Shepherd be properly socialized, beginning at an early age.
We recommend taking the dog with you as much as possible - to friends’
or relatives’ homes, when you go on errands, and that you expose it to
as many different people and situations as possible. This is even more
important if you plan to compete with your dog in the future. Obedience
and/or conformation classes (even if you do not plan to compete in the
breed ring) are excellent ways to socialize your dog.
In addition to the
reading material listed below that we find helpful, please visit the web
site of the
Australian Shepherd Club of
America to learn more about our breed. Remember that it is very
important to RESEARCH before you buy!!
- All About
Aussies by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor -Quite simply, the
"Bible" about Australian Shepherds. Required reading
for all present and future Aussie owners. Contains everything
you could possibly need to know. Available from the
Las Rocosa Aussies.
Times" - Bi-monthly magazine of the
Shepherd Club of America. Free with membership.
- Judging the
Australian Shepherd - Available from the author,
- The Structure
and Movement of the Australian Shepherd - Available from the