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Breed Basics

As any true Aussie lover would say, the Australian Shepherd is one of the best breeds out there! For their beauty, inteligence, loyalty, work ethic, and versatility, we love this incredbile animal. If you haven't had the pleasure of owning an Aussie or if you are still getting acquainted, we've taken the liberty of compiling some breed information for you to peruse. Be sure to also check out additional information, such as Genes and Health information on the Extra Treats tab.
Physical Traits
The Australian shepherd is a medium-sized breed of solid build.
They can be anywhere from 30–65 pounds (14–29 kg) and
anywhere from 17–26 inches (43–66 cm) in height. The ASCA standard calls for the Australian shepherd to stand between
18–23 inches (46–58 cm) at the withers, females being 18–21
inches (46–53 cm) and males measuring 20–23 inches
(51–58 cm); however, quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size.
Aussie colors are black, red (sometimes called liver), blue merle (marbled black, white and gray), and red merle (marbled red, white and buff), each of these colors may also have copper (tan) points or

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white markings in various combination on the face, chest, and legs. A black or red dog with copper and white trim is called tricolor or tri, a black or red dog with white trim but no copper is called bicolor or bi. White, rather than pigment, on or around the ears is an indicator of increased risk for white-related deafness. Excessive white on the face and ears can place an individual dog at greater risk for sunburn and subsequent skin cancer.
The wide variation of color combinations comes from the interaction between the a color allele, which is either black (B) dominant or red (b) recessive, and the dominant merle allele (M). Together, these provide four coat-color aspects that can appear in any combination:
  • Black, with tan points, white markings, or both on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Solid black dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
  • Red (Liver) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Either white or tan points are required. Solid Red dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
  • Blue Merle (a mottled patchwork of gray and black) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Neither white nor tan points are required. Solid Merle dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
  • Red Merle (a mottled patchwork of cream and liver red) with or without tan points or white markings on the face, collar, legs, chest, underbelly. Neither white nor tan points are required. Solid Merle dogs are equally desirable as ones with tan or white.
The merle allele, which produces a mingled or patchwork combination of dark and light areas, is the coat pattern most commonly associated with the breed. This merle (M) is dominant so that heterozygous dogs (Mm) show the pigmentation pattern; however, when two merles are bred, there is a statistical risk that 25% of the offspring will end up with the two copies of the merle gene (homozygous). These dogs usually have a mostly white coat and blue irises, and are often deaf, blind, or both. In this case, the deafness and blindness are linked to having two copies of the merle gene, which disrupts pigmentation and produces these health defects.
All black and blue merle dogs have black noses, eye rims, and lips. All red and red merle dogs have liver or brown noses, eye rims, and lips.
There is also great variety in the Aussie's eye color and they are often heterochromatic. An early nickname for the breed was "ghost-eye dog". Aussie eyes may be any shade of brown, or blue; they may have two different colored eyes, or even have bicolored or "split eyes" (for example, a half-brown, half-blue eye), which appear to be linked to the merle coloration. Merled eyes occur as well, where one color is mixed in and swirled with another. Any combination of eye color is acceptable in the breed standard, so long as the eyes are healthy. In general, however, black Aussies (self, bi-color or tri-color) tend to have brown eyes, while red (self, bi-color or tri-color) Aussies tend to have amber eyes, though these Aussies may also carry the blue-eyed gene. These dogs are also brown in color.
The Australian Shepherd is born with a long tail. Breeders have historically docked the tails when the puppies are born. In the United States and Canada, the standard calls for a natural bob or docked tail not to exceed four inches as a defining characteristic; however, some long-tailed examples have been successfully shown and been given recognition. Any natural tail length is permitted when showing in Europe, where docking has been banned in most countries including the United Kingdom.

The breed is typically highly energetic, requiring a great deal of exercise

and attention; although, some can be calm and easy-going. An Australian

shepherd enjoys working, whether it is learning and practicing tricks,

competing in dog agility, or engaging in any other physically and mentally

involving activity.


Dogs may show reserved and cautious guarding behaviors. They are kind,

loving, and devoted to those they know. They are very loyal to their owners,

and are rewarding dogs if treated well. Because the breed was developed

to serve on the ranch, a job which includes being protective of its property,

it is inclined to bark warnings about neighborhood activity. It is not inclined

toward obsessive barking.

The Aussie is intelligent, learns quickly, and loves to play. This means that a bored, neglected, unexercised Aussie may invent its own games, activities, and jobs, which to a busy owner might appear to be hyperactivity: for example, an Aussie may go from being at rest to running at top speed for several "laps" around the house before returning to rest. Without something to amuse them, Aussies can become destructive. Aussies also do best with plenty of human companionship: they are often called "Velcro Dogs" for their strong desire to always be near their owners and for their tendency to form intense, devoted bonds with select people.


The Australian shepherd has a reputation as a highly intelligent and versatile stock dog with a range of working styles.  A good working Aussie is quick, thoughtful, and easy with its stock. The ability for the breed to adapt to the situation and think for itself makes it an excellent all-around worker. For this reason, the Aussie is often chosen to work unusual livestock such as ducks, geese, and commercially raised rabbits.


Australian shepherds can become extremely destructive if their energy is not directed in a positive way. These dogs require a minimum of 2–3 hours a day of play, exercise, and attention. They thrive in rural, ranch like conditions, and need space to run and play in an urban setting. The Australian shepherd is a high-spirited dog, that requires much attention and work. Teaching them tricks keeps them focused and happy, which also keeps their minds working. The breed also has great stamina and can live in a variety of terrain. That's why they are a popular pick as trail dogs and working dogs.


Information borrowed from Wikipedia. Video provided by Animal Planet.

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