THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD: TODAY
From the United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA) official breed seminar
Special thanks to Nannette Newbury, Diane Bettis, Flo McDaniels & Vicki Wehrle
A versatile stock dog with a range of working styles, Aussies continue to be the dog of choice on many ranches and farms, especially in the Western U.S. Aussies are relentless workers with great stamina and are able to handle adverse as well as extreme hot and cold environments.
Although some Australian Shepherds are low-keyed and may make good apartment companions, the typical Australian Shepherd is a high-energy dog that does best when it is given plenty of exercise and daily tasks. Those tasks can include anything from actual farm chores to training on a regular basis for competitive sports. For those Aussies that are raised in pet homes, they will flourish if they can get regular exercise, whether itís jogging with their family members or playing ball or Frisbee in their backyards. If routine physical exercise is not feasible, they must do something that will keep them mentally stimulated, such as learning tricks.
Because the Aussie is extremely intelligent and learns quickly, they can become destructive and take over at home if they donít have an established exercise routine and proper leadership. Aussies are highly-devoted and loyal to their families, but because they were originally bred to work and guard ranches and farms, they can be resource protective by nature.
The modern Australian Shepherd may be aloof around strangers, but they should not be aggressive or fearful. The Australian Shepherd has a reputation for being smart and versatile. They are an upright, loose-eyed breed, meaning that they do not use a crouch or stare to move stock. Aussie work quick, yet are thoughtful and typically gentle with stock.
Besides being an exceptional stock dog, Australian Shepherds excel in agility, obedience, rally, flyball, flying disc, and dock diving competitions. Through the years, dog sports in general have become extremely competitive and most performance Aussies are no longer ìweekend warriors.î They are trained and treated as the true athletes we have made them.
Many competitive Aussies are seen on a regular basis by canine chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists. Because of the physical demands the above-referenced sports have on the Australian Shepherd, it is imperative that they are orthopedically correct, with good hips and elbows, as well as a moderate dog that conforms to the standard to reduce the risk of fatigue and injury. And, when working stock, the better they are put together, the faster they can accelerate to cut off escaping livestock and/or get out of the way of a charging cow or sheep that turns back on them.
Although initially a working dog, the versatile Australian Shepherd quickly found a niche as an all-around ranch/chore dog. The unique coloration combined with intelligence and an unsurpassed loyalty and willingness to please made the ìlittle blue dogî a sought-after dog on ranches throughout the West. These traits and others have allowed the Australian Shepherd to evolve and continue to grow in popularity today. Their athleticism, stamina and agility place them as top competitors in performance events. More serious endeavors such as search and rescue, cadaver or narcotics dogs take advantage of their work ethic. What remains is an incredibly unique, individualistic, versatile breed with a worldwide attraction and popularity that is as strong today as it was on ranches a hundred years ago.