Is an Aussie Right for You?
If you are looking for a dog with an intense desire to please and who is very loyal to you and your family, the Aussie will make you a wonderful companion, as well as a great working partner if you have livestock. You should be aware of his territorial instincts and that he may be naturally possessive and protective of his owners and home. You and your environment will greatly determine the dog you end up with.
The Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd, despite its name, was developed in the American west. There are many theories as to how it got its name. Here are a few links to various websites with historical information on the Australian Shepherd:
Working Aussie Source
Las Rocosas Australian Shepherds
All About Aussies
Slash V Aussies
The Australian Shepherd Photo Archives
The Australian Shepherd was developed to be an intelligent, all-purpose stock dog of great character and endurance. Aussies need fenced yards and leashes, as the temptation to herd dogs, children, and traffic can simply overwhelm them.
Being bred to work hard all day means that most Aussies are not content to be couch potatoes. These are high energy dogs who need a purpose in their lives -- a job as it were. Owners must be committed to give these dogs the time and attention they require through play and training, or undirected energy can turn towards destructive behaviors. Running, jumping, and rough-housing are all a part of being a normal Aussie.
Consider carefully if your lifestyle can accommodate the exuberance of a typical Aussie.
More information on the personality & character of Aussies can be found at the ASCA website.
"The Australian Shepherd was developed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a general-purpose ranch and farm dog in the American West, where a tough, enduring, versatile stockdog with an honest work ethic was required."
The rest of the working description can be found at the ASCA webite, under Working Description.
Aussies come in a variety of colors, the basics being Black, Red, Blue Merle, and Red Merle. Each may or may not have copper trim and/or white.
The basic body colors of the Australian Shepherd is red and black. The blue merle is genetically a black dog carrying the merling gene (which looks like patches or splashes of color). The red merle is genetically a red dog carrying a merling gene (which looks like patches or splashes of color).
Health & Genetics
The following information has been gathered to better inform you of the hereditary diseases associated with the Australian Shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute (ASGHI) is your "one-stop shopping" site for information about genetics and hereditary disease in Australian Shepherds.
Hip Dysplasia is a terrible genetic disease because of the various degrees of arthritis (also called degenerative joint disease, arthrosis, osteoarthrosis) it can eventually produce, leading to pain and debilitation.
More information can be found at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) website. There you will also find information on elbow dysplasia and other genetic disease. More information can also be found at the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetic Institute.
HEREDITARY EYE DEFECTS:
Eye Disorders in Aussies (ASHGI website)
According to C.A. Sharp, eye defects are the most common inherited problem in Australian Shepherds. Even discounting the problems that result from merle-to-merle breeding, they are still the most likely genetic diseases a breeder will encounter. Conformation lines are more heavily affected, but working lines experience them also. (Excerpt from Can You See?: Inherited Eye Disease in Aussies article)
MDR1 (Multi-Drug Resistance 1 gene):
Australian Shepherds, along with several other breeds, can carry a genetic mutation that makes them sensitive to certain drugs. Use of those drugs can cause serious neurological illness or death.
Fortunately, there is an extremely accurate DNA test that will let you know whether your dog has this mutation.
The Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute has extensive information on MDR1.
Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine conducts the testing for MDR1.
LETHAL WHITES / HOMOZYGOUS MERLE / DOUBLE MERLE:
When two merles are bred together, there is a 25% chance of producing blind and/or deaf puppies. Predominantly white Aussies are almost always the result of merle-to-merle breeding. These homozygous (meaning "two like genes") merles have inherited the merle color gene from both parents. They are usually, but not always, blind and/or deaf. More information can be found at:
Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute
EPILEPSY:Toby's Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and support to aid in the fight against canine epilepsy.
The Epi Guardian Angels is your source for information, support, treatments, and solutions for veterinarians and owners of dogs with canine epilepsy.
OTHER HEALTH & GENETIC ISSUES:
You can find more information on genetics and other hereditary disease at the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute.