The Australian Shepherd has a misleading name, as this dog was actually bred in America. It is a great working dog, but also makes a good family dog as well.
The coat of the Australian Shepherd comes in four colours, black red merle, blue merle, or solid red. All the colours may have white markings or copper points. There is really no preference when it comes to colour. Tricolour dogs are also common, with black or solid red dogs having both tan and white trim along with the primary colour. The eyes may be brown, blue, or amber. If there is white over the eyes or ears it may be a sign of blindness or deafness in this breed.
Ideally the Australian Shepherd will stand about 46 to 58 cm or 18 to 23 inches tall. They weigh between 16 and 32 kg or 35 to 70 pounds. In countries that allow docking, the tail is short bobbed or docked. The breed standard is a tail not longer than four inches.
Like all working dogs, the Australian Shepherd will become difficult if not given proper attention and exercise from its owner. These dogs are bred to work, and if they are not given a specific activity they may resort to barking, digging, chasing, or other destructive behavior just to keep busy. They need a large yard and lots of exercise. These dogs are primarily a working dog with guardian instincts, meaning that this is a large part of the breed’s makeup. While the breed can be friendly, it is typical for them to be stand offish when they are around people they don’t know. Aussies can be territorial, and very protective of property, people, and what the dog considers its own space.
There are many health problems that can occur with this breed. It is important to take your dog to the vet regularly to ensure that these problems are caught and dealt with early on. Responsible breeders will disclose any health problems, and you should ask for health clearances if they are available. Conditions common to this breed include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts, auto immune diseases, and other ailments of the eyes.
The Australian Shepherd was bred in America on farms and ranches in the early 1900s. There was no club for this breed until after 1950, so it is a fairly young breed. The dogs can be of a largely variable height and still accepted. This reflects the fact that the dogs are bred for work. A dog too small will be easily injured, while a dog too large will not be athletic enough. Whether they are used for working dogs or not, the breed standard requires that they are able to perform the tasks that they were originally intended for.