The Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd

The history of the Australian Shepherd lies shrouded in the mysteries of time but one thing seems consistent in all information recorded on the Aussie…they did not originate in Australia.  Rather, their origins appear rooted in the lives of the Basque shepherds who came to North America to work with the great herds of sheep brought in from Australia.  Mixed with other breeds, the Aussie gradually evolved over time into what we know today.   (

Many years ago, a little ball of grey & white fur came into my life.  Kicked by his then owner & severely injured, thankfully, his breeder, Wendy, was called by the owner complaining that the puppy was “no good”.  Wendy picked up the injured pup & took him to her vet which also  happened to be our vet, Dr. Penny Rowland. Whether by chance or serendipity, the following morning I took our shih tzus to the clinic for their yearly check-up and found this twelve-week old puppy lying on a blanket awaiting surgery for his broken hip. This pup, a blue merle, with brown eyes had a steady gaze right into my eyes and my heart.  I fell in love with the breed that day. Our vet planned to rehome him after his operation.  Five days later, this pup, with a cast on his back leg, came to live with us and he never looked back.  A neighbour, who had always wanted to name his dog Geordie, made the firm decision that this pup would be named Geordie.  And there began our love affair with the Australian Shepherd.  I trained him, two courses in obedience and he took to Jock immediately.  He was a man’s dog.   Later, I purchased Ceilidh, a beautiful black-tri Australian Shepherd and two years later, Ceilidh’s breeder asked us to take her sister Hope into our home.

The very qualities that make Aussies so special to those who know & love them are the same qualities that people, who have not researched the breed carefully enough often end up calling Aussie Rescue for, complaining that the dog has too much energy, that they are herding their small children, that they are barking too much (usually because the owners had left them crated all day while they were at work) and then Rescue would be called because of temperament issues.  Avoid farm or backyard breeders.  Their priority in breeding a dog often or never includes researching lines for temperament, health or genetic issues; they are in it to make money.  It’s very important to research a breed you are interested in.  Go to dog shows, speak to breeders, not only of that particular breed but other breeders who are familiar with the breed you are interested in.  Sometimes people spend more time researching the kind of car they want to buy than they do the breed of dog they bring into their homes.  Bringing a pup into your home is a commitment for the lifetime of that animal.

And then, loving a dog is knowing that someday, you will loose that dog most likely before you, yourself die.  Cancer or hemangiosarcoma is becoming a common medical problem with certain breeds, others have known eye problems, skin conditions and so on.  Watch for breeders who put a lot of puppy pictures up on their websites because puppy pictures sell dogs.  Be careful.    This type of breeder is in the business of breeding more for the money they make from puppy purchasers than for the betterment of the breed.  Better breeders may breed only once a year, if that, two to three years may pass before they have another litter.. When you buy from a breeder ask for a three generation pedigree of both the sire & dam of the puppy you’re interested in buying.  Watch for repeated names of kennels within the generations.   Inquire about the temperament of the sire & dam.  Honest breeders are happy to share as much information with you as you think to ask. The best types of breeding are out-crosses, where the breeder goes entirely outside his or her lines to bring in a new genetic pool.

Meg, our most recent Aussie, is all that I could hope for in an Aussie.  She is loyal, energetic, sweet in nature, interactive with friends and family and guards the house with Annie, her ‘sister’,  a very loyal and loving girl.. Now, Annie on the other hand is hard to describe.  She is a pretty girl, flies like the wind, is more intelligent than Megs, a lovely girl but when she was born, there was a mix-up.  To her everlasting regret, she was given a bark instead of a human voice.  Remember, all dogs are born with their own personalities, even within the same breed.

A good source of information on Aussies is the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, Inc. (ASHGI) in California.  The article on Hemangiosarcoma appeared in the Aussie Times in December, 2010 (c) Sandra Small Proudfoot..