Thanks for enquiring about Australian Shepherds.
From a reputable breeder, the only difference between Australian Shepherds, Miniature
Australian Shepherds and Toy Australian Shepherds should be size and where they are
Historical pictures from the 50's 60's and even the 70's show that Australian Shepherds under
18 inches at the shoulders were a naturally occurring size within the breed as they still are
today. The Australian Shepherd Breed Standard was written to "prefer" dogs that were over
18 inches but with no height disqualification.
In the 60's a select few breeders decided they actually "preferred" their dogs well under 18 inch
for working purposes. A smaller Aussie is more agile when working in close contact with livestock.
A smaller Aussie is compact enough to fit on the saddle of a horse with the cowboy he was
These breeders decided that they would intentionally select the smallest dogs they could find
that were of true Aussie quality and they used those small dogs as the foundation of the Mini
Aussie. Some of the foundation dogs used to establish the mini size were not registered and
had no known or recorded pedigree, whether they were 100% aussies or not is the foundation
for the hostility between Aussie breeders and mini breeders today.
The preferred height for each size is as follows....
Toy Australian Shepherds are up to but not including 14 inches at the withers.
Miniature Australian Shepherds are between 14 and 18 inches at the withers.
Australian Shepherds are 18 inches and taller at the withers.
It is possible to breed two large size parents together and get miniature size dogs, just as it
is possible to breed two mini size parents together to get either larger or toy size dogs
depending on how genetics fall into play.
Any puppy who has both parents registered with an Australian Shepherd registry such
as CKC/AKC/UKC/ASCA, are eligible for registration with the same registry regardless of
the puppies adult height.
These organizations DO NOT recognize size varieties of the Australian Shepherd.
Any litter that has even one parent who is only registered as a Miniature with IMASC, MASCA
or NAMASCUSA, is only eligible for registration as a Miniature regardless of their size as an
Please make sure you know your needs when purchasing an aussie or mini aussie. If you want
a small aussie but wish to play in CKC/AKC venues for things such as conformation and
agility, make sure you get a dog who is eligible by registration. Please do not purchase a
mini expecting to be able to play in all the same venues with Aussies because that is simply not
the way it works. You will have restrictions.
COLOR AND MARKINGS
Aussies come in a variety of colors. Black, red, blue merle and red merle. All with or without white and copper markings. Some
Aussies will have the full white collar, white blaze, white chest and 4 white feet as in the cartoon graphics below, and others will
be minimal white, even to the point of being 100% coloured with no white or copper markings. This is all very acceptable in
Aussies. While their flashy coat colour often make them extremely popular, coat colour should be the last thing you look for when
choosing a puppy. No matter how pretty your puppy is on the outside, if the personality isn't a match, you will not be happy with your
puppy. If you are set on a certain colour or gender, then you should be prepared to wait as long as 2-3 years for that perfect puppy
to come around. A good responsible breeder will match you based on personality first and colour and gender second.
Please take the time to look at the pictures below to see all the differences, no two aussies are 100% alike, they are like
fingerprints. So while you may prefer a certain look, please understand that no breeder has complete control over what will be born.
BLACK RED BLUE MERLE RED MERLE
Aussies are generally a healthy breed of dog. However certain things should be discussed with your breeder prior to
PLEASE AS A BUYER INSIST ON WRITTEN PROOF OF ALL TESTING.
ANYONE CAN SAY THEIR DOG IS TESTED, ANYONE CAN PUT IT IN PRINT ON THEIR WEBSITE AND
BE LYING ABOUT IT. INSIST ON SEEING THE ORIGINAL PAPER WORK IN PERSON OR HAVE THEM
EMAIL YOU A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL SO YOU CAN SEE THE TESTING IS ACTUALLY BEING DONE.
NEVER FEEL BAD ABOUT ASKING A BREEDER TO PROVE THEIR DOGS ARE WORTHY OF YOUR
HARD EARNED DOLLARS.
Many breeders say they test on their websites but don't in reality. BUYER BEWARE
Many breeders also talk a good talk and will try and justify why they choose not to do certain testing.
BEWARE! There is no good reason to skip any of these tests other than to cut corners financially and
make the most profit possible as a breeder. If you choose to willing buy from a breeder who is not
testing, then your purchase price should reflect that heavily.
Aussies who are breeding should have their eyes tested yearly by a CERF certified K9 Ophthalmologist.
We test eyes every 12-18 months to make sure that the dog is not prone to developing an eye disorder at a young
age. Just because the eyes were fine last year doesn't mean they will be fine this year.
ALL puppies MUST be tested prior to 8 weeks old. If you are looking at a breeder who is not testing your puppies
eyes, then you should find a new breeder. There are so many small anomalies that can and do crop up that no
responsible breeder skips this test. Iris coloboma ( very popular in merle coloured dogs), small optic nerves, retinal
folds etc are all things that can crop up and can not be seen by your breeder or their regular vet. If the breeder you
are looking at does not test adults yearly and puppies of every single litter, save yourself future heart ache and choose
a more responsible breeder. These breeders are the breeders who are breeding strictly for profit, they will cut corners
at your expense so their profit is the highest they can make it.
We now have a genetic test available to us for Collie Eye Anomaly. This is a test done by blood or cheek swab, it tells
us as a breeder if the dog has this disease or is a carrier that can pass the gene on to it's puppies. Having one copy of
this gene does not make the dog unsuitable for breeding, but responsible breeders are now testing their adults to know
if their puppies could possibly also carry this gene. Insist on a breeder that is doing this test!
We now have a test for hereditary cataracts. This is a form of cataract that is passed from parent to offspring.
There is no good reason breeders have not started to test for this disease in their breeding dogs. Any breeder
calling themselves responsible is testing for this. IF your breeder does not care enough to know if your puppy is at
risk, you may want to look for a new breeder.
Progressive retinal atrophy. Again, any dog that tests as a carrier is not necessarily a dog who should not be
breeding, but as a buyer you have the right to know if your puppy will possibly be affected by this gene. It is a newer
test and a lot of aussies are testing positive as carriers. Many of these carriers have been bred together prior to the
test being made available, meaning that there are double positive dogs out there who could loose their vision at an
early age. So far our research, which is ongoing, has found that dogs who are considered affected with 2 copies of
the gene are still not guaranteed to loose any vision, they are simply the only dogs who "could" loose vision from
this disease. We will NOT be removing any dogs from our breeding program at this time. We will be testing all of
our dogs and trying to breed away from this gene and strive to eliminate it from our gene pool over the course of a
few years. This means if a dog is a carrier, it absolutely can still be used for breeding, ONLY to dogs who do
not carry the gene. Dogs who test positive for 2 copies again should not be removed prematurely from the gene
pool, instead they should only be bred to N/N dogs who have no copy of the gene, producing a litter of carriers who
then will only be bred back to normal dogs to eliminate the gene.
Degenerative Myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord that is similar in many ways
to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Onset is typically after the age of 7 years so some people may be misdiagnosing
symptoms with old age, hip problems or arthritis. Progressive weakness and in-coordination of the rear limbs are
often the first signs seen in affected dogs, with progression over time to complete paralysis. This disease is not
as common in Aussies as PRA is but it is still showing up in some blood lines. It is important to your dogs long
term health that your breeder has both parents tested for this debilitating disease to prevent you from heartache
in the future.
Breeding dogs should also have their hips x-rayed and rated prior to breeding. This is a simple x-ray that your vet
can take, but the x-ray MUST be sent away to either OFA or PennHIP for an official rating. If the dog doesn't pass the
hip rating, then it should be altered and never bred. No exceptions. If the parents of the litter you are looking at do
not have their hips tested and officially rated, then you should not even consider getting a puppy from that litter.
Just because their parents have good hips, does NOT mean the dog in question will. Nothing in life is guaranteed
but we want to stack the odds in our favor. Insist on parents who are tested to increase the odds of your puppy
having good hips as well.
Aussies have tests for the MDR1 mutated gene. This gene has been around a long time and the test has been
around a few years now. The MDR1 gene ( multi drug resistance 1) causes herding breeds to be unable to
process "certain" drugs properly. The drugs build up to a toxic level in the dogs brain and it CAN KILL them. Many
dogs have died from having this gene and no one knowing they shouldn't have certain drugs. It's similar to an allergy
to medication. It doesn't mean the dog should be removed from a breeding program, neither does it mean that it will
not be a wonderful pet who lives for 15 years. It just means there are a list of drugs the dogs should never have if he
has a copy of this gene.
All responsible breeders are testing their breeding dogs and are providing owners with the information of whether
their puppy needs to be tested or not. If both parents are Normal/Normal, the puppies can not have the gene. If one of
the parents have even one copy of the gene, then the puppies could have received a copy of the gene and should
be tested. A responsible breeder will provide you with the test kit when you pick up your puppy if it is needed as
well written copies of both parents test results.
This is a growing concern in our breed. There is no test for epilepsy and no way to know 100% if your dog is effected
or a carrier. A responsible breeder does many hours of research on pedigrees to find out if any of the ancestors in
a pedigree have ever produced it and if so how far back and with what mate. By doing this we are at least able to
assess the epilepsy risk with each cross. No cross is 100% epilepsy free. A good breeder should know the risks and
be able to explain them to you so you are not in the dark.
Epilepsy will pop up unexpectedly even from the best of breeders. A good breeder stands behind you and supports
you if this happens.
Australian Shepherds are a herding breed. They were bred
to work long hours in the field with farmers tending herds of
cattle, sheep and even fowl. Aussies were not bred to be
hyper. A true Aussie is "ready" to work at a seconds notice,
but is also content to sit back and relax when there is no job
to do. Farmers did not move their flock around just to
amuse their dogs. Their dog had to be capable of working
when needed and had to be calm enough to have around
when he wasn't needed. Due to the nature of the Aussies
job and the need for him to take direction from his owners,
Aussies bond quickly to their family and make good
companions and watch dogs. The eager working attitude of
an Aussie makes them easy to work with, but their high
level of intelligence also means that obedience classes are
a must. As with any dog, early socialization to people,
noises, and surrounding is of the utmost importance. Even
more so with Aussies.
**It is our personal opinion and experience that the Aussie
that is more true in herding instinct is a better family pet.**
As a herding breed it is important to know your dog is not going to let a stranger walk away with your livestock or with your
dog for that matter. When anything out of the ordinary is happening on your property, your Aussie will bark to alert you. This is
what they were bred to do. In the city this can end up being the mail man, the stray cat, the garbage man, the UPS driver, a
squirrel etc. Anyone or anything which the Aussie feels doesn't belong that close to his property and family, will result in the
family being alerted to a possible danger. So some Aussies may be less suited to apartment lifestyles. I find my girls are
more alert barkers than my males, although there are exceptions to that rule. Some of my dogs are also very vocal during
play. So if barking may be an issue for your family, you should let your breeder help you choose a puppy who barks less than
This also means that Aussies are not everyone's best friend. They are bred to be reserved with strangers in order to protect
the farmers livestock and family. They are not golden retrievers who love anyone with a friendly smile and a cookie. Most
Aussies stand back when anyone they do not know approaches. They do not want to walk down the street and have a dozen
strange people pet them. They watch their owners body language, and will often stand in between the stranger and the family.
Often the Aussie will stand beside the family looking very uninterested in the stranger. If the stranger approaches the dog, the
dog may either back away, or crouch down in an unsure posture. People must earn the trust and respect of an Aussie.
Aussies do not give their trust freely. If you are wanting a dog to love everyone you meet. Then an Aussie is not for you.
Aussies can be wonderful with children. This requires both children and dogs to be well trained and supervised
at all times. Both kids and dogs have big hearts and may forget to be as gentle as required. Adult supervision
will make their relationship a safer one. Always remember that dogs need their space. When a dog has had
they WILL have a strong desire to chase and even nip small moving objects including children. This is not biting
and is not aggression. This is a natural herding instinct and should be expected. If you need advise on this
behaviour, please talk to your breeder. When Aussies and Children are raised together they develop a very
strong bond and are often best friends. When they have this type of bond the Aussie is usually a natural
guardian to the children in the home. We hear many stories of Aussies babysitting children out on the farm not
letting them wander where they were not supposed to go.
Being a herding breed, Aussies were never allowed to be rough with other animals. They had to be able to have
the power to move a herd of cattle and the gentle finesse to round up a herd of ducks. An Aussie which was rough
or aggressive with other animals was of little use to a farmer and was never included in the gene pool. This
history of gentle behavior makes them safe to live with cats and other animals. They may try and entice the cat to
play and as puppies may even chase the cat, but with supervision and training, they can become best of friends.
All of our Aussies are raised with our rag doll cat named Cashew. So they have early exposure. Cashew plays
with our puppies, so our puppies do not learn a chase habit because cashew does not run away.
Aussies thrive on being with their family as often as possible. For this reason Aussies do not make good pets for non active
families. They also do not make good pets for families who are active in a lot of areas where the Aussie is not welcome, such
as hockey, ballet, church, etc. They do not accept being left out. If you expect to have BBQ's outdoors and lock the Aussie
indoors because some people do not like dogs, the Aussie will likely destroy furniture in protest. Likewise if you plan to have
indoor gatherings and lock your Aussie outdoors away from the activity, expect him to bark, dig and cause a real commotion.
Aussies are family dogs who need to be included in what their family does. If you do not have the time to dedicate to your
Aussie, you will not have a good relationship with your dog.
activities such as sailing, boating, hiking, swimming, skiing and camping.
Aussies require a fair bit of exercise. A walk just isn't going to cut it for an Aussie. Your Aussie, regardless of size, will require
a large area to run in. A full out run off lead to chase a ball or a Frisbee, several times a week is necessary to keep your
Aussie physically stimulated. If you are the type of family who isn't looking forward to walks in the rain, and playing in the snow
in our cold Canadian winters, then an Aussie isn't for you. You don't have to be a marathon runner, but you do have to be
willing to get out every day and interact with your dog out of doors. Tossing him in the back yard because your too tired, or you
don't like the weather is going to lead to a bored Aussie. A bored Aussie is often a bad Aussie :)
Aussies excel in many activities. Many owners have had much pleasure working with their Aussies in Obedience,
Herding, Agility, Flyball, Frisbee, Tracking and K9 Freestyle. Some Aussies have even gone on to be therapy
dogs, search and rescue dogs or working dogs for the visually or hearing impaired. Being a herding breed that is
supposed to be reserved with strangers, some puppies within a litter will be more suitable to these lifestyles than
others. A good breeder will be able to help you narrow down your selection to only the most suitable puppies.
Flyball is a fast paced, high energy, relay race. There are 6 dogs on each team. 4 of those
dogs are allowed to run at each heat. One at a time, the dogs have to run over 4 jumps, hit a
pressure triggered box that projects a tennis ball, the dog must catch the tennis ball, and return
OVER all four jumps. When that dog has crossed the start/finish line, the next dog may go.
When all four dogs on your team have run the course with no mistakes, you are finished. If a
dog misses a jump, or fails to bring back the ball, he gets a red flag and must go to the back
of the line and run as a 5th dog. The first of the two teams to complete the course with no
mistakes wins the heat. The first team to win four heats wins that race.
Agility is a one on one sport with just you and your dog. You send your dog away from you to go
over many different obstacles in a course. Your dog must learn to listen to you and you must learn
to communicate with your dog in a timely fashion. With your dog running rather fast, it is in his
instinct to take the obstacle closest to him, if you do not get your command out soon enough, he
may take the wrong piece of equipment and loose points. It is a game of speed, accuracy, timing
and communication. It is a lot of fun and great exercise.
Disc is one of the easiest sports to do with your dog, All you need is a yard and a Frisbee and a
dog which is reliable off lead. You can teach your dog to do some amazing catches and some
cool flips. You can do it just for the pure fun of working with your dog, to keep your dog well
exercised and mentally stimulated or you can enter competitions. Either way your dog will love
playing Disc with you.
Want a water dog? An Aussie may be that perfect breed. As long as they are introduced to it young and have a
good experience with it. Aussies LOVE the water and you'll find yourself tired out long before your Aussie. What a
better way to exercise your tog than to toss a ball, stick or other floating toy out for him to retrieve. Not only do they
get the exercise of swimming, they get the mental stimulation of retrieving. It's a fabulous sport to take up with an
Located In Midland, Ontario, Canada
Many people enquire about Aussies as parters for running. Aussies are fabulous running partners. We have
several of our dogs in homes with marathon runners or triathalon competitors who use their aussie as a training
companion. Some things to keep in mind are that you should never run with your aussie as a puppy. He should
be at least a year old so that his joints are well formed and you do not cause damage to his structure while he is
growing. You also need to keep in mind that in warm weather, your dog is wearing a fur coat. If you're hot, he is
probably hotter, specially if he is a black tri in colour. Consider his health in the warmer weather and if you want to
run with him, run in shade instead of direct sun or purchase a cooling vest to help keep his temperature down and
make sure you carry lots of fresh water for both of you.
BLUE MERLE DOGS