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The Australian Shepherd
While there are many theories as to the origin the Australian Shepherd, the breed as we know it today developed exclusively in the United States. The Australian Shepherd was given its name because of their association with the Basque sheepherders who came to the United States from Australia in the 1800's. The Aussie rose rapidly in popularity with the boom of western riding after World War II, becoming known to the general public via rodeos, horse shows, movies and television. Their inherent versatility and trainability made them useful on American farms and ranches. The American stockmen continued the development of the breed, maintaining the versatility, keen intelligence, strong herding instinct and eye-catching appearance. Australian Shepherds have been registered by various registries since the early 1950's. In 1990, the United States Australian Shepherd Association was established as the parent club of the Australian Shepherd representing the breed to the American Kennel Club. On September 1, 1991, the AKC recognized the Australian Shepherd breed and on January 1, 1993,accepted them into the Herding Group.
The Australian Shepherd are an intelligent, medium-sized dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. They are also delightful and loyal companions and great family dogs. They love to be part of the daily hustle and bustle, and enjoy riding in the vehicle just to be with their beloved master. As farm dogs, they diligently carry out their responsibilities, be it bringing in the stock or finding the stray one that got tangled in the brush. They are easily trained, easily housebroken, because they are intelligent and eager to please. Aussies have been used as seeing-eye dogs, as utility dogs to the physically handicapped, hearing aid dogs, police and narcotics dogs, and search and rescue dogs. In the northern areas they have also been used as sled dogs. Many go with their masters as volunteers to children's homes and nursing homes to do therapy work. Truly, the Australian Shepherd is a highly versatile dog.“Aussies” (as they are lovingly nicknamed) are very active dogs that need a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent them from becoming bored or frustrated and consequently developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a "job" to perform, be it shepherding the children, protecting the house, herding livestock or competing in dog events. One of the most frequent reasons Aussies get turned over to rescue groups is that their owners didn't anticipate how energetic these dogs are and weren't willing or able to constructively channel that energy through training. Aussies want to be with their owners all the time, which is why they insist on following their owners from room to room in the house, and love nothing better than going along in the car or truck on errands. They can be highly territorial and protective of their masters' possessions, potentially causing serious difficulties unless this behavior is controlled with proper training.
The Australian Shepherd comes in four acceptable colors:
2. blue merle - a marbling of gray/silver and black, often creating a “blue” effect
3. red - ranging from light cinnamon to liver
4. red merle – amarbling of red and silver or buffA variety of white and tan markings may appear on the face, chest, front and rear legs.The outer coat is of moderate length, with a texture that is straight to wavy and weather resistant. The undercoat is soft and dense, and the amount varies with climate. Tails are either naturally bobbed or docked. Ears are moderately sized, and should break forward and over, or fall to the side as rose ears. Males weigh approximately 50 to 65 pounds, measuring from 20 to 23 inches, and females weigh about 40 to 55 pounds, measuring from 18 to 21 inches.The eyes of the Australian Shepherd come in a wide variety of colors, making this one of the most notable features of the breed. They may be any color or
combination of colors from glassy blue, amber, hazel, to all shades of brown. As a result Aussies can be encountered that have, for example, a blue eye and a brown eye. With the merles, it is not uncommon to see both eyes “marbled” with two different colors.
Black Tri Australian Shepherd
Black is one of the four basic coat colors of Aussies,frequently – but not necessarily - accompanied by white markings on the face,chest, legs, and under parts. Copper points are also commonly seen on the face and legs. So, black coated Aussies may be black and white with copper points – familiarly called “black tri” instead of the more formal black tri color black and white – known as “black bi” for black bicolor solid black
Black Aussies usually have brown colored eyes, although they may occasionally have one or both eyes that are blue.
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
Blue merle is a striking color which is made up of blackspots of various sizes on a gray background. Sometimes the overall effect is to give the dog a “blue” look, hence the name “blue merle.” The shades of gray can range from light silver to dark smoke, and the black spots can be small specks to very large patches, creating a wide variety of interesting combinations.Blue merle Aussies may also have white markings on the face, chest, legs, and under parts. Copper points are also commonly seen on the face and legs. So this type of Aussie may be:solid blue merle blue merle and white blue merle, white, and copper Blue merle Aussies may have solid colored eyes, but frequently the eyes will be “marbled” or flecked with other colors. So a blue merle Aussie could have blue eyes marbled with brown, or vice versa. It could also have a blue eye and a brown eye. Blue eyes are much more common in the merles than in the solid color black and red Aussies.
Red Tri Australian Shepherd
Red tri Aussies can range in color from light cinnamon to dark liver, but overall have a light to dark “red” aspect. They may also have white markings on the face, chest, legs, and under parts. Copper points are also commonly seen on the face and legs. A “red” Aussie may be:red and white with copper points –
“red tri” as this is called, meaning red tricolor red and white – “red bi” for red bicolor solid red Red Aussies usually have amber colored eyes, although they may occasionally have one or both eyes that are blue.
Red Merle Australian Shepherd
Red merle is a combination of red patches or spots - i.e.
light cinnamon to dark liver color, on a background that can range from buff to silver. Just as the background color can vary, so can the color and size of the red areas. Spots can be small speckles to patches that cover large areas of the dog. Red merles may also have white markings on the face, chest, legs, and under parts. Copper points are also commonly seen on the face and legs. A red merle Aussie may be:solid red merle red merle and white red merle, white, and copper Red merle Aussies may have solid colored eyes, but frequently the eyes will be “marbled” or flecked with other colors. So a red merle Aussie could have blue eyes marbled with brown, or vice versa. It could also have a blue eye and a brown eye. Blue eyes are much more common in the merles than in the solid color black and red Aussies.
A buyer's check list
you want to buy an Aussie that will be a wonderful companion for the next 12 to 15 years. By asking the right questions, you will be able to determine whether or not you are purchasing a dog who has the best chance of a long, healthy life and who has a good disposition. Here is a list of questions every person should ask before buying a puppy. All of the questions below should receive a "Yes" response, and a responsible breeder will be very happy to answer these questions for you. If you receive negative responses, or if a breeder is unwilling to answer, look elsewhere for a puppy.
1. Has the puppy been well socialized and exposed to a variety of new experiences?
2. Is the puppy outgoing and friendly toward strangers?
3. Does the mother of the puppy have a friendly, confident personality?
4. Does the breeder of the puppy require him to stay with his litter mates until 8 weeks old?
5. Has the breeder discussed with you the high activity level of an Aussie and their exercise needs to avoid destructive behavior?
6. Has the breeder discussed with you the strong herding instinct in Aussies and how that can result in heel nipping, pants leg biting, herding of children and chasing cars?
Was the puppy raised in a clean,safe environment? (Preferably in a home.)
Has the puppy received at least one"puppy shot"? Has the puppy been de-wormed once or preferably twice?
Is the mother of the puppy at least 2 years of age?
Have both the sire and dam of the puppy had their hips x-rayed for hip dysplasia, and has documentation been provided to you?
Have both the sire and dam of the puppy had their eyes examined by a board-certified ophthalmologist to check for hereditary eye defects, and has documentation been provided to you?
Has the entire litter had its eyes examined for hereditary eye defects, and has documentation been provided to you?
Has the breeder discussed with you other potential health problems in the breed such as epilepsy, cancer and allergies?
Have you been provided with a written contract which clearly states whether the puppy is of show/breeding quality or if it is required to be spayed or neutered?
Does the written contract guarantee the puppy or dog is free of debilitating hereditary defects including hip dysplasia and blindness?
Have you been provided with a written health record that describes shots and worming completed and any further shots, worming, and heartworm medicine that will be necessary after you take possession of the puppy?
Have you been provided with a 4 or 5 generation pedigree of the puppy?
Have you been provided with the registration certificate (or application) at the time you take possession of the puppy?
How to find a reputable breeder
Finding the right puppy or adult begins with finding the right breeder. Do you know how to separate the good from the bad? By doing some research, you can find the right Aussie for you and your family. You have decided that a Purebred dog is for you. What is your next move? What steps should you take to insure that your pup meets your requirements? Doubtless,this purchase should receive thoughtful consideration. It's no loaf of bread you're buying--this little pup will be a member of your family for a decade or more. Choosing a reputable breeder is primary to your objective. Since it is almost impossible for YOU to know what any of these little pups will grow into physically and emotionally, you must rely entirely upon your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your pup. There are three options open to you in choosing this person.
1. PET SHOP OR DEALER
The Worst Choice Possible! Pups are poorly bred and raised.They are thought of as merchandise (the loaf of bread) to be sold for a high profit. This high profit is possible because little has been put into the care of these pups. Many are sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying via"the doggy in the window," which is no way to choose an addition to your family!
2. BACKYARD BREEDER.
Also a Poor Choice. This is the person who owns a pet "purebred" and thinks it would be "fun" to have puppies or maybe that it would be a great experience for the children. Even worse, perhaps it's being done to make money. Usually this breeder knows little about grooming and care, and still less of the breed history or the AKC standard or how his/her dogs conform to it. The backyard breeders do not do regular examinations by veterinarians on any possible problems with their breed, nor do they x-ray hips. They are not even aware of breed problems nor do they care.Their goal is to produce pups and when the "fun" is over, sell them quickly.
3. HOBBY BREEDER.
The Very Best Choice. Serious and dedicated hobby breeders regard their dogs as just that--a hobby. They do not expect a profit. When someone breeds dogs for enjoyment and for the pleasure and thrill of producing the very finest specimens possible, rather than for profit, the result is SUPERIOR. These breeders acknowledge responsibility for each and every puppy produced and stand behind every dog they have bred. Without question, your choice should be the HOBBY BREEDER. It is an interesting fact that poor quality pups from pet shops and backyard breeders are usually sold for the same price and sometimes even more than those purchased from the serious hobby breeder. All three of the above breeders sell puppies that are AKC registerable--this is not an assurance of quality or dedication to the breed. So, the question is: How does one recognize the serious, dedicated hobby breeder? Prepared below are criteria that you should require your breeder to meet before you consider purchasing your purebred dog. Do not be afraid to confront them with these requirements.It is your RIGHT and you can rest assured that the dedicated breeder will respond positively and with pride.Your Breeder Should:Belong to a local breed club or a national all-breed club.Ideally he/she should belong to all three; however, sometimes this is impossible. The reason for this requirement is that this sort of participation indicates depth of involvement. This breeder is exposed to other points of view, learns more about the breed and modern breeding practices, and is kept up to date on AKC rules and regulations.
He/she is breeding in accordance with a Code of Ethics. Be involved in showing their dog(s). This means that your breeder is not breeding in a vacuum. The breeder who does not show has no idea how good his/her dogs really are and is deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others. Showing provides the competition which encourages breeders to produce better dogs. The breeder who shows wants to prove the worth of his/her breeding program in competition. Such a breeder is not relying on just a pedigree to indicate quality. Even though you do not want a show dog, you deserve a pet that is the end result of a carefully planned litter--a pup that received the same care as a potential champion. The breeder who is known by others and has a reputation to uphold will undoubtedly be as careful and honest in selling you your pet as he/she is in selling show dogs.
Give you a period of time which to allow you to have the pup examined by a veterinarian to determine his state of health, so that both of you are assured as to its health. If a problem should arise, it can then be quickly resolved. This period of time is usually 48 to 72 hours. Give you written instructions on feeding, training, care and grooming. You should also be given the pup's health/shot records.The breeder should supply you with information where you can purchase books about the breed. Be able to show you proof that their stock has been x-rayed and is clear of hip dysplasia, preferably with an OFA certification number.
Make it clear to you that their responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home. Indeed, until your pup has departed this earth. Many dedicated breeders will ask that the pup be returned to them or placed with new owners who meet with their approval if ever for any reason you are unable to continue ownership. Be curious about what kind of dogs you have had in the past and what happened to them. Perhaps be a bit hesitant to sell you a pup until they know more about you. A responsible breeder will ask questions such as whether or not you have a fenced yard or if the pup will be walked on lead. They will make certain you understand all the negative aspects of owning a dog as well as all the positives. They will familiarize themselves with your life style and family situation to assure that owning a dog is right for you. Having the pup's best interests at heart – as well as theirs and yours - a reputable breeder will take great pains to place pups properly the first time around. A returned pup is a traumatic experience for all concerned and therefore the breeder who is always willing to accept a puppy back will want to make certain that this specific purebred dog is the breed for you. Be able to show you a clean environment,well-socialized puppies and a dam with a good temperament (happy and self-assured). Be willing to give you references--names of past puppy buyers or of others in the breed. Will not pressure you into deciding immediately and will encourage you to educate yourself thoroughly on the breed before making your final selection. Provide a written contract and/or conditions of sale. Require spaying or neutering of pet quality puppies. Breeders spend a lot of time and effort planning breeding programs designed to improve the breed. They selectively carry on their programs with only the best quality available. Pet quality puppies should be loved and enjoyed as pets. Reputable breeders don't want their dogs being used just to "make puppies" or worse yet, to have their puppies end up in "puppy mills" where they will be mass produced. Therefore, they will require that pets be spayed or neutered before being registered with the AKC. If your breeder meets all the above criteria, you are in good hands. If you find yourself with a negative response to any of these, think twice, discuss the situation with someone else. Don't be impulsive and DO ASK QUESTIONS. Keep this in mind:
You are probably going to pay for quality.
Whether or not you get it is up to you!