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Australian Shepherd Dog

 Photo of Australian Shepherd Dog
Photo: By Jill Terry

Australian Shepherd Dog Books

Group: Pastoral || Breed Standard

If you reside in the UK, are an exhibitor or breeder of Australian Shepherd Dogs and are fully conversant with this breed we would love to hear from you regarding help in compiling this breed profile.


The Australian Shepherd is a working dog that was developed in the United States in the 19th century. The dog, commonly known as an Aussie, is popular in its native California and is growing in popularity in countries across the world. Contrary to its name, the breed did not originate in Australia.


Height: Dogs: 51-58 cms (20-23 inches); Bitches: 46-53 cms (18-21 inches)

A medium-sized dog that is strong and muscular with body that is slightly longer than it is high. The tail is customarily docked to a length of no more than 10 cms (4ins). If undocked, the tail should be set and carried low, never curled or carried over the back. Their weather resistant coat is of medium length with an undercoat.

An early nickname for the breed was "ghost-eye dog" due to their eye colour . Aussie eyes may be green, hazel, amber, brown, or blue; they may have two different colored eyes, or even have bicolored or "split eyes" (for example, a half-brown, half-blue eye), which appear to be linked to the merle coloration. Merled eyes occur as well, where one color is mixed in and swirled with another. Any combination of eye color is acceptable in the breed standard, so long as the eyes are healthy. In general, however, black Aussies (self, bi-color or tri-color) tend to have brown eyes, while red (self, bi-color or tri-color) Aussies tend to have amber eyes.

The four main colours of the Aussie are blue merle, red merle, red and black. Each of these colors may also have copper points on the eyebrows, cheeks, and/or legs to create four additional combinations. White can appear on the neck as a full or part collar, chest, muzzle, underparts and as a moderate blaze. White should not appear on the body of the dog from topmost point of the shoulder blade to the tail except in the merles. Dogs with copper and white along with the primary color are called tri-color, dogs with white or copper along with the primary color are called bi-color, and dogs with no white or copper are referred to as self- colored.


A sweet and affectionate dog who is faithful to its owners and may be good with children, although its strong herding and guarding instincts may undermine its ability to function as a family dog. They can show an initial aloofness when first meeting strangers, but should never be shy or aggressive.

Breed Health

Though typically a very healthy breed, the Australian Shepherd is known to be susceptible to certain hereditary conditions. Collie eye anomaly (CEA) and cataracts are considered major health concerns. Other conditions of note include iris coloboma , canine hip dysplasia (CHD), Pelger-Huet syndrome , hypothyroidism, and nasal solar dermatitis. Breeders should test their Australian Shepherd's hips, eyes, thyroid and DNA (to check for CEA).

Two merle dogs should not be bred together as research has shown that having two copies of the merle gene disrupts pigmentation and produces a high risk for health defects such as deafness and blindness.

Breed Care

The Australian Shepherd Dog does not require too much grooming, but their coat will benefit from being brushed once a week.


Like all working breeds, the Aussie is an energetic dog that requires exercise and enjoys working, whether it is learning and practicing tricks, competing in dog agility, or any other physically and mentally involving activity. Many need to run, full out, regularly. A bored, unexercised Aussie will invent its own games, activities or jobs, which can cause hyperactivity in the home, or they could become destructive.


The Australian Shepherd has a reputation as a highly intelligent and versatile stock dog with a range of working styles. While improperly trained or frustrated Aussies may exhibit excessive running and barking, a good working Aussie is quick, thoughtful, and easy with its stock. The ability for the breed to adapt to the situation and think for itself makes it an excellent all-around worker. Training and working this breed is essential. See our books on training

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Last link added: 06 Apr, 2008