The status of the Mini Australian Shepherd has been a subject of much debate. Despite the contention of many breeders and owners to the contrary, the Mini is not just a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd. It is considered by the AKC (American Kennel Club) and ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) to be a separate breed and is not officially recognized by either organization as a variety of Australian Shepherd.
That being said, the Miniature Australian Shepherd and Miniature American Shepherd (which is a breed now recognized by the AKC) do share many characteristics of both appearance and personality with the Australian Shepherd. They also share some of the same common health concerns of the larger breed. For that reason, it is extremely important that you choose a legitimate breeder when looking for a Mini. You can find breeders in each state listed in the Breeders Directory on this site.
It was in the 1960s when smaller sized Australian Shepherds were first bred specifically to reduce the size of the breed. The breed was first known as the Miniature Australian Shepherd and eventually also became known as the Miniature American Shepherd.
Helen Rose Gabriel / stock.adobe.com
Mini Australian Shepherds come in the same colors and coat patterns as Aussies and can appear strikingly similar.
With further variations in breeding, the Mini Australian Shepherd and Australian Shepherd evolved into two distinct breeds. While not recognized by the ASCA, the Minis have their own parent club, created in 1990, now called the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA).
An Australian Shepherd Mini resembles a larger Australian Shepherd in coloring and markings but is smaller in stature, with males averaging 14-16" and females 13-17". Both sexes can weigh anywhere from 20-40 pounds and have an average life expectancy of 12-13 years. Despite having a similar look to Australian Shepherds, Minis are considered a distinct breed of their own.
While they may be smaller in stature, the Mini Australian Shepherd is still considered a herding dog. They are intelligent, eager to please and quick learners, which makes them effective workers and great companions for owners looking for a dog that can keep up with their active lifestyle or to compete in dog sports. Their small size makes them better suited to apartment living (compared to the Australian Shepherd), provided they get enough regular exercise.
The Australian Shepherd Mini is a generally healthy breed, though they do have a propensity for developing some of the same health issues as Australian Shepherds, primarily eye problems and hip disorders. This is why careful breeding practices should always be followed and all dogs should be regularly tested.
For example, just as when breeding Australian Shepherds, when breeding Minis care should be taken to not to mate a merle with another merle. This can result in a “double merle” or homozygous merle which has serious health implications for the puppies which range from partial to complete loss of hearing and/or vision. More about homozygous merles here.
Another genetic issue which can also affect the Australian Shepherd Mini is a mutation of the MDR1 gene. This condition results in an extreme sensitivity to many drugs, some of which are used to treat common issues like heartworm and fleas. It is important that owners have their dogs tested to determine if they are affected by this condition which can result in permanent damage or fatality when exposed to certain drugs. More about the MDR1 gene mutation here.
No matter what side of the breed debate you fall on, it is hard to argue the merits of the Mini Australian Shepherd / Miniature American Shepherd for those looking for much of the looks and characteristics of an Aussie but in a smaller package. What they lack in stature, these feisty, hardworking and loyal dogs more than make up for in spirit.
While we focus on the Australian Shepherd on this site, many of our readers have both or having had an Aussie opt for a Mini when they move to a smaller property. They are bright, loving and endearing little dogs that are sure to find a large spot in the heart of any owner.
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