What is an Australian Shepherd? That's a good question and one that has surprisingly varied answers. The Aussie is a hard worker, a loving companion, a trusted guardian, and a talented athlete. There's no wonder that it has become such a beloved breed. However, what most people don't realize is that the one thing an Australian Shepherd isn't is... Australian! The name is a little bit of a misnomer as a brief look at its history will show you.
Despite its name, the breed actually developed in North America, and it had its origins with shepherds in Great Britain, Scotland, Spain, Australia and Latin America. Though the flocks of sheep that these dogs were bred to handle came from Australia, the dogs themselves were more directly tied to Europe, specifically Germany and the Basque region of Spain.
It wasn't until they arrived in North America, however, that the breed really began to take hold and develop into what we know as today's Australian Shepherd. So as you can see, discovering what is an Australian Shepherd is not as cut and dried as you might think. Technically, the breed should be called the "American Shepherd", but the Aussie name has managed to stick.
In terms of official status, the Australian Shepherd wasn't recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1993, although it had first been recognized in 1957 when the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was formed. The official description of the breed that is still followed by breeders was written in 1977 and is still followed today. More recently, the Miniature Australian Shepherd, or Miniature American Shepherd, was added to the mix for Aussie lovers who wanted more of a house dog. While they share a common history, Australian Shepherds and the smaller Miniatures are considered to be separate breeds and not varieties within one breed.
Of course, when answering what is an Australian Shepherd, there is much more to consider than just history. Aussies have come to serve so many functions for their devoted owners, but the primary function of the breed was herding. These extremely intelligent dogs are quick to pick up on commands which makes them easy to train, something that shepherds looking to control livestock over wide ranging terrain have always prized.
It's not a huge leap from their herding skills to the world of dog sports and Australian Shepherds have proven to be naturals at agility training and many other sports. Both agility training and herding trials, which specifically showcase a dog's ability to control a herd, are perfect outlets for the unlimited energy and intelligence of Aussies. An Aussie loves nothing more than learning new commands and pleasing his master and these sports allow him to do just that.
There are many other sports such as Frisbee, Flyball, and Coursing that the average Aussie can easily adapt to. Perhaps one of the best matches of sports to the natural skills of the Aussie is Treibball, which uses the dog's herding instinct as he moves a series of large balls into a designated area the size of a soccer goal. Handler and dog must work together to get all of the balls into the target area in a specific amount of time, helping both to hone their communication skills.
Not surprisingly, given its temperament and primary function of herding, one of the main answers to what is an Australian Shepherd is a loyal family watchdog. The breed literally earns its living keeping a sharp eye on its herd or flock and making sure that no stragglers get lost.
This same instinct can translate to its human family as well, making the Aussie a capable and trustworthy watchdog for your home. It may lack the size and aggression of other breeds that are suited to being guard dogs, but as an attentive and protective watchdog the Aussie is a natural choice.
When asking what is an Australian Shepherd the first thing that generally comes to mind is their intelligence and loyalty. Both of these qualities make them the perfect candidate for the Canine Good Citizen Program and more advanced training like companion dog training. Certification as a companion dog is achieved by completing a series of obedience exercises such as mastering sit/stay and down/stay commands, heeling off leash and completing a figure eight pattern both on and off leash.
As it is part of the discipline that they were bred for, Aussies are naturals at mastering obedience commands and love to show off their abilities in this area. They can take that same training and discipline to another level as therapy or service dogs, completing specific training to help disabled individuals including the blind, deaf, paraplegics, and individuals with emotional or psychological disabilities including PTSD.
Start with our official ebook Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care. It was created by Aussie lovers for Aussie lovers. You can read this practical guide on any computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Simply put, the answer to what is an Australian Shepherd is a bright and eager dog that takes extremely well to training. In fact, their abundance of smarts and energy requires some level of training in order to keep them channeled properly so they don't become unruly.
The earlier you start training with your Aussie, the better off you'll both be. That way you can avoid any problems before they start rather than having the difficult task of trying to correct existing issues.
It's easy to see why the Australian Shepherd has remained such a popular breed and why Aussie lovers are so loyal to them. This is a multi-faceted breed that brings so much to the table and can add so much to your life, whether on the farm or in your home.
What is an Australian Shepherd? No matter where it originated, it is one of the most amazing and exceptional breeds you'll find and the best friend any dog lover could ask for.
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