Ironically, the Australian shepherds are not Australian. They are very much American and were, in fact, selectively bred here for helping on ranches. These are the only Americans that are better known as Aussies (no one asked for their opinion on this!). Their innate versatility can be very useful on farms where they serve as an all-in-one herding dog, retriever dog, and watchdog. They are also highly successful as search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, and therapy dogs. They are popular today because of Disney movies like 'Run Appaloosa Run' and 'Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West'.
These dogs are born in litters of 6 - 9 puppies. They are just a meager handful at that age, and it is almost impossible to imagine a full-grown shepherd of 18 - 23 inches height and 40 - 60 lbs weight at that time. They are completely defenseless as puppies and require proper nutrition and sound veterinary health care during this phase. One can see a difference in their personalities even at this tender age, for they have oodles of charm and personality.
Know Your Puppy
An Australian shepherd starts young with his activities. He is mischievous, destructive, and playful. He is also adorable, endearing, and fun to watch. You would be laughing at his antics even when he's irrevocably damaging your favorite (and of course expensive) Persian rug. These pups can be easily trained, as they are naturally obedient and intelligent. They are not meant for apartment living, it is best to teach them to use the yard right from the start. It is even better if the house has a small dog door, for the dog to use at his will.
These puppies grow up to be gorgeous dogs. Their moderate length coats are striking and weather resistant. They come in colors ranging from blue merle, black, red or red merle. The downside, however, is that they shed their undercoats twice a year with controlled shedding between these periods.
- These puppies never grow up. They remain perpetually young, playing, jumping, and pouncing with the same zeal, no matter their age.
- Their herding tendencies can be seen early, and it is best to curb them at that time. They can never really get rid of it though, and an occasional nip in the heel can be expected when he's trying to herd the family close together.
- One needs to be extra careful with puppies, as they will try to herd anything that moves; your other pets, your children, and even cars on the street. Overall, they are delightful and loyal. They show amazing intensity and carry a 'no quit' attitude.
- They are usually reserved and cautious towards strangers, but they can be socialized early.
- They are confident, protective, and non-aggressive, but need constant human companionship to stay that way. Lack of attention can make them invent their own games for amusement, and this usually translates into a mess or a loss for the owners. So, if you plan on leaving him to his own devices for most of the day, it is absolutely imperative that you keep everything valuable out of his reach. Even then, there is no guarantee that you will recognize your own home when you return.
The Flip Side
These naturally-bobtailed dogs require minimal grooming. As their coats are already weather resistant, they do not require repeated washing. An occasional brushing with a bristle brush is usually enough. The puppies need to be properly examined, even at the time of getting them and also repeatedly afterwards. This is because, they are susceptible to quite a few health issues. The merle-colored ones can be blind or deaf, and a thorough checkup should be done prior to getting them. The natural bobtails can have spinal defects. They are all prone to epilepsy, cataracts, and hip dysplasia. They are very touchy about their diet, and hence, frequent changes in meal patterns and meal components are not recommended.
The Bright Side
Get this lovely shepherd home, and look into his blue eyes (well, they can also be amber, hazel, or any shade of brown). What you will see is intelligence, intensity, loyalty, and vigor. Maintain that vigor in his eyes by giving him love and affection, and what you have is the friendliest, most athletic, and protective companion that will love you for life. He will not aggravate your other pets, and he will be amazingly gentle with your kids.
He will be socially interactive (yes, you can actually sit, and talk to him about all your troubles. He will give occasional nods as well). He will guard your home like it were his own, and he will definitely ensure that you do not lull yourself into a sedentary lifestyle. They say a dog takes on the personality of the owner, but in his case, it's the other way round. You will become fit and athletic, thanks to your active and stimulating dog companion.
There is nothing more beautiful than a healthy, happy dog or puppy. What a dog can give, no one else can. You can be an estranged daughter or a separated wife; you can even send your children to boarding schools. What you cannot do, is give up your pet. Even if you do, he will never let you go.