My parents want to buy an australian Shepherd

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Luftmensch

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There's a lot of missed information and a lot of inaccurate lore about Aussies on the internet.
Just to add... Fun fact... the Australian Shepherd isnt an 'Australian' dog... Somewhere down their lineage they might be. You dont see them down here. If you did, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were a collie mixer. There are lots of Border Collie here.

Ignoring the OG Aussie dog, the Dingo, popular breeds are Blue Heelers (cattle dog) and Kelpies. These dogs are also high energy, working animals.
 

lane

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They aren't Australian at all. They were bred in the southwestern United States to work with Australian cowboys on American ranches.

Aussies differ from other herding dogs in one important way that's great for their use as a pet. Most herding dogs are bred to take a flock of sheep off a couple moors away and tend them for a few days. Aussies are different. They were bred to work right with a horseman so he didn't have to get off his horse as much. Aussies work within fifty feet of a horseman for the most part, taking orders and sticking close to the cowboy. I took my middle Aussie (now turning six) out most weekends to help move cattle for other ranchers who didn't have good dogs. She'd make $250-500 for a day's herding work. We also did some long cattle drives, including one with nine hundred longhorns from Fort Worth to Kansas City -- about 640 miles up the old Chisholm Trail. Mornings were pretty quiet so she'd jump up on the rump of my horse and ride behind me on a saddle blanket. When I was sleeping on the trail in a blanket roll, she'd snuggle right up next to me. These are pretty amazing dogs.
 

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They aren't Australian at all. They were bred in the southwestern United States to work with Australian cowboys on American ranches.

Aussies differ from other herding dogs in one important way that's great for their use as a pet. Most herding dogs are bred to take a flock of sheep off a couple moors away and tend them for a few days. Aussies are different. They were bred to work right with a horseman so he didn't have to get off his horse as much. Aussies work within fifty feet of a horseman for the most part, taking orders and sticking close to the cowboy. I took my middle Aussie (now turning six) out most weekends to help move cattle for other ranchers who didn't have good dogs. She'd make $250-500 for a day's herding work. We also did some long cattle drives, including one with nine hundred longhorns from Fort Worth to Kansas City -- about 640 miles up the old Chisholm Trail. Mornings were pretty quiet so she'd jump up on the rump of my horse and ride behind me on a saddle blanket. When I was sleeping on the trail in a blanket roll, she'd snuggle right up next to me. These are pretty amazing dogs.
This is interesting but it makes sense.

My impression is that most working sheepdogs in Australia are Kelpies followed by Border Collies. Kelpies are closely related to Border Collies, even though they do not look very similar.

As @Luftmensch said, blue (and red) heelers are also common, but often used as cattle dogs rather than sheep dogs. And IME not nearly as clever as the Kelpies and Border Collies.

FWIW, I don't think I have ever seen an Australian Shepherd in the flesh.
 
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MrHiggins

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They aren't Australian at all. They were bred in the southwestern United States to work with Australian cowboys on American ranches.

Aussies differ from other herding dogs in one important way that's great for their use as a pet. Most herding dogs are bred to take a flock of sheep off a couple moors away and tend them for a few days. Aussies are different. They were bred to work right with a horseman so he didn't have to get off his horse as much. Aussies work within fifty feet of a horseman for the most part, taking orders and sticking close to the cowboy. I took my middle Aussie (now turning six) out most weekends to help move cattle for other ranchers who didn't have good dogs. She'd make $250-500 for a day's herding work. We also did some long cattle drives, including one with nine hundred longhorns from Fort Worth to Kansas City -- about 640 miles up the old Chisholm Trail. Mornings were pretty quiet so she'd jump up on the rump of my horse and ride behind me on a saddle blanket. When I was sleeping on the trail in a blanket roll, she'd snuggle right up next to me. These are pretty amazing dogs.
Lane, that's a great post. It's my understanding that what we know of as the "Australian Shepherd" is a purely American breed, but is adapted from a dog used in the Basque Country (so it should be right at home in France). Indeed, there's a certain group of folks in the US that are starting a breed called the "Basque Shepherd" which is basically an Aussie with a full tail (not bobbed or docked).

From my data point of one, I can concur that the Aussie is not only a great working dog, but is also well suited as a family pet. I did work hard on teaching good in-home manners, though. Here's my Aussie playing veterinarian with my 1-year-old daughter. He was super gentle. The old people at my grandma's nursing home loved him, too, because he was so calm around them.

Higgins at the vet.jpg


That said, my new border collie comes from some very impressive herding lines out if Ireland and, if he weren't primarily a family pet, could probably be very successful with sheep. He is a VERY hard charger when he wants to be. But, with hard work, mutual respect, and clear expectations, my BC is turning into an excellent pet.

Here he is as I type this. Waiting for his morning exercise, but being cool about it...

20211127_054059.jpg


Here he is with some sheep...

20210801_093808.jpg
20210501_133919.jpg


Point is, good training makes a good dog.
 

Delat

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They aren't Australian at all. They were bred in the southwestern United States to work with Australian cowboys on American ranches.

Aussies differ from other herding dogs in one important way that's great for their use as a pet. Most herding dogs are bred to take a flock of sheep off a couple moors away and tend them for a few days. Aussies are different. They were bred to work right with a horseman so he didn't have to get off his horse as much. Aussies work within fifty feet of a horseman for the most part, taking orders and sticking close to the cowboy. I took my middle Aussie (now turning six) out most weekends to help move cattle for other ranchers who didn't have good dogs. She'd make $250-500 for a day's herding work. We also did some long cattle drives, including one with nine hundred longhorns from Fort Worth to Kansas City -- about 640 miles up the old Chisholm Trail. Mornings were pretty quiet so she'd jump up on the rump of my horse and ride behind me on a saddle blanket. When I was sleeping on the trail in a blanket roll, she'd snuggle right up next to me. These are pretty amazing dogs.
Do their paws get torn up on those long drives? Or are they adapted for it as part of the breed characteristics?

Very cool story btw, thanks for sharing.
 

Luftmensch

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As @Luftmensch said, blue (and red) heelers are also common, but often used as cattle dogs rather than sheep dogs. And IME not nearly as clever as the Kelpies and Border Collies.
Compared to Kelpies, I think heelers are relatively more independent and stubborn. I dont know this means less intelligent? They might just be more willful and difficult to control in some situations - depending on their training??

As for Border Collies...I'd believe they are top of the heap! Arent they supposed to be the smartest breed?


Aussies are different. They were bred to work right with a horseman so he didn't have to get off his horse as much. Aussies work within fifty feet of a horseman for the most part, taking orders and sticking close to the cowboy.
I don't mean to speak out of turn here... but wouldn't an aspect of this behaviour be down to training? Border collies and kelpies are nominally 'sheep dogs'... and heelers are nominally 'cattle dogs'. Border collies instinctually work at a distance 'eyeing' a herd. This works well with sheep. Heelers naturally work close to the herd and are 'nippy'. This is better for cattle. They will all take instruction from a distance. While they all have their natural tendencies, they are smart enough to be trained to work on different livestock.

Colonial Australia has a long history of cattle droving. This would have been done on horseback... Now of course there are helicopters and motorbikes/quads. I am speaking way outside my area of knowledge here... but I get the sense that the agricultural community cares about good dogs more than they do about breeds. Some of the animals out there look like they have a lot of hybrid vigour ;)

Some modern cattle droving in Oz:



Do their paws get torn up on those long drives? Or are they adapted for it as part of the breed characteristics?
Total guess: there is probably some element of their paws adapting through exposure. I rather suspect that any breed that was raised to muster on green pastures (e.g. sheep) would get sore feet if you ran them that hard on an arid cattle run.
 
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lane

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To questions and comments above: First, I've owned and trained border collies, Aussies, Australian heelers, and various mixed breeds. They're all very smart dogs, but the one breed with by far the best human interface and trainability is the Aussie. When they can't herd they get to do agility and other work and that's where Aussies really stand out from the pack. I wouldn't dismiss the intelligence of any of these dogs -- these active herders are the top of the heap when it comes to dogs.

Within a breed, some dogs immediately gravitate to a skill (such as herding) and others look for something else (same as people). When I pick a puppy, I put the whole litter (at about 7-8 weeks of age) in a corral with a few dairy cows. Aussie litters are big so I start usually with 8-9 puppies. Of those perhaps three will be scared of the cattle and back away. A couple will just be indifferent. And three usually will just walk right up to the cows, go nose to nose, and back the cows around the corral. That's a three pound puppy moving a 1800 pound dairy cow. There's lots of instinct there. The good ones I barely have to do anything. They know how to move cattle without nipping or barking, they get my voice commands without training, and even understand how to move cattle around so they're always on fresh grazing. The ones that don't get it right away are generally trainable with minimal effort but don't display quite the same instincts. I've had eleven Aussies over thirty years and four have been amazing instinctive herders. I've had a few that never got the idea but were outstanding at agility and at various intelligence exercises such as nose work. You may not get a herder if you're not really focusing on that in choosing a dog, but you'll typically get a dog that has great skills and you just have to find what they want to do. They all will be underfoot all the time -- if I go into the kitchen I currently have three dogs literally underfoot, if I go out to the car they are all lined up for a drive, and so on. They typically won't be more than a few feet away.

As for paws, I always tend their paws every evening after a lot of work and I've never had one go lame. They have a lot of hair between their toes and their hair doesn't pick up burs or grit easily (Aussies tend to stay very clean and rarely get smelly even when out in the rain and running in brush for days). I do always have booties just in case, but I can only think of one instance where I ever had to use them and that was in some pretty extreme cold, not because of foot injury. A good Aussie doesn't get overuse injuries (like hip failure) or the like, and most of this class of herding dogs (heelers, borders, and so on) can run twenty miles a day once they're used to it.

As for the Basque thing, many of the southwestern US ranchers who popularized Aussies were immigrants from northern Spain, so the Basque angle stuck. Now I do crop the tails on my Aussies; it's done within a few days of birth and it's just a piece of cartilage with no nerves, so the puppies don't even notice it happening. People think it's being cruel to the dogs but they are completely unaware and not in pain. A vet does it with a pair of clippers and no anesthesia or painkillers. Those who feel it's cruel like to preserve the idea of stub tails -- a litter of Aussies will mostly be tailless but some will have a vestige of a tail with two or three vertebra or even a full fan tail. The stub tail looks a bit like a boxer tail. I don't like the tails because when out working the tails get stuff caught in them that irritates the dog, plus they often break their tails while herding. It's up to you whether you crop yours. I prefer the cropped look and I've watched enough tails get docked to know there's no discomfort and no downside to doing so.
 

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Do their paws get torn up on those long drives? Or are they adapted for it as part of the breed characteristics?
My Aussie's paws were indestructible. For a lot of his life, we lived in a mountain town in Colorado and I was an avid trail runner/hiker/backcountry skier. He never slowed down.

My Border Collie has much more sensitive feet. We were on a run the other day and came across a section of jagged rocks. "No thanks!" he said and just sat down. I had to carry him. Wuss.

I think it has a lot to do with breeding. The Aussie is built for the harsh ground of the American West (think rocks, cactus, 140 degree sand, etc...). The BC is more acclimated to the Bonnie fells and dales of grassy Scotland.

On a different note, I don't think either breed can get cold. Their coats are made for ****** weather. My Aussie preferred to sleep outside, even if we got a foot of snow.
 

lane

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My Aussie's paws were indestructible. For a lot of his life, we lived in a mountain town in Colorado and I was an avid trail runner/hiker/backcountry skier. He never slowed down.

My Border Collie has much more sensitive feet. We were on a run the other day and came across a section of jagged rocks. "No thanks!" he said and just sat down. I had to carry him. Wuss.

I think it has a lot to do with breeding. The Aussie is built for the harsh ground of the American West (think rocks, cactus, 140 degree sand, etc...). The BC is more acclimated to the Bonnie fells and dales of grassy Scotland.

On a different note, I don't think either breed can get cold. Their coats are made for ****** weather. My Aussie preferred to sleep outside, even if we got a foot of snow.
Definitely agree. My Aussies can run in 115 degree heat with no problem as long as they get plenty of water, and then can easily handle nights that go down to freezing, and they do fine overnight on winter nights into the teens. They are very sturdy dogs. Mine have run over a couple miles of bare fractured flint with no problems.

Foxtails do affect Aussies -- these are seed pods from certain grasses that are arrow shaped and have tiny barbs. They work their way in and don't back out, so they can end up completely embedded under the skin. They also can end up inside a nose or mouth or even eye. This isn't an Aussie problem -- they do this to all dogs -- but you do need to recognize foxtails when you see them and check your dog for them. Just like checking for ticks. In both cases, getting them out immediately is the key and can save a vet visit.
 

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... but I get the sense that the agricultural community cares about good dogs more than they do about breeds. Some of the animals out there look like they have a lot of hybrid vigour ;)
The whole "breed" question is rather fraught. Most breeds are a relatively modern invention, prior to the 18th & 19th C it came down more to types of dogs (herder, guard dog, hunting dog(s), cart dog, vermin slayer, lap dog,...) rather than breeds are they are currently characterized. While some breeds have relatively ancient origins a number of breeds are products of the late 19th and early 20th C (German Shepherds to name just one). The umbrella FCI and the various national breed organizations like the AKC in the USA, (ANKC in Australia, SCC in France,...) have done some excellent work in defining and preserving breeds but the notion of conformation and the dog shows circuit, coupled with media driven breed popularity, have also done some real harm. Many of the brachycephalic breeds like English Bulldogs or Pugs suffer from problems resulting from breeders taking the flat face too far. The fashion for narrow, wedge-shaped skulls among Collie breeders have bred in a separate set of problems. There often is a divergence between working dog lines and show lines of the same breed. On top of this as @lane noted above breeds are not monolithic, individual dogs within a specific breed can vary greatly in intelligence and temperament.

I think one can reasonably argue that working herding dogs in Australia and North America were selected, at least in part, for their ability to work in often hotter and drier condition and over longer distances than were the norm in Europe.
 

lane

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The whole "breed" question is rather fraught. Most breeds are a relatively modern invention, prior to the 18th & 19th C it came down more to types of dogs (herder, guard dog, cart dog, vermin slayer, lap dog,...) rather than breeds are they are currently characterized. While some breeds have relatively ancient origins a number of breeds are products of the late 19th and early 20th C (German Shepherds to name just one). The umbrella FCI and the various national breed organizations like the AKC in the USA, (ANKC in Australia, SCC in France,...) have done some excellent work in defining and preserving breeds but the notion of conformation and the dog shows circuit, coupled with media driven breed popularity, have also done some real harm. Many of the brachycephalic breeds like English Bulldogs or Pugs suffer from problems resulting from breeders taking the flat face too far. The fashion for narrow, wedge-shaped skulls among Collie breeders have bred in a separate set of problems. There often is a divergence between working dog lines and show lines of the same breed. On top of this as @lane noted above breeds are not monolithic, individual dogs within a specific breed can vary greatly in intelligence and temperament.

I think one can reasonably argue that working herding dogs in Australia and North America were selected, at least in part, for their ability to work in often hotter and drier condition and over longer distances than were the norm in Europe
Definitely true in many breeds. Aussies were only very recently admitted to the AKC. As a result, the breed is really governed more by the Australian Shepherd Association of America (ASCA) and the US Australian Shepherd Association. And predictably nearly all Aussies worldwide tend to be tied to American roots. These two associations, plus Aussie breeders, have worked hard to avoid blighted conformation rules and to limit inappropriate breedings. The AKC refused to recognize Aussies for decades because they viewed them as a mixed breed, and indeed they are still very heterogeneous genetically. That's one of their strengths and responsible AKC breeders are careful about keeping their lines diverse. There's a very loose AKC conformation standard for Aussies -- a wide range of size (plus both minis and miniatures get their own classes), four different color ways (red tri, black tri, blue merle, red merle, all of which can have enormous variety), all kinds of different eye colors, different builds, and so on. It's all a concerted effort to keep the breed healthy. Aussies are one of the most distinctive breeds despite all the variety, and that's helping ASCA and USASA keep a lot of influence over the health of the breed.
 

Luftmensch

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The whole "breed" question is rather fraught. Most breeds are a relatively modern invention, prior to the 18th & 19th C it came down more to types of dogs (herder, guard dog, hunting dog(s), cart dog, vermin slayer, lap dog,...) rather than breeds are they are currently characterized. While some breeds have relatively ancient origins a number of breeds are products of the late 19th and early 20th C (German Shepherds to name just one).
It is fraught!

Even though German Shepherds are a relatively recent breed... they have been ruined in that short time! I read that German Shepherds were originally bred to be working dogs and had a normal flat back. In the past century pedigree dogs have been bred to conform to standards with heavily sloped backs. This exacerbates hip dysplasia - which is less of a problem for working German shepherds that are not bred to conform to those awful raked backs.

A little bit off topic... but Siamese cats used to be gorgeous cats... now some of them have faces that look like ugly bats!


I think one can reasonably argue that working herding dogs in Australia and North America were selected, at least in part, for their ability to work in often hotter and drier condition and over longer distances than were the norm in Europe.
Legend has it that both Kelpies and Blue heelers were crossed with Dingos in their distant past. A recent study asserts that Kelpies have no detectable Dingo DNA. I dont know if such a study has been done on Blue heelers? On the one hand, the oral/documented history of crossing dogs with Dingos appeals to the idea of breeding animals for local conditions... on the other... given the Kelpie study, it would be neat to have a DNA study verify that for Blueys!

By the way... it is legal to own a Dingo in NSW... wouldnt recommend it... 😖
 

lane

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There's a tendency to hit on breeders over breed health issues. A few breeds were notoriously mismanaged -- German shepherds, Irish Setters, several of the pug nosed breeds, and soon. Both the AKC and many of the breeds learned the lesson quickly and have worked to protect their dogs. Among Aussies, there's a global breeding database and also most breeders submit DNA samples for future studies. A foundation manages this work and also raises money to fund research in the few diseases that do afflict Aussies. These dogs still have to work and as such as part of their spec, so they won't be mis-bred like Germans or some of the hunting dogs.

I wouldn't drift this conversation away from the discussion about Aussies because other breed problems aren't an issue for the OP here. Suffice it to say that Aussie genetics are carefully monitored by AKC breeders and as long as you don't go to some puppy mill or to a couple or farm that distributes puppy mill dogs, you'll generally do well.
 

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All this talk of herders reminds me of childhood in Virginia. We had Collies. All our relatives lived
around us.

Must have been around 4 or 5. Walking to kindergarten taught by one of my aunt's. I was surrounded by another uncle's fox hunting hounds. They were snarling at me. Our collie Patsy ran to my rescue barking furious at my side at that pack of hounds. You don't forget
those experiences. My father told my uncle to keep those damn dogs pinned up. After I was living in Hawaii was told the story that my uncle Jeff when he got old & senile would go out & sleep with his hounds. My aunt said I knew that old coot would rather sleep with his dogs than me.
 

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Just to add... Fun fact... the Australian Shepherd isnt an 'Australian' dog... Somewhere down their lineage they might be. You dont see them down here. If you did, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were a collie mixer. There are lots of Border Collie here.

Ignoring the OG Aussie dog, the Dingo, popular breeds are Blue Heelers (cattle dog) and Kelpies. These dogs are also high energy, working animals.
Aussie are from Basque Country that's what they said. So maybe it got a french origine. But the merle is from the Coley origin
 

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Hey Everyone. I forgot this thread for a moment sorry. But i have very godd news about the dog. He is incredible... so can I introduce you to Sinaï.
 

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Brieuc

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Lane, that's a great post. It's my understanding that what we know of as the "Australian Shepherd" is a purely American breed, but is adapted from a dog used in the Basque Country (so it should be right at home in France). Indeed, there's a certain group of folks in the US that are starting a breed called the "Basque Shepherd" which is basically an Aussie with a full tail (not bobbed or docked).

From my data point of one, I can concur that the Aussie is not only a great working dog, but is also well suited as a family pet. I did work hard on teaching good in-home manners, though. Here's my Aussie playing veterinarian with my 1-year-old daughter. He was super gentle. The old people at my grandma's nursing home loved him, too, because he was so calm around them.

View attachment 153770

That said, my new border collie comes from some very impressive herding lines out if Ireland and, if he weren't primarily a family pet, could probably be very successful with sheep. He is a VERY hard charger when he wants to be. But, with hard work, mutual respect, and clear expectations, my BC is turning into an excellent pet.

Here he is as I type this. Waiting for his morning exercise, but being cool about it...

View attachment 153771

Here he is with some sheep...

View attachment 153772View attachment 153773

Point is, good training makes a good dog.
Border Collie and Aussie are almost the same. We have a veriety in france called American Shepherd it is a small Aussie what do we know about its character ?
 
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