The Beauceron is a guard dog and herding dog breed falling into the working dog category whose origins lie in the plains of Northern France. The Beauceron is also known as Berger de Beauce or Bas Rouge. [Read more…]
The Bearded Collie, or Beardie, is a herding breed of dog once used primarily by Scottish shepherds, but now mostly a popular family companion. [Read more…]
The Australian Shepherd, often known simply as the “Aussie”, is a medium-sized breed of dog that was, despite its name, developed on ranches in the Western United States during the 19th century. The dog was developed from a breed or breeds from the Basque country in Western Europe. It was brought by Basque people to the United States, these people had previously lived only briefly in Australia before moving to America. The dog otherwise has no connection to Australia.
There are a number of different theories regarding how the breed came to be associated with Australia, but there is no consensus. They are similar in appearance to the popular English Shepherd and Border Collie breeds, and research has found that Australian Shepherds and Border Collies are closely related to each other; both the Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are slightly more distantly related to other kinds of Collies and to Shetland Sheepdogs.
Australian Shepherd Facts: History
The Australian Shepherd’s history is vague, as is the reason for its misleading name. The breed was initially called by many names, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, California Shepherd, and Austrian Shepherd. It is believed by some that the breed has Basque origins in Spain and was used there by shepherds. Those shepherds might then have emigrated to the West Coast of the United States via Australia. What is known is that it developed in western North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Australian Shepherd was a particularly tireless sheep herder in the Rocky Mountains because it is relatively unaffected by altitude. Ranchers in Boulder, Colorado, began breeding the dogs which would attract purchasers from as far west as California for their legendary sheep-herding abilities. A theory suggests that they were named for the imported sheep that they herded. It is also possible that many of the dogs coming from Australia were blue merle and the adjective “Australian” became associated with any dogs of that coat color.
Breeds as we know them today did not exist before Victorian times, but local variations of the ancestors of current breeds came into America along with their owners and livestock. Included are some that are now extinct or that have merged into other breeds. These may have included some British herding dogs, native dogs from North America, as well as dogs from Germany and Spain including the Carea Leonés. For many centuries, shepherds were more interested in dogs’ working abilities than their appearance. As a result, over time, shepherds interbred dogs that they believed would produce better workers for the given climate and landscape. In the eastern U.S., terrain and weather conditions were similar to that of Europe, so the existing imported breeds and their offspring worked well there.
In the American West, conditions were quite different. Spanish flocks were introduced for food and fiber which was mainly the Churra. The Spanish dogs that accompanied them to American West proved well-suited for their job in the wild and dangerous territory. They were highly valued for their ability to herd and protect their charges from predators on the open range. In the arid and semiarid areas inhabited by early Spanish settlers, temperatures reached extremes of hot and cold and fields varied in altitude from sea level to the higher, rougher Sierra Nevada and similar mountain ranges. The ranchers in these areas often pastured livestock on remote ranges. They preferred more aggressive herding dogs that served in the capacity of herder and guardian.
Development of the breed began in the American West. The breed’s foundation bloodlines are depicted in the Australian Shepherd Genealogy Chartshowing the relationship between the early families of dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) ranked the Australian Shepherd as the 17th-most popular breed in the United States in 2016.
Selective breeding for many generations focused on aspects of the dog that enabled it to function as an effective stockdog in the American West. It had to handle severe weather; have plenty of speed, athleticism, energy, and endurance; and be intelligent, flexible, and independent; while remaining obedient. The actual foundation for the Australian Shepherd was established between the 1940s and the early 1970s, when the Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed and the registry was started.
Australian Shepherd Facts: Temperament
Bred to be pushy with livestock, Australian Shepherds can and will take the dominant role in the home if you don’t give them firm and confident leadership. This makes them a poor choice for first-time or timid owners.
Like many herding dogs, Australian Shepherds are by nature loyal to their family but standoffish with strangers. They need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they’re young.
Socialization helps ensure that your Aussie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Australian Shepherd Facts: Health
Generally the Australian Shepherd is a healthy dog, but they have been known to have a variety of different issues:
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the femur doesn’t fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and found to be free of problems.
- Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or medication to control the pain.
- Epilepsy: The Australian Shepherd can suffer from epilepsy, which is a disorder that causes seizures. Epilepsy can be treated with medication, but it cannot be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with the proper management of this hereditary disorder.
- Deafness: Deafness is fairly common in this breed and can pose many challenges. Some forms of deafness and hearing loss can be treated with medication and surgery, but usually deafness cannot be cured. Living with and training a deaf dog requires patience and time, but there are many aids on the market, such as vibrating collars, to make life easier. If your Aussie is diagnosed with hearing loss or total deafness, take the time to evaluate if you have the patience, time, and ability to care for the animal. Regardless of your decision, it is best to notify the breeder.
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. It causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding of “growth formula” puppy foods or high-protein foods may contribute to its development.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable Aussie breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
- Cataracts: A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye that causes difficulty in seeing. The eye(s) of the dog will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve the dog’s vision.
- Distichiasis: This condition occurs when an additional row of eyelashes (known as distichia) grow on the oil gland in the dog’s eye and protrude along the edge of the eyelid. This irritates the eye, and you may notice your Aussie squinting or rubbing his eye(s). Distichiasis is treated surgically by freezing the excess eyelashes with liquid nitrogen and then remove them. This type of surgery is called cryoepilation and is done under general anesthesia.
- Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): Collie Eye Anomaly is an inherited condition that can lead to blindness in some dogs. It usually occurs by the time the dog is 2 years old and is diagnosed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. There is no treatment for CEA, but as noted above, blind dogs can get around very well using their other senses. It is important to remember that this condition is a genetic abnormality, and your breeder should be notified if your puppy has the condition. It is also important to spay or neuter your dog to prevent the gene from being passed to a new generation of puppies.
- Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM): Persistent Pupillary Membranes are strands of tissue in the eye, remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the lenses of the eyes before birth. They normally disappear by the time a puppy is 4 or 5 weeks old, but sometimes they persist. The strands can stretch from iris to iris, iris to lens, or cornea to iris, and sometimes they are found in the anterior (front) chamber of the eye. For many dogs, the strands do not cause any problems and generally they break down by 8 weeks of age. If the strands do not break down, they can lead to cataracts or cause corneal opacities. Eye drops prescribed by your veterinarian can help break them down.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, lethargy, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog’s fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog’s life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. Allergies to certain foods are identified and treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet until the culprit is discovered. Contact allergies are caused by a reaction to something that touches the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals. They are treated by identifying and removing the cause of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The appropriate medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.
- Drug Sensitivity: Sensitivity to certain drugs is commonly seen in herding breeds, including Australian Shepherds and Collies. It is caused by a mutation of the Multidrug Resistance Gene (MDR1), which produces a protein called P-glycoprotein. This protein works as a pump to remove toxic substances from the body to prevent the harmful effects of the toxins. In dogs who show Drug Sensitivity, that gene does not function, resulting in toxicity. Dogs with this mutated gene can be sensitive to Ivermectin, a medicine commonly used in anti-parasitic products such as heartworm preventives, as well as other drugs, including chemotherapy drugs. Signs of this sensitivity range from tremors, depression, seizures, incoordination, hypersalivation, coma, and even death. There is no known treatment but there is a new genetic test that can identify dogs with this nonfunctioning gene. All Australian Shepherds should be screened.
- Cancer: Dogs, like humans, can develop cancer. There are many different types of cancer and the success of treatment differs for each individual case. For some forms of cancer, the tumors are surgically removed, others are treated with chemotherapy, and some are treated both surgically and medically.
- Nasal Solar Dermatitis: Also known as Collie-nose, this condition generally occurs in dogs who have little or no pigment in their nose and is not restricted to Collies. Dogs who are super-sensitive to sunlight develop lesions on the nose and occasionally around the eyelids, ranging from light pink lesions to ulcerating lesions. The condition may be difficult to diagnose at first because several other diseases can cause the same lesions. If your Aussie is diagnosed with Collie nose, keep him out of direct sunlight, and apply doggie sunscreen when he goes outside. The most effective way to manage the condition is to tattoo the dog’s nose black so the ink serves as a shield against sunlight.
- Detached Retina: An injury to the face can cause the retina to become detached from its underlying supportive tissues. A detached retina can lead to visual impairment or even blindness. There is no treatment for a detached retina, but many dogs live full lives with visual impairments.
Many of these negative traits can be avoided by locating a good breeder.
Australian Shepherd Facts: Online Resources
- Wikipedia – Australian Shepherd
- Dog Time – Australian Shepherd
- American Kennel Club – Aussie Overview
- Australian Shepherd Club of America
- Akim – Australian Shepherd Youtube Channel
- Australian Shepherds (Barron’s Dog Bibles)
- Australian Shepherd Bible And the Australian Shepherd: Your Perfect Australian Shepherd Guide Covers Australian Shepherds, Australian Shepherd … Shepherd Breeders, Size, Health, More!
- Marina’s Guide to Dog Breeds
- Guide to Herding Breeds
- Australian Shepherd Lovers Facebook Page
The Australian Cattle Dog, is a breed of herding dog originally developed in Australia for droving cattle over long distances across rough terrain. This breed is a medium-sized, short-coated dog that occurs in two main colour forms. It has either brown or black hair distributed fairly evenly through a white coat, which gives the appearance of a “red” or “blue” dog. Australian Cattle Dogs are known for their intelligence, high energy, good health, and adaptability.
Freidrich Wilhelm von Steuben also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian and later an American military officer. He served as inspector general and major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army in teaching them the essentials of military drills, tactics, and disciplines. He wrote Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, the book that served as standard United States drill manual until the Civil War. He served as General George Washington’s chief of staff in the final years of the war. [Read more…]