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Australian Shepherd

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The Australian Shepherd, or "little blue dog" as it is often called because of some of the breed's blue Merle color, is a medium-sized dog trained originally as a herder. This breed is attentive and animated, solid and muscular. Its docked or naturally bobbed tale complements its solid physique. His moderate length coat, somewhat coarse, comes in an assortment of four colors: black, blue Merle, red Merle, and red. This dog does best in the suburbs or in the country with an active, experienced owner. The dog is very intelligent, and its instinct to herd can often overpower any desire it may have to obey. Leashes and fenced yards are a must!

The Australian Shepherd is an excellent herding dog, excelling as well in Dogs for the Deaf programs, narcotics detection units, and on search and rescue missions. This dog is easy to train, likes a lot of exercise, is good with children and can be taught to be friendly to strangers. In addition, this breed makes an excellent watchdog, and bonds well to the entire family.

While the origin of the Australian Shepherd, or Aussie, is not completely known, the breed is thought to have derived from the Basques people who immigrated to Australia and the United States in the nineteenth century. On the American range, this dog became a dependable herding dog of superior intelligence and a devoted member of the family. These dogs often appear in photographs of the American West taken during the 19th and 20th centuries, and can be seen rounding up sheep and cattle. In the 1950's and 1960's, Jay Sisler introduced Aussies to the American rodeo scene. During the rodeos, Sisler and his dogs would perform tricks for the amazed audiences. It was not until 1991, however, that the American Kennel Club (AKC) adopted this breed. The Aussie became eligible for full competition in the AKC in 1993.
Fun things to do:
The Aussie makes a wonderful companion for an intense Frisbee-throwing session. This dog is also a great herder, and will nip at people's heels to "herd" them. Perhaps the ideal companion for the large family on the go?
Health Risks:
Some genetic problems in Aussies include malocclusions (faulty bites which may affect a dog's health), juvenile cataracts, Collie Eye Anomaly (symptoms range from choroidal hypoplasia to optic nerve coloboma to retina detachment), cleft palate, epilepsy (not necessarily hereditary), primary glaucoma, homozygous merles (defective double-gene found in some white Aussies), hip dysplasia, Progressive Renal Atrophy (PRA), spina bifida, and iri colobomas (may not be hereditary). In addition, reds and red Merles are susceptible to sunburn.
Things to watch out for with this breed:
Because the Aussie is a herder by nature, and an energetic dog in general, if it is kept confined and not kept busy, it can become prone to destructive chewing. In addition, this dog is highly reflex-responsive, and will scramble away if suddenly touched. Although this is a prized quality for a herd dog so that it can get out of the way of aggressive cattle, it makes for an annoyance inside the home. This dog will also shed a lot, and requires a weekly grooming, lots of exercise and a large home to live in.

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