Australian Shepherd: Breed of the Week
Are Australian Shepherds Good City Dogs?
If you are like me then you have noticed the Australian Shepherd or Aussie. At the dog park, walking down the street, I would see this striking dog and think, “Wow, that is such a cool looking Border Collie!” Finally, some years ago, I stopped an Aussie and its human as they were walking down the street and I learned that it was not a Border but an Aussie.
Oddly, the Australian Shepherd is not from Australia at all. Like many working breeds it went by many names: “Pastor Shepherd,” “Blue Healer,” and probably most accurately, “New Mexican Shepherd.” It’s a breed that originated in the American Southwest to help livestock farmers herd. Now they are known as the Australian Shepherd. The leading theory as to why is because it’s thought they were used to herd sheep brought to the States from Australia. That’s a pretty lame theory if you ask me!
These dogs were born to work. They rank amongst some of the best herders in the world. You can also see them working along side rodeo clowns and cowboys helping keep unruly livestock in line.
The first thing I noticed about this beautiful dog is its amazing coat. Its hair can be straight or wavy and is medium in length except on its head where the hair is short. They come in a multitude of colors: blue merle, red merle, red and white, red and black, and red and tan. And, in case you were unfamiliar with the term “merle,” it refers to a coat that has a splattering of dark patches against a light background (like Mia in the picture at the top of this post.) Upon closer examination, you’ll notice their eyes. Their eyes are come in almost as many colors and combinations of colors as their coats. Brown, blue, and amber are the most common colors.
Despite the longish hair, they don’t require too much grooming according to Dog Breed Info. A weekly brushing should suffice to keep the coat from matting and to keep shedding down.
Do Australian Shepherds Bark?
Will an Australian Shepherd be a good Urban Dog for you? If you have an active lifestyle… enjoy running, skateboarding or any other high energy sport… and your dog can accompany you… and if you have the time to spend with and properly train your pup … then, a qualified “yes.” That’s a lot to consider, isn’t it?
When you watch them, you notice how much this dog loves to smile and play. Perhaps this is why they are often in the ring with rodeo clowns. They are bred to have a lot of energy and enjoy a good run. They need a lot of daily exercise. If your Aussie doesn’t get enough exercise, this smart, lovable, entertaining dog could turn into a chewing destructive machine as is the case with most smart breeds who don’t get enough exercise. Despite the fact that it is high energy and a worker, it also makes a great family pet. They are excellent with children and make wonderful baby sitters or watchdogs.
Training for city dogs is super important. You want your pooch to obey you when you tell her to behave in your building’s public areas. Australian Shepherds score “Average” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 50% of the time or better according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about 25 to 45 repetitions for them to learn new commands.
Australian Shepherds are not excessive barkers. UC Davis researchers Benjamin and Lynette Hart devised a chart ranking dogs by the likelihood of barking at inappropriate times. On a scale of one to ten — with one being the least offensive barkers and ten the most excessive barkers — they get a two rating. Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.
I say this with every breed post but I can’t stress it enough. Take the time to seek out a trusted reputable breeder if you are considering an Aussie. They are subject to a few Aussie-specific illnesses. For example, merle colored Aussies are prone to deafness and blindness. Breeding to induce a natural bobtail can cause spinal trouble. So again, do your homework. Seek out at breeder from the AKC or the Aussie rescue organization.
For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide. Big dogs pose a particular challenge, but don’t worry, you can find places that accept large breed dogs.
To close, check out these hilarious videos featuring Stains from one of my favorite shows: It’s Me or the Dog! He probably has the most famous Aussie eyes in the world!
and this one…