The Australian Shepherd - Living with an Aussie
The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful, and loving breed. They deserve and often require, a lot of love and attention in return. I live with an Aussie.
For the last three years we have been living with an Australian Shepherd, named Modjaji, We call her Jaji for short. Her name means "rain goddess" in Swahili, and she was a gift from my sister who owns Jaji's grandmother. We have always owned and loved dogs, but have never had one as large, or so active. Needing to learn all we could, I began to research the Australian Shepherd. Australian Shepherds, lovingly nicknamed Aussies, are a loyal, highly intelligent, and agile breed. The Aussies are highly active and playful. They require a great deal of daily exercise and athletic activity. This helps keep them from getting bored, and is an excellent way for them to vent their high level of energy. Known for their instinctive herding and guarding skills, the Australian Shepherd is still widely used today for varying capacities, such as ranching and aiding the deaf and blind. They also make great pets in loving households.
History Despite their name, it is believed that the Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the breed as we know it today most likely originated in the Pyrenees Mountains somewhere between Spain and France. They probably were called Australian Shepherd because they were brought to the United States in the 1800s by the Basque shepherds who came from Australia.
Appearance/Description Aussies are medium size in appearance. Males normally weigh between 50 and 65 pounds with a height of 20 to 21 inches. Females weigh generally between 40 and 55 pounds, with a height of 18 to 21 inches. The unique coat coloring of the Australian Shepherd and its corresponding eye coloring are a much remarked-on feature of the breed's appearance. Their coats range in color from blue merle (gray and black marbling), all black, red merle (red and siver or buff marbling), all red, and black tri-colored. The eyes can be various colorings of blue, amber, hazel, and brown. Our Jaji is a female red merle with beautiful amber eyes. She is normal height and about 55 pounds. She is in wonderful shape and is a real "show stopper" at the local dog park. She has a never ending yearning to run and catch. She is absolutely amazing with her ability to run, jump, and catch. The frisbee is her favorite, but she also loves tennis balls and small footballs.
Exercise Aussies require a great deal of exercise and mental stimulation. Daily walks or jogs are recommended. Australian Shepherds, due to their superior physical and mental attributes, often excel in events such as agility, obedience, and herding. Getting them involved with these types of activities are perfect outlets for their energy. Jaji is always ready and eager to go "outside". She recognizes the word when said, and immediately finds her frisbee and brings it me for "catch". Willing to go as many rounds as I'm willing to throw, she finally hears me tell her, "one more", and she is temporarily satisfied. During the hot summer here in Texas, Jaji really enjoys a drink from the water hose, or an ice cube from the kitchen freezer. Her best exercise comes when we go to the local dog park. Not only does she get to socialize with other dogs, but she gets to really run in a big open area. She is beautiful to watch. We always receive compliments regarding her agility and beauty.
Temperament Australian Shepherds are good natured and loving companions. They are generally calm with an even temperament, though they can sometimes be fairly shy around strangers. Because of their love for play and their strong desire to please their owners, they make wonderful family pets. What I have observed from Jaji, is that she is very possessive and protective of her family. She wants and needs to be right in the middle of everything. We have to actually ask her to move, because she'll get right at your feet and lay down. Sometimes it's like she's being the "mother hen" watching over her chicks. She watches the family to make sure she knows where everyone is. I'm sure this is her natural herding instinct. She loves to be petted and will quickly roll-over so you can pat and rub her tummy.
Grooming/Care Aussies are average to heavy shedders. Weekly brushing with a slicker brush is needed, followed by a good comb-out. Their hair is of medium texture, and varies from straight to wavy. A shedding rake is also recommended to remove the dead hair in the undercoat. We have found the a good weekly brushing seems to be plenty for keeping Jaji looking good. After bathing we always make sure to dry her as much as possible before combing. She love the water, so bathing is never too much of a hassle. Again, she loves the attention. We have found our Aussie to be a wonderful member of our family.