Australian Shepherds: Working Dogs or Pets?

When people first encounter the Australian Shepherd Dog, they are often astonished to learn that the breed is not in fact, Australian, but is a true American – having emerged from the melting pot of immigrants (and their dogs) into the American West. The original Aussie is really a working stockdog that developed from the livestock ranching that engulfed the American West in the 1800s and continues to this day.

Dogs that were of sufficient size to tackle cattle, had strength, agility and intelligence were highly prized and so the input of various breeds such as the original English Collie, Pyrenean Shepherd dogs and perhaps also the Australian Coolie, led to the development of a typical American stock dog that could be found on almost every ranch. This was the origin of the Australian Shepherd – a true American Pioneer.

From Working Dog to Suburban Pet

However, the beauty of the Aussie caught the eye of dog lovers and soon Australian Shepherds were being bred as pets for the suburban market. These show Aussies retain their working dog temperament to some degree, but the true Aussie stock dog is a much tougher character. It’s a bit like the “town dog” and the “country dog”.

Show dogs are often bred more for looks and some of the ideal traits for a working stockdog are thus lost. Aussies almost disappeared as working dogs, since they were being bred for looks and “pet” temperament rather than their excellence as stock dogs.

Requirements of a Good Working Dog

There has been a resurgence of the “working dog” dog Aussie and there are many Aussies that make excellent herding dogs and more than earn their keep. There are breeders who breed Aussies specifically as ranch dogs. A good herding dog ideally needs the following characteristics:

· Strong herding instinct – this is mostly a genetic trait.

· A team player – dog wants to please his owner and ipata pet shippers easily forgives any corrections. The dog should be highly trainable and not obstinate.

· Confidence and high self-esteem – enabling the dog not to get too stressed by the work and also to enable it to overcome any stubborn livestock and not be overawed by them.

· Keenness – dogs must have a high degree of interest in the stock and not get dissuaded by a kick from the cow or a correction from the trainer.

· Good coat – excessively heavy coats are sometimes created by breeding for the show – a dog needs a good coat for the weather but not one that will constantly collect burrs.

· Work ethic – a willingness to get on with the job and not be distracted easily. The dog must have an innate knowledge that the stock are his charges, not his playthings.

Ultimately, the Australian Shepherd is a working dog first and foremost.

Nevertheless, remember that when you choose an Australian Shepherd as a pet, that you’ve got a dog whose ancestors were bred to work hard all day. Consequently, Aussies are active dogs that are happiest if they have a job to do. Herding sheep is not practical in the city,

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