The Australian Shepherd is a breed of herding dog from the United States. Developed in California in the 19th century, it is claimed the breed descends from a variety of herding breeds including collies imported into California alongside sheep imported from Australia and New Zealand, the breed taking its name from the former. Originally used solely as a herding dog, the Australian Shepherd has become one of the most popular companion dog breeds in North America.
The Australian Shepherd spread from California throughout the Western United States where it became extremely popular with ranchers who valued the breed’s sheep working qualities, as well as their ability to handle cattle and other livestock. A purely working breed for over a century, the Australian Shepherd was virtually unknown outside of the livestock industry until the mid 20th century when the breed was popularized by Jay Lister, a rodeo performer, wowed crowds at rodeos across the western states with his Australian Shepherds performing all manner of tricks. A breed club was soon formed to promote the breed, the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and kennel club recognition followed in 1979 when the breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club. The breed was subsequently recognized by the American Kennel Club in the 1990s.
From the late-20th century the Australian Shepherd has increasingly been seen in conformation shows and it has become an extremely popular companion dog, in 2019 it was ranked by the American Kennel Club as the 15th most popular breed of dog in the United States. Aussies come in a variety of coat patterns which are stunning and unique.
As a high-prey-drive herding breed, Aussies are usually extremely visually sensitive and have strong problem solving capabilities. They also have strong guardian instincts and an authoritative and aggressive personality. Australian Shepherds never see limits, only opportunities and always love a challenge. Although serious, focused and aggressive at work with livestock, the Australian Shepherd is gentle with human friends.
Australian Shepherds CAN make excellent family pets as long as you can accommodate their need for an active lifestyle, socialize them at a young age, provide good leadership, set boundaries and give them guidance and training. If left on their own with no mental or physical stimulation, they can be destructive, overly protective and anxious. Aussies are loyal, loving and protective, however their natural herding instincts can be misunderstood. Aussies may herd family members, other pets and even guests or strangers.