The Australian Shepherd, commonly referred to by their nickname "Aussie," did not actually originate in Australia, but originated in the United States during the 19th century to be used as a herding dog on farms and ranches. The breed descended from the Pyrenean Shepherd that was brought to the Western United States by Basque peoples from Europe in the early 1800s. These sheepdogs were bred with other herding dogs that were the early ancestors of the Collie and Border Collie. Although it is not known specifically why the breed name includes the word Australian, it is believed that the Basque peoples traveled through Australia, where the Aussie's early ancestors were used to herd sheep and settled there before coming to North America. Upon arriving in the United States, American shepherds began calling the dogs Australian Shepherds because of their previous residence.
Athletic and powerful, the Australian Shepherd is a well-balanced breed that has enough stamina to work all day and has the agility and speed to handle unpredictable cattle when herding. Their movement is free and easy to be able to change direction instantly if need be. Known for their beautiful merle and tri-colored double coat, the Aussie has an all-weather undercoat with a medium-length topcoat that can range from being straight to wavy. They have brown, blue, or amber almond-shaped eyes, dropped triangular-shaped ears, and a medium-sized muzzle with a black or liver nose. An identifying characteristic is the Aussie's natural or docked bobbed tail that is straight and may not be seen under the fluffy coat of the breed.
Australian Shepherds are a very active, hard-working breed that is known for their strong work ethic and reliability. They generally have plenty of energy and staying power to keep going strong all day. Like most herding breeds, they have a naturally protective nature and can be wary of strangers, making them a decent watchdog. Exposure to different sights, sounds, people, and animals is important for this breed to avoid shyness and phobias to loud or unexcepted noises. The Australian Shepherd is always eager to please their owners and respond best to positive reinforcement training with praise and treats. Proper obedience training is needed by a firm owner to set leadership rules and to curb the nipping and biting that many dogs tend to do because of their natural instinct to herd. The use of Aussies as service, guide, and therapy dogs attest to their loyalty, obedience, and trainability. This loving breed adores children and can adapt to any sort of living arrangement as long as they are properly exercised. In the dog sporting world, Australian Shepherds enjoy and excel at many sports such as dog agility, frisbee, and flyball. Even though the breed is esteemed as an excellent herder, their good-natured personality and devotion to their families make the Aussie a great family addition.