Australian Shepherd Gurus Called to Attention - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-27-2016, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Australian Shepherd Gurus Called to Attention

I recently have been toying with the idea of my next pup dog being an Australian Shepherd. We had them growing up as cattle dogs, but I've never known much about the breed standards. I have developed a list of questions that I was hoping some of you could help me with.

I learned that the merle x merle breedings produce pretty white dogs, but are to be avoided due to genetic defects--similar to LWO lethal white overo foals. I often see pups advertised with half white faces or big white collars. Are these due to merle x merle breedings? Or just markings?

On the same note, what white markings are allowed within the registry, and what are avoided?

Lastly, are there any diseases to be looking for within the breed's breedings? Like with stock horses you want a 5 panel test, is there a similar situation with the dogs?

I appreciate all help in advance, as I am trying to do this as responsibly as possible before buying!

-Ethan
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-27-2016, 03:44 PM
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I'm not an aussie person but I am a cattle dog person, and one who has shown and been around dogs since as long as I can remember.

Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Information - American Kennel Club

The AKC website has good info on what to expect.

Are you just wanting a pet aussie, show, work?

Like all cattle dogs they will need something to mentally stimulate them.

From what I have heard from talking to actual aussie owners over the years, they tend to be a little more sensitive than some breeds to food, and medication. Apparently a lot of them have undesirable reactions to even basic heartworm medication.

Another thing to consider is eye issues and hip dysplasia, which I have heard about in aussies as well, but I'm not sure if it's any more common in them than it is in any other breed. I would find a breeder and get the CERF/OFA results from both parents before deciding on a puppy.

I have known some to also have epilepsy, but there is no way to tell that as a pup, and any dog can have that.

Most importantly I would just find a breeder and talk to them. Ask them what history the parents have, and find out who else has bought puppies from them and see if you can get some reviews. If you can get registered, proven parents who have done well in the show ring or some other dogsport, you are more likely to have a good minded, sound, issue-free puppy even if they do cost a little more.

Some breeders will also give you a major discount (or even free) on puppies if you allow them to co-own the dog and show it. We used to do that with pet homes, because the owners would be happy with a guaranteed puppy and we would be happy because we didn't have to actually keep the pup to get the benefits of showing it. We usually took our dogs three weekends a year or something. Just ask them, and they will have a contract for you to look over with specifics.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-27-2016, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EthanQ View Post
I recently have been toying with the idea of my next pup dog being an Australian Shepherd. We had them growing up as cattle dogs, but I've never known much about the breed standards. I have developed a list of questions that I was hoping some of you could help me with.

I learned that the merle x merle breedings produce pretty white dogs, but are to be avoided due to genetic defects--similar to LWO lethal white overo foals. I often see pups advertised with half white faces or big white collars. Are these due to merle x merle breedings? Or just markings?

On the same note, what white markings are allowed within the registry, and what are avoided?

Lastly, are there any diseases to be looking for within the breed's breedings? Like with stock horses you want a 5 panel test, is there a similar situation with the dogs?

I appreciate all help in advance, as I am trying to do this as responsibly as possible before buying!

-Ethan
I was an Aussie person, still own three.

This is a good website to read about homozygous merle:
Double Merle Dogs - The White Aussies Project, at Lethal Whites .Com

Essentially, DON'T buy a homozygous merle (product of two merles) except as a humanitarian act. It is not "lethal" but they have hearing and often eye deficits -- many are born both blind and deaf. They usually can be identified visually because they are typically mostly white (body white) with irregular patches of color.

Other white mismarks are really just cosmetic except white that covers an ear. Check the hearing of any dog like that -- ears need pigmented internal hairs to transmit sound.

If you want to do conformation shows, find a mentor that does that and who will sell you a suitable pup or dog. Otherwise don't bother with that beauty contest stuff. It's pretty meaningless. You don't ride dogs.

There are two types of Aussies, with some intermixing between them. The original type is the working Aussie. These don't necessarily look, act, or think much like the show type, which shares almost no genetics with them. AKC Aussies are 100% show type. These dogs are often much bigger, thicker, much hairier, and have a reputation as airheads. Working Aussies are going to be a more serious, athletic, intelligent, and loyal dog, typically. They won't look like show dogs though.

To find a working type dog, you'll need to find a dog registered with the Australian Shepherd Club of America, unaffiliated with the AKC. It is the largest single-breed registry in the US. However, ASCA dogs too are about 85% showbred. To find working breeders, try workingaussiesource.com. I created the website twelve years ago but two years ago gave it to other people, and there are a lot of broken links and glitches I would have caught when I managed it, but it is still the only resource online.

The main health issues in Aussies besides the very avoidable double merle, are epilepsy, hip dysplasia, auto-immune disorders, and bilateral posterior cataracts.

Epilepsy is genetic but has proved very elusive to track. HD is routinely screened for -- don't buy a pup whose parents don't have a PennHip or OFA rating. Auto-immune is another really bad one and does have a genetic component, no test for it, ask a lot of questions of the breeder about the most common forms of it which may have occurred in their lines.

Cataracts can be DNA tested clear for, most reputable breeders do.

Also, MDR-1 genetic anomaly is quite common in Aussies and most other collie type breeds (but not Border Collies). There is a DNA test. Dogs with one or worse two copies of this gene will have very bad reactions to some common veterinary drugs and dewormers. Ivermectin, for example, can kill these dogs.

Current info about all the above health issues and more can be found at ashgi.org
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-27-2016, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorrelHorse View Post
I'm not an aussie person but I am a cattle dog person, and one who has shown and been around dogs since as long as I can remember.

Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Information - American Kennel Club

The AKC website has good info on what to expect.

Are you just wanting a pet aussie, show, work?

Like all cattle dogs they will need something to mentally stimulate them.

From what I have heard from talking to actual aussie owners over the years, they tend to be a little more sensitive than some breeds to food, and medication. Apparently a lot of them have undesirable reactions to even basic heartworm medication.

Another thing to consider is eye issues and hip dysplasia, which I have heard about in aussies as well, but I'm not sure if it's any more common in them than it is in any other breed. I would find a breeder and get the CERF/OFA results from both parents before deciding on a puppy.

I have known some to also have epilepsy, but there is no way to tell that as a pup, and any dog can have that.

Most importantly I would just find a breeder and talk to them. Ask them what history the parents have, and find out who else has bought puppies from them and see if you can get some reviews. If you can get registered, proven parents who have done well in the show ring or some other dogsport, you are more likely to have a good minded, sound, issue-free puppy even if they do cost a little more.

Some breeders will also give you a major discount (or even free) on puppies if you allow them to co-own the dog and show it. We used to do that with pet homes, because the owners would be happy with a guaranteed puppy and we would be happy because we didn't have to actually keep the pup to get the benefits of showing it. We usually took our dogs three weekends a year or something. Just ask them, and they will have a contract for you to look over with specifics.
Actually Aussies are not specifically cow dogs (unlike heelers). They work all stock, and their stockdog trials are on cattle, sheep/goats, and ducks/geese, usually all three at one trial.

DO NOT whatever you do, co-own a dog, unless it is with your spouse or your best friend. It is a deal which can turn very sour and often does, and then it is a legal nightmare. I've heard horrible stories from both ends, the burnt breeder and the burnt pet owner. The AKC does not recommend co ownership; I believe they spend a lot of legal time untangling them. Present company excepted of course.

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post #5 of 7 Old 05-27-2016, 11:27 PM
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Does anyone know why they are called Australian Shepherds?
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-28-2016, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Saskia View Post
Does anyone know why they are called Australian Shepherds?
Not really. They are a landrace of the western US, comprised mainly of British herding types with some continental herding breed influence. They are very similar to the English Shepherd, which is a landrace breed mainly of the Midwestern US. They only began to split apart when a registry was formed for Aussies in the 1950's, and still differ mainly in the colors accepted (ES don't admit merle, Aussies don't admit sable) and the lack of docking in the ES.

Most of the theorizing about the name focuses on how flocks of sheep were imported from Australia to the west coast in the 19th century and the dogs accompanying them were merles, and hence merle became associated with Australia. But merles have always existed in British herding dogs and almost certainly was present before the Australian sheep arrived. In fact there is a breed called the Welsh Sheepdog, rare now but of long existence in Wales, that is a dead ringer for Aussies, in appearance and working style. There are other British derived herding breeds very much like Aussies in Chile (Careo Leones), Australia (Koolie) and elsewhere. They followed the British sheep.
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-29-2016, 05:40 AM
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I always find it strange when I come across something called "Australian" but have never seen it here before :) They look like nice dogs though.
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