The Australian Shepherd was bred as a hard-working herding dog. Today, these dogs have boundless amounts of energy and love channeling their need for constant activity into athletic games and tricks. Their multi-colored coats are as rich and unique as their herding instincts. They are an exactly medium-sized dog, standing between 1 ½ and 2 feet tall and weigh between 40 and 65 pounds. Australian Shepherds are active dogs who bond closely to their family and love using up their excess energy by participating in frequent family activities. These dogs have beautifully colored coats which will require weekly attention to stay looking their best.
Aussies love the feeling of being part of the pack, so they will bond close to their family and want to be around them at all times. If left alone for extended periods of time, the Aussie will resort to barking and playing destructively. The Aussie is perceptive to the needs and feelings of their owners. They are attentive dogs with strong protective instincts, and they also love to bark. They can make effective watchdogs if they are trained to avoid barking constantly. The Australian Shepherd's size is important. Your dog should weigh anywhere between 40 and 65 pounds and stand at least 18 inches tall. Any dog that is much smaller than the standard size has been bred irresponsibly in response to the demand for a "miniature" version of this rambunctious dog. All that energy also means that your dog will love learning new skills and playing with you. Australian Shepherds love to be given tasks and learn new tricks. Without continual exercise, they resort to destructive habits and irritating herding instincts. If they are not socialized with other dogs, they can become snappish or overly dominant. They respond best to confident leadership from their owners, and because they crave constant activity and perpetual play, they are best for experienced, dominant owners. Training should immediately focus on channeling their energy and athleticism into positive activities. These dogs love living in homes with children who can keep up with their need for constant activity and companionship.
Their dense coats come in blue and red merle, black and red. As dogs with merle colored coats age, their colorings become more pronounced. Aussies should never have white splashes on the top parts of their bodies. The Australian Shepherd's colorings help him stand out in a crowd. The coat may be slightly wavy or straight. The hair creates a soft mane and frill around the neck, which is more pronounced in males than in females. The medium-textured, feathered hair gives the Australian Shepherd his characteristic silhouette.
You may think that because Australian Shepherds are heavy shedders, they won't need much grooming. Actually, their coats look best with routine brushing, especially when they are shedding. Weekly brushing with a pin brush and a slicker brush will help keep their shedding under control.
With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.
Breeds with combination coats should be bathed seasonally, or about every three months. Naturally, it can be done more often if needed. The coat should end up fresh smelling, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry. Coat should be fresh smelling, with no loose or shedding hair.
Frequent trimming and stripping will prevent Australian Shepherds' coats from becoming matted, especially with heavy activity. It will also help your pet stay comfortable while he plays and rough-houses outdoors.
Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.
Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience. As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.
You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.
Eyes / Ears
Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.
It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Small dogs, like Dachshunds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Papillions and Japanese Chins, and dogs with hanging ears like the Saluki, have sensitive ears that need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. Small dogs like Papillions and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to developing tear stains around their eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.
Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.
Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.