There are a variety of traits and behaviors that hallmark an Aussie
as a unique breed. The most visually powerful and obvious are coat colors
and markings. Each individual is unique. The Australian Shepherd can come
in red tri, black tri, red merle and blue merle. All these base coat colors
make each individual one of a kind. In addition the Aussie can carry just
white trim, copper trim or a combination, copper and white markings. The
coat color patterns can create false illusions of the structure that lies
beneath. Although finite in combinations, the Aussie carries a huge degree
of variety based on coat color and trim compared to a solid-colored breed
such as the Weimeraner.
The Aussie is an energetic bundle of enthusiasm with the stamina and desire
to work all day long. Biddability is what we call it in the breed. Although
the specific origination of the breed remains cloudy, the modern day Aussie
owes it heritage to the ranchers and farmers of the West. On a working
ranch the Aussie was highly desirable as not only a herding dog, but also
an extremely loyal guardian, a devoted babysitter, faithful companion—a
jack of trades.
The working Australian Shepherd of the late 1800s and early 1900s was
also adaptable which was particularly prized on a working ranch. Facing
climatic, weather, and geographic hardships the courageous “little
blue dog” was dependable no matter what the conditions or the work.
Historic tales of the dog’s courageous acts abound. The modern day
Aussie carries with them these genetic markers that combine to bring us
a dog that relies on and is avidly devoted to human companionship.
Many of the traits that made the Aussie a highly a desirable ranch hand,
crossover to the modern-day owner’s appreciation and regard for
the breed. The Australian Shepherd is highly intelligent, attentive, and
intuitive, has common sense and is capable of independent judgment with
an inherent sense of right and wrong.
Versatility is another hallmark of the breed. The Aussie has yet to find
a task that can’t be taken on with a keen sense of humor and enthusiasm.
Aussies are used today as search and rescue dogs, compete in agility,
herding, obedience events, are used a guide, service and therapy dogs.
Aussies make good retrievers and have compete in hunt tests and trials.
The list is endless!
The way an Aussie goes about life is particularly unique. The Australian
Shepherd has a happy disposition, is affectionate and playful. The Aussie
appears to sustain this puppy-like manner throughout their lifetime. Many
owners have poignant stories of old dogs jumping up and wildly dashing
about the house, playing with and nurturing puppies, or madly digging
in the toy box for a new toy. The playfulness never wanes, even when the
body fails to cooperate. They are completely comfortable playing alone
and making up special games to the delight of those able to observe this
The Aussie is astoundingly communicative and literally can take your breath
away with their ability to tell you exactly what is wanted. Nose bums
in the back of the leg, or a cool nose slipping under your forearm and
flipping your arm into the air, leaves no doubt that this dog wants your
attention. While generally considered a quiet working dog, Aussies have
a highly developed set of vocals they use to communicate with their canine
and human partners. The noise ranges from a typical bark, a guttural reverberation,
a whine and the ear splitting high-pitched yip. Owners or breeders who
have multiple Aussies at home can blindly identify each dog by its unique
set of vocals.
The Aussie is particularly handy and dexterous with its front feet. Aussies
love climbing and jumping on things including doghouses, couches, beds,
chairs, fences. Most Aussies are water dogs. The love of water can range
from being consumed with playing in the water bucket to submersion in
the stock water trough or forging rivers and streams.
While they are capable of creating huge wet dirty messes the Aussie is
remarkably clean with strong instincts to cleaning not only themselves
but also other Aussies or owners. I am often the recipient of a spontaneous
toe and foot wet “massage” or the ever present ear wash not
While individualistic in appearance the Aussie is a loyal companion, enthusiastic
in their outlook on life, attentive and adoring of their human counterpart.
The Aussie makes a mark on all that have the unique ability to share and
appreciate life with one.