Intelligent, energetic, athletic best describes the Australian Shepherd. The breed originally bred for herding cattle and sheep can still be found today on many working farms and ranches. Australian Shepherds are easily trained and are noted for their versatility making them an excellent choice for agility, obedience, tracking or various other canine activities.
Although, they can be reserved with strangers they are very much "people" dogs making them exceptional companions. The Aussie as they are fondly nicknamed is a medium sized dog with medium length coat that is straight to slightly wavy. They come in 4 different coat colors blue merle, black, red merle and red all with or without white and/or tan markings. They are a double coated breed an do shed. Weekly brushing with more frequent brushing during major sheds is required to help remove dead undercoat. Merles often have blue eyes or a combination of blue and brown eyes. Another characteristic the breed is noted for are their natural bob or docked tails.
Despite the Australian name the Australian Shepherd is not from Australia, they are a American breed fined-tuned by ranchers and farmers of the American West. There are several theories regarding the origin of this breed but many believe dogs similar to the present day Aussie accompanied Basque sheep herders when Australian sheep were being imported to America's western states in the 1800's.
In the early 1960's a small group of breeders starting breeding a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd known at the time as Mini Aussies or Miniature Australian Shepherd. These dedicated breeder's goal was to breed a smaller dog but retain all the qualities of the larger Australian Shepherds. So they started to breed a group of dogs thought to be smaller aussies in hopes to bring the size down but retained the qualities of the Australian Shepherd. The Miniature Australian Shepherd officially renamed as Miniature American Shepherd is a separate breed and is not to be confused as a variety of the Australian Shepherd. The Miniature American Shepherd official gained fully AKC recognition and joined herding group in 2015.
Desendeants of the Australian Shepherds the Miniature American Shepherd shares many of qualities and characteristics of the Australian Shepherd with the exception to size. The Aussie breed standard states the recommended size of 18 to 21 inches for females and 20 to 23 inches for males then goes on to state that quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size. The Miniature American Shepherd breed standard is specific to size and states that the height for males is to start at14 inches up to and including 18 inches. Females is 13 inches up to and including 17 inches in height at the wither. Anything smaller or larger than this size will be disqualified from competing in the breed ring. Regardless of height the Mini American can still compete in all other venues regardless of their size. Other than size both breed standards are almost identical with a few minor differences. So the look of the Mini will be very similar to that of the Aussie. I often make this comparison for people if you have always loved Collies but they are just bigger than you would like you can get a similar look by going with the Shetland Sheepdog.
While the Australian Shepherd and the Miniature American Shepherd both are wonderful companions they are not for everyone. Both breeds can be extremely energetic especially as youngsters requiring vigorous daily exercise. Aussies and MAS can be protective or reserved and will need extensive socialization but all puppies regardless of breed benefit from early socialization. Anyone considering one of these amazing breeds should be prepared to have plenty of time to devote to training, socializing, and caring for their new friend. There is an abundance of information available on the internet, in breed books and magazines that offer insight on all aspects of ownership. Please be sure to research both breeds in depth so you are certain that the Aussie or MAS is the right breed for you and your family. If indeed you believe a Australian Shepherd or Miniature American is a good fit for you and your lifestyle then by all means start looking for knowledgeable breeders in your area, remember you get what you pay for. A good breeder is incredibly knowledgeable on the breed and devotes a great deal of time, money and love when planning and raising each litter of puppies that they have. They can guide you on what puppies are also a better match for you.
Here are some good websites that can get you started learning more about these wonderful dogs.