rec.pets.dogs: Australian Shepherds Breed-FAQ

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Randy 'n Monica Barger

Apr 17, 2004, 7:27:37 AM4/17/04
Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/austshepherds
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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Australian Shepherds


Copyright 1997 by Randy 'n Monica Barger,
Roanoak Australian Shepherds

_Last updated January 30, 1997_

Table of Contents

* Why an Aussie?
* What is an Aussie?
+ Origin
+ Personality and Character
+ ASCA Breed Standard
+ AKC Breed Standard
* What is Aussie Rescue?
* How can I find a responsible breeder?
* What should I ask the breeder?
* What about papers?
* How do I choose my Aussie?
+ Should I get a male or a female?
+ Should I get show/breeding quality or pet quality?
+ What should I pay for an Aussie?
* What should I get with my new Aussie?
* How can I make my Aussie the best dog in the world?
+ Bringing your puppy home
+ Nutrition and good health
+ Housebreaking
+ Crate training
+ Socialization
+ Discipline
+ Obedience
* Are Aussies good with children?
* Can an Aussie live in town?
* What are some good resources?
* Miscellaneous Questions
+ What are the standard color genetics?
+ Should merle-to-merle breedings be done?
+ What are the most common genetic diseases?
+ Why are tails docked?
+ What's the difference between inbreeding, line-breeding, and


Why an Aussie?

Australian Shepherds are a truly versatile breed. Not only are they
agile working dogs, they are also extremely intelligent animals and
wonderful family companions. A very endearing quality of Aussies is
their intense desire to please their owners; this makes them quick
learners and loyal friends. Aussies are naturally reserved with
strangers, but they should never be shy or timid. They do have strong
territorial instincts and are naturally possessive and protective of
their owners and home. When raised with children, Aussies love kids
and quickly become a predictable and devoted family member. Aussies do
not need a huge yard to run in, but they do need daily exercise and
attention. They love to play ball and frisbee. It's hard to keep most
of them out of water. And they make great foot warmers curled up at
the end of the bed.


What is an Aussie?


[There are several theories about the origin of the Australian
Shepherd, but this one is the most common.]

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd as we know it today was
developed completely within the United States. In the late 1800's and
early 1900's the forerunners of today's "Aussies" came to the western
and north-western states as stockdogs for the Basque shepherds that
accompanied the vast numbers of sheep then being imported from
Australia. These hard-working, medium-sized, "little blue dogs"
impressed the American ranchers and farmers, who began using them as
well. Breeding was done for working ability rather than appearance,
and occasionally dogs of other herding breeds were bred into the
lines. However, today's Aussie still resembles the dogs that came from
Europe via Australia, and great numbers of Aussies are still working
stock on ranches and farms in the United States and beyond.

The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was formed in 1957 to
promote the breed, and several clubs kept breed registries. A unified
standard was adopted in 1976, and the registries combined in 1980. The
National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR) keeps a separate Australian
Shepherd registry.

In 1992 the American Kennel Club (AKC) granted recognition to the
Australian Shepherd, although ASCA did not become the affiliate parent
club. The United States Australian Shepherd Association was formed to
be the AKC parent breed club. AKC allowed open registration for two
years before closing the registry, so now many Aussies are dual or
even triple registered.

Personality & Character

Those of us who love Aussies can't imagine a more perfect breed of
dog. Unfortunately, the very characteristics we value in these dogs
make them unsuitable for some homes and owners. Consider carefully if
your lifestyle can accommodate the exuberance of a typical Aussie.

The Australian Shepherd was developed to be a moderate-sized,
intelligent, all-purpose stock dog of great character and endurance.
Many Aussies today still do the work they were bred for, and even
those that have never seen sheep or cattle usually have a strong
herding instinct. This means that Aussies need fenced yards and
leashes, as the temptation to herd dogs, children, and traffic can
simply overwhelm them.

Being bred to work hard all day means that most Aussies are not
content to be couch potatoes, although Aussies have individual
characters and some are more sedate and quiet-natured than others. For
the most part, however, these are high-energy dogs that need a purpose
in their lives, a job as it were. Owners must be committed to give
these dogs the time and attention they require through play and
training, for as with any dog, undirected energy can turn towards
destructive behaviors, such as digging and chewing. Running, jumping,
and rough-housing are all a part of being a normal Aussie.

The great intelligence of these dogs, necessary to out-think and
control livestock, can be detrimental when left untrained and unused.
Aussies are quite capable of out-thinking their owners. Obedience
training is highly recommended as a means of teaching owners how to
channel the typical Aussie's innate desire to please into appropriate
behaviors. Aussies learn very quickly, so be certain you are willing
to keep your Aussie occupied with walks, play, and training to benefit
both mind and body.

Although many Aussies are friendly with everyone, the Australian
Shepherd as a breed tends to be somewhat reserved and cautious around
strangers. With Aussies of this nature, owners should encourage the
dog to meet people but not force encounters. Aussies are often quite
protective of their family and property, a desirable trait in some
situations but not acceptable in others, and some dogs never accept
strangers. As with all dogs, poorly socialized Aussies may become
aggressive without proper training.

In general, Aussies are healthy dogs and can be expected to live up to
twelve years or more, so ownership can be a lengthy commitment.
Although minimal, there is some grooming required to keep the coat
clean and conditioned, such as regular brushing and nail trimming. To
maintain their high energy levels, typical active Aussies may eat more
than other, more sedate dogs of similar size, so be prepared to feed
plenty of high quality food.

Aussies are perfect for people wishing to own a highly-trainable,
versatile, super-smart dog that can work/play "'till the cows come
home." If you have the time and commitment for an Aussie, you won't be
disappointed. These special dogs deserve special owners. Their
loyalty, drive, character, and whimsical sense of humor place them in
a class by themselves!

ASCA Breed Standard

This may be found at ASCA's website:

AKC Breed Standard

The AKC's standard may be found at the AKC website:


What is Aussie Rescue?

Aussie Rescue is a network of volunteers who rescue Australian
Shepherds and find them new, permanent homes. These dogs are rescued
from just about any kind of situation. Some are from puppy mills, some
are adopted from shelters. Many come into the program because their
former owner had to move and couldn't take the dog, or because the dog
was harassing the livestock. There are some very wonderful dogs that
are saved from destruction by Aussie Rescue. Knowledgeable rescuers
can help make sure that a rescued Aussie is right for you. An Internet
resource for Aussie Rescue may be found at


How can I find a responsible breeder?

If you've decided that a rescue Aussie isn't a possibility, there are
some guidelines to follow when choosing an Aussie breeder.

Choosing an Aussie, or any dog for that matter, can be a very
emotional experience. It is all too easy to see a cute, little bundle
of fluff and instantly fall in love. Sometimes you can get lucky and
fall into the right situation at the right time and take home the
perfect puppy, but too often people make the wrong decisions for the
wrong reasons and end up with a lot of heartache in the long run.

_The Aussie Connection_ is a great place to start. From there, you can
find other breeder listings (ASCA & USASA) as well as affiliate club
contacts. _The Aussie Connection_ can be found at: Or email
me ( for help.


What should I ask the breeder?

The following is a list of questions to take with you when you visit
each breeder and litter. Do not feel embarrassed asking all these
questions; a responsible breeder will welcome your interest and admire
your knowledge and concern for the breed.

1. Ask for a pedigree on the puppies. This should include at least 3
generations of ancestry, preferably 4 to 5 generations. Make sure
you get a copy you can take home with you so that you can review
it later in more detail. One note here, a pedigree full of
champions does not always guarantee a future champion. And vice
versa, many top winning dogs have come from non-champion sires and
2. Was the breeding planned or unplanned?
3. If the litter was planned, ask why the Sire was chosen for this
particular Dam. Was it a matter of convenience because they own
the Sire or was it because they felt the qualities of the Sire
would compliment or even improve the qualities of the Dam?
4. What are the faults of both the Sire and Dam? A conscientious
breeder should be both knowledgeable and willing to talk about
their dog's faults as well as about their dog's assets.
5. What was the goal of the breeding? For profit? To produce the
ultimate show/working dog? So the kids could experience the
miracle of birth?
6. What area does the breeder feel these pups will excel in?
Obedience, working, show, family pet?
7. What kind of support services will the breeder offer you to help
you attain your goals for your puppy? If for show, obedience, or
working is the breeder willing to spend some time with you helping
you to get started in these areas, and will the breeder be there
if you have any questions or problems regarding housebreaking,
digging, barking, etc?
8. Are both the Sire and Dam OFA certified (or certified with another
registry such as PennHIP or GDC)? And, if so, what are their
numbers and ratings? (OFA is the Orthopedic Foundation for
Animals, GDC is the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in
Animals, and PennHIP is the Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program,
which are organizations that evaluate and certify hip joint
conformation.) Any breeder who does not know what hip
certification is or who cannot provide you with copies of both
parents' hip certifications are breeders to be very wary of. Only
a hip rating can provide you with proof that the parents are not
dysplastic; do not let anyone tell you that they know their dog is
not dysplastic because of the way it runs or lies down, etc.
Dysplasia is a hereditary defect, so if you are not sure about the
parents, what about that cute little puppy you are about to take
9. Have both the Sire and Dam had a current eye examination? GDC and
CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) deal with the certification
of eyes just as OFA does for the hips. Some breeders will send the
results of their dog's eye exam in to CERF for an official
certificate; while other breeders may just have the eye exam
results signed by a qualified veterinary opthalmologist. Be sure
to look at the exam report carefully to see that it matches with
the correct Sire or Dam and that the vet has made a notation that
the eyes are clear from any visible defects. Eye exams are
normally done on an annual basis, so also check to see that the
exam is current. Again, eye defects (cataracts, PRA, collie eye
anomaly) are hereditary, so the best way to make sure your new
puppy will not be affected with any of these problems is to verify
that the parents are free from any problems themselves.
10. What type of guarantee does the breeder offer if the puppy is
later found to be affected with any hereditary defect? Breeding
only dogs that have been cleared free of any defects will greatly
reduce the possibility of reproducing puppies with congenital
defects; however, genetic throwbacks do occur. Some breeders offer
different alternatives if you happen to have a puppy who ends up
with a hereditary problem. These alternatives will vary depending
on the breeder and depending on whether the puppy is bought as
either pet or show quality.
11. Is the puppy's health guaranteed? Most breeders will give a 7-10
day health guarantee; however, if the breeder does not offer this,
find out if you can return the puppy within a day if the puppy
does not pass a health examination given by your vet.
12. Will a written contract be provided to cover the above issues? If
offered, ask to read the contract before purchasing the puppy to
see if it covers all the breeders stated guarantees.


What about papers?

If your new pup is sold with registration papers it is important to
make sure the papers you receive are from the correct registry for
your purposes.

ASCA stands for Australian Shepherd Club of America and is the parent
registry for the Australian Shepherd, founded in 1957. ASCA keeps stud
books on all registered Aussies; registers purebred Australian
Shepherd pups and adults; sanctions conformation and obedience shows;
and has a working trial program that allows Aussies to earn herding

IESR stands for International English Shepherd Registry and is also
referred to as NSDR, the National Stock Dog Registry. This registry is
not active in sanctioning their own events; it is basically just a
paper registry. Aussies registered only with this registry, even
though they may be a purebred Australian Shepherd, are not allowed to
compete in ASCA sanctioned events for ASCA conformation titles.

AKC stands for the American Kennel Club. Again, if a puppy is only
registered with AKC, it will not be allowed to compete in ASCA
conformation shows for ASCA titles. And vice versa, dogs only
registered with ASCA will not be allowed to compete in AKC
conformation shows for AKC titles.

An Australian Shepherd may be registered with any or all of these
registries; this is where the term double or triple registered comes
from. Ask the breeder to which registries their pups are eligible for
and ask to see the registration applications if you have any doubts.

If you have no intentions of showing or breeding your puppy, then the
registry your pup is eligible for is not as pertinent. But if you do
intend to show or breed, registration with ASCA is a must and
registration with AKC is something worth considering. Talk to the
breeder for background information on ASCA and AKC and to anyone else
who can shed light on the situation.


How do I choose my Aussie?

Make a point to look at several litters before making your final
decision. Take note of the conditions in which the adults and pups are
being raised. Is their environment clean? Is there adequate room for
exercise, plenty of shade and shelter? Do the older dogs appear to be
happy and well cared for? Ask to see the sire and dam if possible. Do
they seem to be well mannered and not aggressive or fearful? Remember
that the dam may still be a little protective if introduced around the
pups, and her condition may not be the best since raising a family is
quite demanding. The pups should be outgoing and eager to play. The
puppies should look well fed, their coats should be clean and healthy,
their gums should be pink, their eyes should be clear of any
discharge, the inside of the ears should not be red or inflamed, and
the pups in general should have a healthy, happy attitude. Spend some
time playing with the puppies and get a feel for their different
personalities. Ask the breeder for further background on puppies that
catch your eye; sometimes a pup may have a slightly different
character than the one he displays while you are visiting. A concerned
breeder will be honest and candid in discussing each puppy with you
since their goal is to find the pup that will most likely match your
lifestyle and fulfill your expectations. After leaving, make notes on
the puppies you liked and on your general impressions. Do this with
each litter you visit. Then, when you feel like you have a good basis
for comparison, sit down and go over your notes. Call back with any
additional questions you might have, or go back and visit again if you
need to. Emotions are still going to play a big part in your decision,
but at least with all this information at hand, you now have the basis
for making an educated decision as well.

Should I get a male or a female?

Although male and female Australian Shepherds share many of the same
characteristics, there are also many distinct differences between the
two sexes.

The female Australian Shepherd will typically stand between 18-21
inches at the point of her withers and will on average weigh around
35-50 pounds. She does not usually carry the density and length of
coat as a male, and her personality will generally be more sensitive
and laid-back. Females will come into season approximately every 6
months and will need to be confined for 2-3 weeks during this time. If
you are not planning on breeding your female, you should consider
spaying her to avoid this inconvenience and to prevent any unwanted

The male Australian Shepherd will usually stand 20-23 inches and will
weigh around 50-65 pounds. As with most animal species, the male
Aussie is the showier of the two sexes, carrying longer hair, heavier
bone, and a more masculine head. He typically has a very regal air
about him. Males do have a tendency to be territorial and do not
always take well to having to share their space with other male
canines. Again, if you are not planning on using your male for stud,
you should think about having him neutered to make life easier for all
parties concerned.

Most of the personality differences between the two sexes are minimal
or non-existent if the animals in question are spayed/neutered.

Should I get show/breeding quality or pet quality?

Pet quality puppies are those which are healthy and happy but are less
than perfect when compared to the breed standard. Often these
imperfections are minimal and are things that the novice would not
notice. Nonetheless, these animals would not be likely to do well in
the conformation show ring, and they should NOT be used for breeding
since they will not contribute to the improvement of the breed. Pet
quality animals are eligible to be shown in both obedience and herding
competitions, even if they have been spayed or neutered. It is
important to remember that just because a puppy is termed a "pet", it
should not have any health or temperament defects.

If you have any thoughts of either showing or breeding your pup,
advise the breeder of what your intentions are. In this situation you
are going to want to buy the pup that comes the closest to perfection
according to the breed standard. Not every pup is a future champion
and no one can guarantee you that any puppy will grow up to be a
perfect specimen of the breed. But a knowledgeable breeder can spot
puppies with potential qualities and will be honest with you in
evaluating their puppies as future show or breeding prospects.

What should I pay for an Aussie?

Proper raising of a litter of healthy, happy Aussie pups takes time
and effort on the part of a conscientious, informed breeder and is an
expensive proposition if done properly. The breeder has invested in
good nutrition, good veterinary care, showing, stud fees to a top
quality dog, along with a great deal of time and love in the hope of
producing better specimens of the breed and quality dogs for the
prospective buyer.

Price should be consistent with the quality of the pup and the time
and expense it has taken to raise that pup. For these reasons, it is
unlikely that an inexpensive puppy will be the result of conscientious
breeding and careful upbringing. Remember too that your initial
investment in a puppy is going to be next to nothing in comparison to
the investment you are going to make in that puppy's future.

Average pet quality puppies generally fall in the range of $150-500.
Breeding quality puppies/dogs generally range from $300-1000.


What should I get with my new Aussie?

When you make your final selection, make sure the following items are
in order before you pay for your new puppy:

* An individual registration application, or a registration
certificate, or a written agreement signed by both parties stating
the reason for not giving any registration privileges.
* A written sales agreement outlining all terms and conditions that
the buyer and seller have previously agreed upon.
* A pedigree with at least three generations.
* A photocopy of the hip rating certificate (OFA, PennHIP, or GDC)
of both the sire and the dam.
* A photocopy of either the eye clearance certificate (CERF or GDC),
or the opthalmologist's exam papers of both the sire and the dam.
* A schedule of dates and types of vaccines, worms, and any other
treatments the puppy has received, as well as a recommended
schedule for further vaccinations and worms.
* A feeding schedule and enough of the puppy's regular food to last
at least 24 hours, as well as recommendations on what types of
food to feed.
* Any reading material on the breed or puppy care that the breeder
may have to offer.


How can I make my Aussie the best dog in the world?

Congratulations on your new pup! We feel that you will find the
experience special and rewarding. To help make the ownership of this
dog positive and enjoyable, here are a few things to consider that we
hope will be of help.

Bringing your puppy home

It is always an exciting time when you welcome a new puppy into your
home. You need to remember, though, that it can also be a stressful
and confusing time for the new pup. You should provide a sleeping
area, preferably near the activities of the household, but also quiet
and out of the way. A dog crate would be a good investment at this
time. Let the puppy know this is his bed and a safe place to be. If
there are children in the family, they will want to play with the new
puppy a lot. While puppies play and are active, they also require a
good deal of sleep. Do not fall in the trap of going to the puppy to
comfort him for making noise. He will learn that crying is a good way
to get attention. You might take him out to play with him and tire him
out just a little before bedtime so he will be ready to sleep.

Nutrition and good health

A name brand puppy food is the best choice for your puppy until he is
over a year old. It is a good idea to feed what the breeder has been
feeding and not change his diet, since changes can lead to digestive
problems and diarrhea. Also, your puppy does not need table scraps,
which may likewise cause problems. Never give your puppy bones or
chocolate. You may either free-feed (leave food out) or put down food
for the puppy three, decreasing to two times a day as the puppy
matures. Fresh water should be available to the puppy at all times.
Watch your puppy to make sure he does not get too fat. A fat puppy is
not a healthy puppy and obesity is hard on developing bones and
joints. Be sure you keep your puppy's vaccinations up-to-date.
Distemper and Parvo are both killers and if your puppy should survive
these (and other) dreaded diseases, they may still ruin his health for
the remainder of his life. Talk to your vet about heartworm
preventative. Heartgard, which uses Ivermectin, should not be used for
Aussies since they are a "collie-type" breed. A brand that doesn't use
Ivermectin, such as Interceptor, is recommended instead.


Aussies generally housebreak quite easily. The key to good house
habits is consistency by the owner. The puppy should, if he must be
left alone, be in the yard (with shelter and water) or in an area
where he is not expected to refrain from relieving himself. When the
puppy is in the main part of the house, the owner should be present.
When the puppy wakes from a nap, he should go outside and be praised
when he relieves himself. Watch the puppy for sniffing and circling in
the house; this probably means he is looking for a place to go. Take
him outside and again praise. If you catch him too late, "in the act,"
do not spank him but scold him slightly and take him outside or to a
place where he is allowed to potty. Soon the puppy may go to the door
and "ask" to be let out. Praise the puppy for this action. A crate is
a handy tool for housebreaking. Most dogs do not like to relieve
themselves where they sleep and this teaches some control. Remember
that a puppy does not have a great deal of control and use the crate
only for short periods of time. When he comes out of the crate, he
should be immediately let outside and, after he relieves himself,
allowed to play in the house.

Crate training

To some people, a dog crate seems like cruelty to the dog. However, if
presented correctly, it is just the opposite. It gives the dog a place
that belongs to him, a safe den where he can go if he wants to be left
alone or rest. It also gives you a place to keep your dog at the times
when you do not want him underfoot, like a dinner party or a cookout,
and a safe way of traveling your dog. If you crate your dog in the
car, he can be left with the windows completely down. It is extremely
dangerous to leave your dog in a closed car in warm weather or riding
loose in the back of a truck. Also if you should have an auto
accident, your dog is not likely to be thrown out of the car or escape
in the confusion. Motel rooms generally prefer crated dogs. To crate
train your dog, first select a crate that will be large enough to fit
him as an adult. The puppy should be fed in his crate, and encouraged
to sleep in it with the door open. He may be left with the door closed
for short periods of time once he is used to it. Avoid leaving a puppy
in a crate for extended periods of time. NEVER use the crate as a
punishment. The location should be out of the way but near family


The Aussie is by nature a one-family or one-person dog. They do not
accept all people as their natural "friends" as do some breeds. They
are selective. This is not a fault. It makes them a better protector
of their home and their family. Because of this part of their nature,
it is a good idea to expose them to different situations and strangers
often and at an early age. While they may not go tail-waggingly up to
every stranger on the street, they should be taught to be mannerly and
accept the presence of non-threatening people and situations.


The Australian Shepherd is an easy dog to train. Being a working stock
dog, he has been bred to learn to take directions and listen to his
owner. He is also bred to be able to think on his own and make
decisions for himself. It is up to you, the owner, to teach the dog
what is, and is not, allowed. When he is a puppy, he must learn to
look to you as his leader or you could be in for trouble when he
becomes an adult. This does not mean you need to treat your puppy
roughly. If trained correctly, Aussies readily accept the authority of
their masters and a harsh word is often as effective as physical
punishment. While he is eating, your puppy should allow you to be
present and to take away his food. He should not growl or nip at you
when you try to make him do something. A good method to show a puppy
who is boss is to pick him up by both sides of the scruff of his neck
and shake him gently while looking him in the eye and speaking firmly.
This is very similar to the way a mother dog disciplines her pups and
he will understand this far better than a spanking or a swat with a
newspaper. Aussies are very intelligent and will test you from time to
time. You should be firm and let them know who is in charge. The
earlier you do this, the less trouble you will have later. A dog who
knows his place in the family is far happier and more secure.


It is highly recommended that you teach your puppy some obedience. It
is much more enjoyable to have a well-mannered dog that can go out for
a walk than a lurching, wild dog that pulls you along or runs away
when off lead. It is also a satisfying experience to train your dog
and have a dog that listens to you and minds you. The Aussie is an
extremely quick learner and enjoys the attention and the mental
challenge of learning what you have to teach him. Even a young puppy,
if taught in a positive manner, with no force, can learn basic
obedience. Look for obedience training classes in your area or read
some of the many good books on this subject. For your peace of mind,
and your dog's safety, he should know at least these basics: sit,
down, stay, come, and be able to walk at your side.


Are Aussies good with children?

Australian Shepherds are basically very good with children if they
have been raised with children, and sometimes even when they have not
been around them. One of the basic prerequisites for your children and
your puppy to have a good relationship is to teach the child, as well
as the puppy, what is allowed. Babies and toddlers should not be left
unattended with your dog, no matter what breed. A child should learn
not to handle the dog roughly or tease him. The parent, not the child,
should be responsible for correcting the puppy if he gets too rough.
Puppies and dogs have a tendency to look at children as "siblings" in
the social order of the family, and the dog should never be allowed to
get the upper position over the child. Something that sometimes occurs
with Aussie puppies and kids is that, in play, the puppy may chase and
nip at the heels of the child. This is because the dog is bred to herd
and he is trying to "herd" the child because it is natural to herd
something moving. In this situation, it is a good idea to have the
child stop running and tell the dog "no bite." This should not be
confused with actually trying to harm the child, but the game should
not be encouraged.


Can an Aussie live in town?

Unlike many breeds, Aussies don't need a lot of space to run or a big
yard to play in. What they DO need is LOTS of social interaction and
things to do. They need to be a member of the family, as they are very
pack-oriented dogs. In short, they need a job to do, whether that job
is working livestock, protecting the family, or going to
obedience/agility classes. The more time you spend with them, the
better companions they will be. As long as these needs are met,
Aussies can make wonderful suburban pets.


What are some good resources?

_The Aussie Connection_ should be your next internet stop. There you
can find information about national clubs, affiliate clubs, breeders &
enthusiasts, email discussion lists, and more. _The Aussie Connection_
can be found at:

Also check out the Australian Shepherd Homepage at:, as there is some great
information there, as well as many references to check out.


Miscellaneous Questions

If you have questions that are not addressed in this FAQ, please email
me at

What are the standard color genetics?

B - Black gene
b - Red gene
BB - Black dog (not red factored)
Bb - Black dog (red factored)
bb - Red dog

The black/red gene is a simple dominant/recessive trait. Two BB
(black) dogs will produce all BB (black) dogs. Two bb (red) dogs will
produce all bb (red) dogs. One BB (black) dog bred to one bb (red) dog
will produce all Bb (black) dogs. The merle gene is completely
separate from the color gene. The merle gene is an incomplete dominant
gene. It is NOT straight dominant/recessive like black & red.

M - Merle gene
m - Solid gene
MM - Excessive white dog (aka double-merle, lethal-white, lethal-merle)
Mm - Merle dog
mm - Solid dog

As you can see from the charts below, two solids bred together will
produce all solids. One solid dog bred to one merle dog will produce
50% merles and 50% solids. Two merles bred together will produce 25%
solids, 50% merles, and 25% lethal-white. Which brings us to the next
question in the FAQ below.

Solid X Solid = Solid X Merle = Merle X Merle =
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
| m | m | m | m | M | m
--------------- --------------- ---------------
m | mm | mm m | mm | mm M | MM | Mm
m | mm | mm M | Mm | Mm m | Mm | mm

Should merle-to-merle breedings be done?

The merle color seems to be a trademark for Aussies. Non-merled
Aussies are often mistaken for other breeds or mutts. However, the
merle gene can be lethal to the uneducated breeder.

The merle gene is an incomplete dominant gene - NOT a simple
recessive. This gene is also completely separate from the color genes
(black, red, tan, white, etc.).

A dog with one merle gene and one solid gene will be a normal merle
dog. A dog with two solid genes will be a solid (black or red). A dog
with two merle genes will be a double-merle (a.k.a. lethal white,
excessive white, or lethal merle). These double-merle dogs are usually
predominantly white, and most often are deaf and/or blind, and can
develop numerous other problems, such as organ failure, auto-immune
disorders, and other disorders.

The only way to get double-merle dogs is if two merles are bred
together. If two merles are bred together, approximately 25% of the
litter will be double- merles. Because of all the problems that
double-merles are born with, they must be euthanized at birth.

Some breeders feel that bringing puppies into the world and then
euthanizing them is wrong. Other breeders have no qualms whatsoever
about these breedings. Many responsible breeders feel that a
merle-merle breeding should be done only for an exceptional cross.

So, the issue becomes a personal decision, one breeders must make for
themselves. For more information on the merle gene in Aussies,

C.A. Sharp -
Editor, Double Helix Network News
730 East Weldon Avenue
Fresno, California 93704
(209) 264-2685

What are the most common genetic diseases?

There are many diseases that affect Australian Shepherds. The most
common of these are eye diseases include:

* Cataracts
* CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly)
* PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
* Detached Retinas
* Colobomas
* Small eye

Other diseases that commonly affect Aussies are:

* CHD (Canine Hip Dysplasia)
* vWD (von Willebrand's Disease)
* PH (Pelger-Huet)
* Epilepsy

Eye and hip problems are much more common than any of the others, so
be sure that breeders have clearances on hips (OFA, PennHIP, GDC) and
eyes (CERF, GDC) for all their breeding stock.

For more information on genetic diseases in Aussies, contact:

C.A. Sharp -
Editor, Double Helix Network News
730 East Weldon Avenue
Fresno, California 93704
(209) 264-2685

Why are tails docked?

Many Aussie tails are naturally bobbed (NBTs). NBTs can come in almost
any length. Natural tails (long tails) taper at the end, whereas NBTs
stop short at a stub or "bob". Those dogs with long NBTs or with
natural tails are most often docked.

Probably the most popular reason for short tails is due to working.
Tails have a different coat texture and are more prone to collect
burrs when working in dense brush. These burrs, if left untended, can
cause extreme pain and irritation to the dog. Also, there have been
many undocumented cases of tails being broken from cattle stepping on
them and gates being slammed shut on them.

Another reason cited is that the short tail is a "signature," or
recognizable characteristic, of the breed. The breed standard calls
for a tail less than four inches long. Docking tails lends to
consistency and type within the breed.

Regardless of your views on tail docking, please visit The Council of
Docked Breeds at

What's the difference between inbreeding, line-breeding, and outcrossing?

Many people look upon inbreeding as an immoral breeding practice. This
is a human taboo, however, not a canine one.

There are basically three different kinds of breedings you can do when
breeding purebreds; inbreeding, line-breeding, and outcrossing. A
basic understanding of genetics is needed to understand the

Inbreeding is that of father/daughter, mother/son, brother/sister, and
possibly including first cousin/first cousin and
grandparent/grandchild. Inbreeding offers more consistency in type
(offspring will look and act very much like the parents), and a
smaller gene pool (which is an advantage if the gene pool is clean,
and a disadvantage if it's not).

Line-breeding is that of more distantly related relatives. It falls
between inbreeding and outcrossing.

Outcrossing is a breeding of two unrelated dogs. Outcrossing will
introduce new genes (increase the gene pool). This can be an advantage
if it brings in desirable genes, or it can be a disadvantage if it
brings in undesirable genes (like a disease that wasn't found in the
line before).

No matter which plan is used for breeding, ANY responsible breeder
should know what phenotypical and genotypical genes or problems are in
the breeding dogs' backgrounds. This will greatly reduce the
probability of genetic problems in the litter.


Australian Shepherd FAQ
Randy 'n Monica Barger,

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