The Mini Australian Shepherd, officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Miniature American Shepherd, is a small to medium-sized herding dog. The breed’s stamina and agility, along with its strong guarding instincts, easy trainability, and intelligence, made it an excellent companion for working cowboys and ranchers. These playful canines look like tinier Australian Shepherd. That’s because ranchers and equestrians wanted to create a miniature version of the Aussie that had the same excellent temperament and herding instincts. They bred smaller Australian Shepherds together to develop a new miniature version of the breed.
Family Roots of the Breed
The Australian Shepherd breed isn’t Australian. Research into the genetic makeup of Australian Shepherds led some biologists to theorize that these canines’ ancestors came to the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge. Breed historians say that in the late 1880s, American ranchers in the Southwest started importing sheep stock from the land down under. The immigrants who brought the sheep to the U.S. also brought along their herding dogs. Many of their dogs were the descendants of herding dogs that originated in Germany and the Basque region of Spain. Ranchers were impressed with their herding abilities. They used these dogs to develop a new dog breed with the stamina and agility needed to work with herds of large livestock, such as cattle. This breed became the Australian Shepherd.
History of the Mini Australian Shepherd
For decades, the Australian Shepherd was a popular dog among livestock professionals and horse enthusiasts. In the 1960s, these groups started to develop a miniaturized version of the energetic breed. These smaller dogs had the same attributes as larger Aussies, but their size made them much easier to travel with. Miniature Aussies became especially popular on rodeo circuits where cowboys traveled from one show to the next with their livestock. Eventually, the smaller Aussie became an official, recognized breed. The breed associations encouraged breeders to rename this new breed to avoid confusion. The AKC’s official name for the breed is the Miniature American Shepherd.
The male Mini Aussie’s height ranges from 14 to 18 inches at the top of its withers, and the ridge between its shoulder blades. Most females reach a height between 13 and 17 inches. Compare that with full-size, adult Aussies, who are between 18 and 23 inches in height. Most full-grown Mini Aussie adults weigh between 20 and 40 pounds, according to the AKC standards. Their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall.
Eye and Coat Colors
Mini Australian Shepherds have an alert, intelligent facial expression. Their almond-shaped eyes may be brown, amber, blue, or a combination of these colors. Look closely, and you’ll see tiny flecks of color or marbling that may be different in each eye. The darker-coated dogs have black pigmentation around the eyes, as well. The Mini Aussie’s medium-textured coat is silky and beautiful. It ranges from slightly wavy to straight, with feathering up and down the legs. They shed quite a bit. Male dogs usually have a heavier mane of fur around the neck than females. These dogs have a wide range of coat colors, including blue merle, black, red merle, red, and tan. Most have white fur accents, but some do not.
For families looking for a good family dog, the lively-yet-loyal Mini Aussie is a great choice. They love to play, and they are protective of their human family. Although these little canines are energetic, they are easy to train. Breeders say that owners can start training Mini Aussies from an early age, around seven weeks old. Their instinct is to herd, and that includes children and other family pets. They love to be outdoors. Although they do tend to be territorial and shy around strangers, owners can remedy these issues through proper socialization. The Miniature American Shepherd is a companion dog. An owner should never leave the dog alone or crated for extended periods.
Mini Aussies Need Exercise
Despite their smaller size, the Mini Aussie is a working dog. They are at their happiest when they get plenty of exercises. Owners and families who live an active lifestyle or who spend a lot of time outdoors will find the perfect companion with this breed. Their size makes them great in an apartment, as long as they have ample opportunities to run and play. Regular exercise not only helps stimulate their brains but also fulfills their need to work off stored energy reserves. Mini Aussies who live with a sedentary owner tend to gain weight and exhibit behavioral issues.
Known Health Issues
The Miniature American Shepherd is generally a healthy breed. Reputable breeders work diligently to analyze breeding lines for problematic or recurring genetic issues. Still, owners should be aware of some of the health concerns that veterinarians say are specific to this breed. Hip and elbow dysplasia is a common genetic disorder that causes an abnormality of the dog’s hip socket or elbows joint. Breed experts recommend regular vet evaluations. An eye issue is also prevalent in the breed. This issue, iris coloboma, occurs when the iris fails to develop. It is more common in those dogs with blue merle coats. However, it has little effect on the dog’s vision. Other possible issues include blood clotting disorders and hypothyroidism.
Most Mini Aussies live between 12 and 15 years. Overall, this is a hardy breed. Proper nutrition is essential for long and happy life. Vets suggest high-quality food made for active dogs. Avoid those foods made for small dogs, because the Mini Aussie requires the added nutrition to fuel their high activity and energy levels. Daily exercise is also important. Always leash the dog when on walks or in unsecured areas without fencing.
This breed has a double coat. The top coat is longer. The undercoat is more of a wooly texture. To keep the coat shiny and healthy, you’ll need to brush it at least once per week with a slicker brush or metal comb. Although these dogs shed year-round, they also have one to two shedding periods each year. Daily brushing helps you prevent dog hair from covering furniture and floors.
Choosing a Puppy
Purebred Miniature American Shepherds are currently trendy dogs on the pet market. That sometimes leads to unscrupulous breeders selling sickly, mixed-breed, or poor-quality dogs. Although one look at those bright eyes and attentive face is enticing, it’s a good idea to ask questions before spending your hard-earned dollars on one. Like any dog breed, prices for Mini Aussies vary according to their pedigree. Registered dogs are generally more expensive. However, not all sellers register purebred Miniature American Shepherds through the AKC. The breeder may have registered the parents through the American Stock Dog Registry. Never purchase a puppy from a breeder who refuses to show you the dog’s parents or their breeding stock.