Despite his name, the Australian Shepherd originated in the western U.S., not Australia, around the time of the Gold Rush in the 1840s. Originally bred to herd livestock, he remains a working dog breed at heart; the Aussie, as he’s nicknamed, is happiest when he has a job to do. He can be a wonderful family companion if his intelligence and energy are channeled into dog sports or activities. Watching an Australian Shepherd round up a flock of sheep is a beautiful sight. With sure and athletic movement, he directs the flock using nips, barks, and "eye," a penetrating stare that clearly says, "I'm in charge." Intelligent, hard working, and versatile, the Aussie is a no-nonsense dog who thrives in a home where his brains and energy are put to good use. You don't have to keep a flock of sheep if you live with an Aussie — although it doesn't hurt — but you do have to keep him busy. He's a high-energy dog who doesn't know the meaning of couch potato and wouldn't approve of it if he did. Because he's got energy to burn, he needs plenty of exercise — a walk around the neighborhood won't cut it — and at least a small yard to help him work out his ya-yas. Lacking a job to do, he becomes bored, destructive, and loud. Or he might invent his own job: herding the kids, either yours or the neighbors'; chasing cars or other animals; or taking your house apart. If you don't have the time or energy to train and exercise the Aussie on a daily basis, he's not the breed for you. But if you're interested in competitive dog sports, the Aussie's the one. This agile, medium-size dog with the docked or naturally bobbed tail is a top contender in all levels of obedience, agility, flyball, and herding tests. He's also successful in such canine careers as guide dog, hearing dog, assistance dog, police dog, and search and rescue work. You can even teach an Aussie to help you with chores around the house, such as picking up dirty laundry off the floor and bringing it to you. You'll probably have to fold clean laundry yourself, though. The Aussie's a real looker who stands out from the crowd thanks to his attractive medium-length coat and dark brown, yellow, blue, green, or amber eyes. His heritage as a working dog makes him a loyal companion who can be protective of home and family and aloof with strangers. He gets along with kids, although he'll probably try to "herd" them unless you teach him not to. The Aussie makes life an adventure. He'll work and play from sunrise to sunset and win your heart with his loyal and loving personality. This versatile breed is a wonderful working dog and a terrific family companion — but only if that family is an active one.
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