The Aussie is a well-balanced dog with medium size & bone.
He is attentive, animated, lithe, agile, showing good strength & stamina.
Slightly longer than tall, he has a coat of moderate length & coarseness with colouring that offers variety in different colours.
In each sex, masculinity & femininity is well defined.
Characteristics / Temperament
The Aussie was bred to be a working dog & is very intelligent, all purpose stock dog of great character & endurance, even today some Aussies are used on ranches in America, & dogs that have never seen stock can display a strong herding instinct.
The Aussie is not the dog for everyone, being a working dog they need daily exercise at least twice a day, when alone they need to keep their minds busy (like a KONG, toys, bones etc… ) & are not the dog to be left in a yard & left.
The ASCA describes the Australian Shepherd as:
The Australian Shepherd is intelligent, primarily a working dog of strong herding & guardian instincts. He is an exceptional companion; he is versatile & easily trained, performing his assigned tasks with great style & enthusiasm.
He is reserved a little with strangers & at initial meetings, but does not exhibit shyness.
NOTE: With his being reserved at the initial meeting, this should NOT be confused with shyness, fear or aggression.
Faults: Any display of shyness, fear, and aggression is severely penalized.
As with ALL breeds of puppies socialization is very important, it is recommended that you book in for ‘puppy kinder’ or ‘obedience club’ lessons.
Head / Skull
The head is clean cut, strong, dry & in proportion to the body.
The muzzle is equal in length or slightly shorter than the back skull; the muzzle tapers little from base to nose & is rounded at the tip.
The top of the skull is flat to slightly rounded; it may show slight occipital protuberance. Length & width are equal; there should be a moderate well-defined stop.
No other single factor sets the Aussie apart from other breeds & contributes as strongly to breed character as does the head. This feature distinguishes major bloodlines within the breed.
Blue Merles & blacks have black pigmentation on the nose (and lips)
Red Merles & reds have liver (brown) pigmentation on the nose (and lips)
On the merles it is ok to have small pink spots, however they should not exceed 25% of the nose on dogs/bitches over one year of age, this is considered a serious fault.
Butterfly noses should not be faulted under one year of age, although faulted after one year of age some Aussies may take two to three years for the nose to become fully pigmented. This is due to the breed’s tendency for coat colouring to darken with age.
There should be a set of strong, white teeth, which should meet in a scissor bite; an even bite is acceptable though not desirable.
Teeth broken or missing should NOT be penalized, as this is a working dog & if used for herding, accidents can occur.
The eyes should be very expressive, showing attentiveness & intelligence.
They should be almond shaped, set into the skull socket smoothly, so that the eyeball doesn’t protrude, all other eye shapes are considered faults.
Eye problems both inner & outer can be inherited: some may appear at birth, while other may appear later in the dogs life.
ALL puppies should have their eyes checked at 7-8 weeks of age, & BOTH parents should have been checked yearly by an eye specialist to make sure they are clear.
Eye colours can be blue, brown, amber or any combination of those colours, which includes marbling, flecks, and odd coloured eyes.
The ears are triangular & of moderate size & leather, set high on the side of the head.
Slightly rounded at the tip, at full attention, they break forward & over, or to one side as a rose ear.
Prick & hound type ears are a serious fault.
Neck / Topline / Body
Neck is of strong moderate length, slightly arched at the crest, fitting well into the shoulder, it is firm & implies free from throatiness &loose folds of skin.
The topline is straight & strong, level & firm from withers to hip joints. The croup is moderately sloped; the croup is the section extending from the loin to the tail above the hind legs & also includes the pelvis & associated musculature.
Chest is not broad but is deep with the lowest point reaching the elbow.
The ribs are well sprung & long; neither barrel chested nor slab sided. The underline shows moderate tuck-up, tail is straight & is docked (now banned in Australia) or natural bobbed, this breed does breed natural bobbed tails.
Shoulder blades are long, flat, fairly close set at the withers & well laid back.
The upper arm should be relatively the same length as the shoulder blade, attaches at an approximate right angle to the shoulder line with forelegs dropping straight, on a perpendicular to the ground.
The legs are straight & strong. Bone is strong, oval rather than round.
Pasterns are of medium length & very slightly sloped, the front dewclaws may be removed.
The width of the hindquarters is equal to the width of the forequarters at the shoulder.
The angulations of the pelvis, hock joints are moderately bent.
The hocks (rear pasterns) are short, perendicular to the ground & parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Rear dewclaws must be removed.
Feet / Pads / Nails
The feet are oval shaped & compact, the toes are well arched & pads are resilient.
The front paws are always larger in area; this is because they bear more weight than the rear paws.
Muscles & ligaments hold bones in the paw together; there are three bones in each of the four toes, making the pads very flexible.
These pads are attached to the bottom of the terminal joint of each toe digit; the fifth toe digit is the dewclaw, which is on the inside of the foot. it is noted a majority of Aussies are born without rear dewclaws. Rear dewclaws should always be removed, front can be optional.
The large pad that sits in the hollow of the digits at the back o f the foot bears most of the weight.
The vestigial pad that is above the front foot at the back of the pasterns bears no weight at all. This pad is sometimes called the brake.
A thick epidermal layer of skin protects & insulates the footpad. This skin also contains sweat-producing glands that keep the skin on the pads supple.
The pads are not sensitive to heat & cold like the rest of the body.
The nails (claws) on the toes grow continually & will either wear down from use or must be trimmed regularly to keep them short.
The coat is of medium texture, straight to slightly wavy, weather resistant & of moderate length with an undercoat. The quantity of undercoat varies with climate.
Hair is short & smooth on the head, outside of the ears, front of the forelegs, & below the hocks. Backs of the forelegs are moderately feathered: breeches are moderately full.
There is a moderate mane & frill, which is more pronounced in dogs than in bitches.
Non-typical coats are severe faults.
The following is a definition on each type of coat:
Moderate Coat - This is the preferred coat on an Aussie, the inner coat is soft & downy: the outer coat (or guard hairs) is slightly harsh to the touch. It is waterproof, & will keep the dog dry & warm in rainy weather. Debris & matter from working in brush & fields does not cling to the coat, the hair does not mat & needs minimum upkeep & care, and the coat is of moderate length.
Wavy Coat – This is soft to touch & is acceptable, but is not as functional, it is slightly waterproof, but does tend to pick up debris, this coat does need combing & can tend to mat especially behind the ears, the coat is of moderate length.
Heavy Coat – This is slightly harsh, with the double coat a little longer. It is admired in the conformation ring & it has all the desired character of the preferred Aussie coat, but it is not quite as desirable for the brush working dogs as debris may cling to the longer hair. It does not mat & takes little care & upkeep.
Long Flowing Coat – This is usually very soft & is very undesirable for an Aussie. It is not a moderate coat & tends to pick up any kind of debris; it does take a huge amount of combing, bathing & upkeep to keep the dog in condition & looking good. The coat tends to mat more, this coat is considered faulty.
Short Hair Coat – This can be soft or harsh but is very similar to the accepted ‘Moderate Straight’ coat, except that it is short. It is neither typical nor desirable & should not be promoted in the breed; this coat is considered a fault.
Puffed Coat - This coat is slightly harsh with a soft very thick undercoat. Some dogs look like this after they have been sheared to make a long coat even. This length is natural on some dogs but it has a longer ruff & leg feathers, it is semi waterproof, but can tend to knot & mat, it is considered undesirable & is a fault.
Curly Coat – This is very soft to touch, it is not waterproof & can easily mat & tangle. It will also distort the build of a dog with back curls; the coat is not desirable for breeding or showing & is a fault.
Wirehair Coat – This coat is very harsh & like a wirehaired dog’s coat: it is stiff to the touch & is not functional for a working dog, it is non typical, & considered a fault.
All colours are strong, clear & rich: the recognized colours in the breed are:
Blue merle, red merle, black & red, with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points with no preference.
The blue merle & black have black pigmentation on the nose, lips, & eye rims.
The red merle & red have liver pigmentation on the nose, lips, & eye rims.
Merles characteristically become darker with age.
On all colours, the areas surrounding the ears & eyes are dominated by colour other than white. The hairline for the white collar does not exceed the point of the withers at the skin (either in part or as a full collar) chest, legs, muzzle, underparts, blaze on the head, & white extension from under part up to four inches measuring from a horizontal line at the elbow.
White on the head should not predominate & the eyes must be fully surrounded by colour & pigment.
Disqualifications: White body splashes, which means white on the body between the withers & tail, on the sides between elbows & back of hindquarters on all colours.
The Australian Shepherd has a smooth, free & easy gait; he exhibits great agility of movement with a well-balanced, ground covering stride.
Fore & hind legs move straight & parallel with the center of the body. As speed increases, the feet (front & rear) converge towards the centerline of gravity of the dog, while the topline remains firm & level.
The Australian Shepherd must be agile & be able to change direction or gait instantly.
The correct built Aussie will maintain balance & symmetry when set in motion, the individual that meets the ideals of structure should also meet the standard's description of gait, as to move correctly, he must be built accordingly.
The Aussie employs several gaits under working conditions but depends primarily on the trot. The trot is a two beat, diagonal gait, in which the front foot & the opposite hind foot move at the same time. The Aussie must be able to cover ground in a minimum number of steps without sacrificing the agility which is necessary for sudden changes, in order to produce ground covering stride as well as agility, the Aussie can not be overly angulated. Meaning, ground-covering stride necessitates moderate angulation.
When viewing the Aussie from the front (coming towards you) the legs converge towards the dog’s center of gravity, almost forming an imaginary ‘V’ as measured from the point of the shoulder & extending through the middle of the leg to the middle of the foot. The toes are plainly visible & remain pointed towards the front, so the foot lands squarely on its pads when striking the ground.
When viewing the Aussie from the back (moving away from you) the legs converge towards the dog’s center of gravity, almost forming an imaginary ‘V’ as measured from the hip joint & extending through the middle of the leg & hock to the mid-point of the foot. When the foot is extended, its pad should be plainly visible. The foot when striking the ground should land squarely.
When viewing the Aussie from the side, he should reveal a smooth, effortless transition between fore & hind assemblies, or it reveals a lack of balance. Regardless of how stunning or exaggerated the reach & drive (side gait) are, an Aussie lacking in correctness either coming or going is expanding valuable energy unnecessarily, causing early fatigue.
Remember “Moderate, Correct & balanced” are the key words.
Front movement faults: Pin toes, Paddling, elbows out, crossing over, single tracking/interfering, not converging.
Rear movement faults: cow hocked, not converging, too close, crossing over, single tracking/interfering, bow hocked.
Side movement faults: overreaching, back kick out
Size / Weight / Age / Substance
Dogs have more ruff, their head & body are broader than females. The ideal size is between 20-23 inches (51cm-58.5cm) in height, measured from the wither.
Weight for dogs is about 22-25kilos
Bitches are more feminine, more refined, less ruff & finer head/body. The ideal size for bitches is 18-21 inches (45.5cm – 53.5cm) at the wither.
Weight for bitches is 17-20kilos
Aussies can live for 10-14yrs if looked after properly, so before buying one make sure YOU can commit yourself for those years.
NOTE: Quality is not to be sacrificed in favor of size.
Substance: Solidly built with moderate bone. Structure in the male reflects masculinity without coarseness. Bitches appear more feminine without being slight of bone.
Males should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Monorchidism & cryptorchidism - These are both serious hereditary faults that affect the reproductive ability of the animal.