Australian Shepherd is a herding dog breed, coming from the Northern America ranches. Despite the name “Australian” the dogs origins do not lie in Australia. Massive popularity of these dogs has to do with the boom of western ridign in the USA after the first World War. Australian Shepherds are highly valued because of their ability to be trained easily, obedience and willingness to please the owners. Commonly called the Aussie, this working dogs have plenty of energy and to be happy it needs a job to do. This makes the Aussies perfect dogs for all kind of dog sports like flyball, frisbee and dog agility. Due to their intelligence and perfect scent, they make excellent disaster and rescue dogs and can be also used as guide or detection dogs.
My Australian Shepherd blog was created to give you the basic information about this wonderful dog breed. I alsp post pics and videos of Aussies on this site. There will also be links to other useful sites about Australian Shepherds and photos from Aussie owners. In case you are one of them, send me your pics please. Welcome and enjoy your stay.
It is natural that you want your dog to look his best, but professional grooming can be quite expensive. That’s why you should consider doing it yourself. If you’re careful and patient there is no cause for worry, if you follow the instructions closely you’ll have a well groomed Aussie in no time.
The first thing you need to do is to check your pet’s fur for matting and entangled hairs. To do that you’ll first have to apply conditioner to the fur and start slowly and carefully brushing it following the direction it’s growing in. If the brush gets stuck don’t force it, you might pull your dog’s hair out and cause him serious discomfort and pain. Instead stop brushing and remove the matting, if possible by untangling it, if not by cutting the entangled hair off with scissors. Once you’re done with this stage, take a stronger wire brush and give his coat another go over, taking care not to be too rough.
After the brushing it’s time for a bath, get your pet in the tub and slowly pour warm (by no means cold or hot) water over his back. You should make sure that he is completely soaked; you might need to rearrange his fur every so often in order to achieve this. Once you are sure that the dog is wet to the skin you should start applying the shampoo. When the dog is completely covered in it, leave it be for a couple of minutes and then start carefully rinsing it out. Make sure to get all of the shampoo out, as any residue might cause serious skin irritation. Dry the fur with a towel and then if needed, with a blow dryer, just make sure that the air coming out of the dryer is not too hot.
Next you will want to check his ears, do this carefully as they are rather sensitive. You should check their insides for any dirt or hairs. If you find anything remove it carefully. Some people might also use this time to clip their dog’s nails, but that is not really recommended if you don’t have at least some experience with that sort of thing. Dogs have a dark line going down the length of their nails. This line is called “quick” and if you damage it during the nail clipping it might start to bleed, that is why if you intend to this you should have some clotting agent, just in case.
The last part of the treatment is trimming the hair on your dog’s tail. You should be gentle during this stage as dogs generally don’t particularly enjoy it when someone is messing around with their tails. Hold the tail softly, but still firmly enough that the dog can’t move it and perhaps get it in the way of scissors. Trim the hair to the length you find optimal, and enjoy the sight of your freshly groomed pet.
Aussies are a truly remarkable breed, not only are they cute and cuddly, they are very intelligent and friendly, all of which makes them ideal therapy dogs. Due to their adaptability, high levels of energy and sociable nature, they have been used for a number of purposes. They have served as hearing aid dogs, for search and rescue and as seeing-eye dogs, so it is not a surprise that they were found to be ideal therapy dogs.
Making visits with your therapy dog is a truly remarkable and beneficial experience. First of all you get the pleasure of helping people, that in itself is reward enough, but you are also gaining the added benefit of having to spend more time with your dog, and occupy his time and energy with a both fulfilling and constructive activity. During those visits the dog is the center of attention, which only helps him get even more accustomed to socializing, and keeps his mind and body occupied.
If you do intend to train your Aussie to be a therapy dog you should start with obedience training. The dog should be well behaved and comfortable in social situations. There is no better time for development of this kind of attitude then while the dog is still a young puppy. Try to constantly expose your dog to new environments, situations and people, of course, be careful not to overexert your dog, even though Aussies are highly energetic and adaptable even they have limits.
While you are helping your dog to get used to different situations, keep in mind that at the same time the dog is also getting used to you. Use a lot of positive reinforcement, reward his every appropriate action and don’t be thrifty with affection. Aussies are very eager to please their masters and derive great satisfaction from praise, don’t deny it to them when they do something that deserves it.
You are not expected to do all of this on your own. There are therapy dog groups that can help you with training, advice, tests and registration of your Aussie as a therapy dog. You need to pass the American Kennel Club’s tests in order to receive insurance documentation that will allow you to start making visits with your dog, and these groups can be of invaluable help with that.
Once you are registered and approved you can start making the actual visits. It is your choice whether you’ll do this on your own or as a part of a volunteer group, both approaches have their advantages. As a part of a group you’ll have experienced colleagues that might give you helpful advice and pointers, while if you are alone you get to make your own schedule, the choice simply depends on your preferences. There are a number of places that would welcome you and your dog – schools, hospitals, assisted living institutions, nursing or senior homes… Basically any place where there are people who could use a smile and some company.
Like any other breed, Aussies have their own set of common hereditary diseases and disorders. You, as a pet owner, need to be aware of the most often occurring ones in order to be able to recognize their symptoms in time and take your dog to the vet for treatment before the situation becomes too serious.
Most common disorders afflicting Australian Shepherds are:
Cataracts – among several frequent eye problems that Aussies can experience, this is by far the most common one. Cataracts are not always caused by genetic disorders and need to be examined for their cause to be determined. If you notice that both eyes are afflicted that is usually a sign that this is a hereditary disorder. They can develop when your dog is anywhere from 1 to 8 years old. As soon as you notice that your dog is displaying sight problems contact your vet.
Problems with teeth – Aussies often have this type of genetic disorder, but luckily, it is usually not a serious one. However, if it progresses enough to make your dog unable to chew properly it might have negative effects on the dog’s digestion and cause an entirely new set of complications. Maintain your dog’s oral hygiene and if you notice that his teeth are decaying consult your vet.
Hip Dysplasia – Even though breeders have been aware of this problem for a long time, and have been performing frequent screenings in attempts to eradicate it, their efforts have pretty much been in vain. Condition may vary in severity, and in the worst cases might leave your dog unable to walk. If your dog experiences this stadium of the disorder, surgical procedure will be the only solution. If you notice that you dog is limping and you can’t find any injuries on its paws or legs, that might be an indication that the dog is suffering from this condition.
Osteochondritis Desicans – Another condition that might immobilize your dog; it is caused by a dislocated cartilage within a joint that can prevent it from functioning normally and cause irritation and pain. It usually occurs in elbows or shoulders. It is more common in larger dogs. If left untreated it could make it impossible for the animal to use the afflicted limb.
Patellar Luxation – Dislocation of the kneecap, there are cases in which it is not particularly serious – kneecap slips out occasionally, but is easily returned to its proper place. However, more severe cases that can only be corrected through surgery are not uncommon. It only affects hind legs.
Distichaisis – A condition characterized by improperly growing eyelashes that can cause irritation and even severe corneal scaring. This is one of the few conditions that you can (at least temporarily) remedy yourself. If you notice that your dog is having this kind of problems simply remove the obstructive eyelash if it is within your reach. A consultation with the vet is still advisable.
Retained testicles – This just recently became a frequent affliction. It greatly increases the chances of the development of testicular cancer, so if your dog is diagnosed with this condition you need to take rapid action before it progresses into something much more severe.
Like any other animal, dogs are very sensitive when they are young, it is vital that you take good care of them in this period if you want them to develop properly. As soon as you get your new puppy home call the vet and inquire about the types of vaccinations that need to be administered. There are some that are obligatory for all breeds, like for instance rabies shots, but there are also some that are specific to certain breeds. Once it receives its first vaccination (usually when the puppy is 6 weeks old) it might need to continue receiving a series of boost shots over the course of several months, this is normal and nothing to be worried about.
Once you bring your puppy home, let him get familiar with the environment, walk him in the yard and if he goes to potty in the appropriate place commend him and give him a reward, you should praise him and encourage him as often as is appropriate, this will help the puppy get comfortable in its new home and tech him what behaviors are acceptable.
Make sure that puppy is getting three meals a day, regular diet is a very important factor in its development. Use the best available meat based foods that contain at least 30% protein with less than 4% fibers. Puppy’s muscles and bones are forming in this stage and it is vital that it gets all the necessary nutrients.
Australian Shepherds are very energetic and very intelligent dogs, which means that they need to constantly be occupied, take your puppy out often and play with it or just let it find its own amusement. These playing sessions will not only strengthen your bond, but they will be the start of the training of your new dog.