According to the American Kennel Club, the Australian shepherd ranked No. 22 on the list of most popular dog breeds in 2012. If you are looking for an intelligent dog with a lot of energy and stamina the Aussie may be ideal. This loyal and loving breed is available in three distinct sizes.
The Standard Size
The Australian shepherd originated in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. Basque farmers introduced the dogs to Australia when they immigrated there. They brought the dogs with them when they came to the United States during the 1849 California gold rush. The breed was further developed in the Southwest -- bred for speed, herding ability and endurance. During the 1950s Aussies gained popularity as they became frequent stars in rodeo performances. These dogs possess high energy and require at least 40 minutes of rigorous exercise daily. They are excellent guard dogs. Males are 20 to 23 inches tall and females are 18 to 21 inches tall.
The Mini Variety
Miniature Australian shepherds possess the same abilities, temperament and working heritage as the standard breed. They are simply smaller in stature standing 15 to 18 inches tall and weighing between 25 and 40 pounds. The mini variety was developed in the 1960s by breed enthusiast Doris Cordova, who obtained several Australian shepherds from a rodeo circuit. She partnered with a veterinarian and established a breeding program to produce Aussies of compact size. Miniature Australian shepherds were first recognized by the National Stock Dog Registry and later by the Rare Breed Kennel Club in the 1980s. These dogs thrive on attention, excel in obedience training and make loyal companions. They are well-suited for families with children and tend to be a relatively quiet dog, barking only when disturbed.
Toy Australian shepherds were developed by selectively breeding smaller Aussies. The toy breed is 10 to 14 inches tall and weighs between 6 and 23 pounds. Although bred primarily as pets, the toy Aussie still possesses the herding instinct of its larger cousins and may nip at your heels. These dogs make excellent pets for families and children. Like all Aussies they can be shy around strangers, but are loyal, intelligent and loving with their family.
Selecting an Aussie
There is little difference between the standard, mini and toy Aussies, with the exception of size. So how do you decide what version is best for your family? Much of your decision will be based on your size preference. Consider the amount of space in your home and yard. Larger dogs require more room to run and play. Determine whether you want a dog small enough to sit on your lap, or one who can lay beside you.