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Thursday, September 21, 2023

How to Take Care of a Mini Australian Shepherd?

Mini dogs are all the craze right now. With their tiny paws, little noses, and adorable barks, adopting mini dogs has become quite the trend. And the mini-Australian shepherd with its beautiful coat, pretty eyes, and attractive intelligence, takes the trend up a notch.

If you are planning to adopt a cute and fluffy mini-Australian shepherd, there go through the below mentioned ways to care for it.

 What Is a Mini Australian Shepherd?

Mini Australian Shepherd
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The mini Australian shepherd is a smaller version of the very active dog – the Australian Shepherd. Just like the farm or herding dogs, the miniature Australian shepherd is a high-energy, loyal, and intelligent dog. With all the lovable traits of the Standard Australian Shepherd, these small dogs are cute as well as perfect if you do not have enough space for a large dog.

A lot of people, however, get confused between a mini Australian shepherd and a miniature American shepherd. The distinction is actually quite subtle. It all depends upon the size of the standard Australian shepherds used to breed the smaller dogs. So, do not forget to make sure to understand which breed you are adopting.

History Of The Miniature Australian Shepherd Dogs

Also known as the Mini Aussie, the mini Australian shepherd was bred to keep the agility, speed, intelligence, and beauty of the standard Australian Shepherd, but transfer them to much smaller breeds. They were probably first bred in the 1960s  and have been a part of the American Kennel Club (AKC) since 2011, thus having a breed standard. Their closest relatives are the Border Collie.

mini australian shepherd
Image Source: Depositphotos

Because no two dogs can have the same name, the mini Australian shepherd is also called the North American Shepherd. This breed is also recognized by the American Rare Breed Association.

They are generally kept as beloved pets, but also work as herding dogs, and more commonly, participate in dog sports and dog shows for their rare beauty, intelligence, and agility.

In recent years, there has been a demand for even smaller dogs. These gave rise to even smaller “purse dogs” like the teacup Aussies or toy Aussies. The disadvantages of these miniature puppies are that breeds like toy Aussies are not a recognized breed and buyers are often found to get cheated with normal-sized Mini Australian Shepherd puppies in the name of these purse dogs.

The popularity of these tiny dogs has also led breeders to use bad breeding tactics like breeding runts, inbreeding, and malnourishment.

Where Does The Mini Australian Shepherd Come From?

Where they come from
Photo by Leo_65 from Pixabay

After the first development in the 1960s, American ranchers selectively bred the small Australian Shepherd dogs that worked in rodeos. This led to the creation of even smaller replicas of the dog breed. Typically miniaturization of the dogs can be achieved in three ways, each of which has its own pros and cons.

Mini Australian Shepherd Mix

This method introduces genetic diversity, decreases the chances of inheriting serious health problems, and is overall the healthiest method to create a miniature Australian shepherd.

However, it might have a downside too – the mini Australian shepherd might inherit some features from the small non-Aussie parent too. So, if the breeders choose a small dog like the Yorkie or the Chihuahua as the second parent, the Mini Aussie puppy will be smaller than a standard Aussie Shepherd.

However, the mini Australian shepherd puppies in this case might look like a Yorkie or a Chihuahua, or have the temperament of its second parent.

Dwarf Mini Australian Shepherd Puppies

Generally, the genes causing dwarfism are recessive genes, meaning that they are comparatively uncommon and occur by chance. Thus, to create a miniature Australian shepherd, these dwarfism genes need to be introduced during crossbreeding.

Creating a mini breed this way will reduce the size of their legs and make them shorter. However, often they have disproportionate and larger heads. They also run a risk of painful muscular and skeletal side effects too.

Breeding From Runts Of Mini Australian Shepherds

Breeding from runts of the mini Australian shepherd dogs does not introduce new traits or physical features from a non-Aussie parent and successfully creates the miniature Australian Shepherd.

However, this method often takes generations of breeding to get the size that people usually want. Also, breeding from runts can also put the parent dogs as well as the puppies at risk. Runt puppies are at a high risk of being sickly and having weaker immune systems.

5 Characteristics of Mini Australian Shepherd

Photo by Mr_niceshoot from Pixabay

1. Mini Australian Shepherd Appearance And Size

The characteristics of mini Australian shepherds like their appearance and size vary depending on the method used to breed them.

Crossbreeding mini Australian shepherd dogs with smaller ones results in puppies with mixed traits. Breeding from runts over generations results in a shrunken version of the standard Australian shepherd while including the dwarfism gene results in puppies with disproportionate attributes like short legs and larger heads.

Overall, Miniature Australian shepherds are generally healthy dogs and are strong, muscular, with a bobbed tail and short face, and their bodies are slightly longer than their tails. They often have heterochromia (two different coloured eyes) too.

Mini Aussies are not super tiny, however, they are about 20 to 35 pounds smaller than a standard Australian Shepherd and may grow up to be 13 to 18 inches tall and weigh somewhere between 20 to 40 pounds.

2. Coat

mini australian shepherd
Image Source: Depositphotos

One of the significant features of the standard, as well as a mini Australian shepherd dog, is their fluffy, big, and gorgeous double coat. Fortunately enough, they do not shed much either – only twice a year during their shedding season. Thus, the Mini Aussie might be a good dog for you, if you suffer from mild allergies.

3. Colour

Black, blue merle, liver red, and red merle puppies are the most common among the mini Australian shepherd dogs. In addition to this, they may have tan and/or white markings too. Mini Aussies that are not miniature American shepherds might also have these distinctive coats.

The puppies may have blue eyes or brown eyes, and some of them might even have one of each. Dogs that are black are blue merle will generally have a black nose, while dogs that are liver red or red merle will have a liver-coloured nose.

4. Temperament

The mini Australian shepherd is a very active dog that loves to be outside and have lots of physical exercises. They were originally bred as smaller working dogs and are one of the typical herding breeds that would love a strong work ethic or feel that they have a job or a purpose.

They bond strongly with their owners and are an extremely smart species. Thus, it is easier to train them and make them do small chores, tricks, or other activities that give them a sense of purpose.

Although they make a great first-time family pet due to these characteristics, a bored and lonely Aussie can be quite destructive at home too. So, before adopting one, be sure that you will be able to be there for your Mini Australian Shepherd.

5. Socialization Instincts

Although miniature Australian shepherds bond very well with their owners, they can be a little wary of non-family members and strangers. Even though they are much smaller than the stronger breed, Mini Aussies can harm someone if they get aggressive.

You will need to overcome this risk by helping them socialize. Socialization will reduce their aggression towards strangers and other dogs, but you will need to make sure that their herding instincts are satiated with enough energy so that it does not take the form of ankle-biting or other such behaviours.

 Lifespan Of Mini Australian Shepherds

The mini Australian shepherd has a comparatively longer life expectancy and normally lives up to 12 to 13 years of age. Many dogs of this breed have even been known to live up to 15 years of age.

 The Health of Mini Australian Shepherds

Photo by Ivan Vershinin from Pexels

Like any other dog, miniature American shepherds as well as other mini Aussies are prone to general canine problems as well as health problems inherited from the Australian shepherd breed as a whole. These problems include:

  • Vision problems.
  • Obesity.
  • Blood clotting disorders.
  • Elbow or hip dysplasia.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Cancer.
  • Epilepsy.
  • MDR1 drug sensitivity.

Drawbacks of Miniaturization

Health problems also stem from the miniaturization of breeds. Their potential occurrence increases and leads to a big concern. Common examples of such difficulties arising from dwarfism include:

  • Sometimes Basset Hounds develop twisted legs.
  • Dachshunds are very prone to back injuries caused by their elongated spine and short legs.

Increased health troubles lead to an increase in expenses like vet bills. Often this leads to dogs being given up for adoption, left alone on the streets, and losing their homes as the owners are not able to bear with the health expenses.

Known Health Problems

mini australian shepherd
Image Source: Depositphotos

Here a some of the diseases that mini Australian shepherds are prone to and that you should be aware of before taking up dog ownership. Apart from these, however, mini Australian shepherd dogs can also be prone to psychological difficulties like separation anxiety.

1. Disc Disease

In some dogs which have been miniaturized, there is a predisposition to experience an early degeneration of discs that make up their spine and absorb shock. As a result of this disc failure in ageing dogs, their neck and spine gradually lose the ability to absorb shocks from daily activities.

This can make it painful for the dogs to move their neck or body. In worst-case scenarios, it can even lead to hind leg paralysis.

2. Patellar Luxation

mini australian shepherd
Image Source: Depositphotos

Patellar Luxation refers to the dislocation of the knee cap, thus causing lameness on the affected leg or both legs.

Small dogs which have been inbred are especially prone to patellar luxation. However, inbreeding is still a prevalent practice used to create miniature dogs.

3. Fragile Bones

Although the mini breeds might look cuddly and teddy bear-like, they are actually quite delicate little animals that need to be handled with care. They have much smaller and more fragile bones than the standard breed.

This also makes it risky for the mini Australian shepherd to be around small children who might not know how to handle them delicately.

4. Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia occurs in some of the smaller dogs when the thigh bone does not fit snugly into the hip joint.

While some show signs of pain and lameness on one or both of their rear legs, others may not give any indications of discomfort at all. Hence, at the time it becomes quite difficult for owners to understand if their dogs are actually having this problem.

5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dogs. It is very similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans. PRA is characterized by the bilateral degeneration of the retina, which causes progressive vision loss and also culminates in blindness.

PRA shows its first symptoms through loss of night blindness, followed by day vision degeneration leading to blindness. The eyes of the dogs with PRA begin to look cloudy and get covered by a slight sheen.

In most cases, the dogs with progressive retinal atrophy completely lose their vision and go blind over a span of 1 to 2 years after the onset of the disease.

6. Osteochondrosis Dissecans

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OD or OCD) is an inflammatory condition in which the diseased cartilage separates from its underlying bone. It most commonly affects the shoulder joint. However, the elbow, hip, or knee (stifle) may also get involved in certain cases.

Surgery or arthroscopy is often used to treat this condition in dogs. The decision of treatment however depends on the joint affected or the site of the disease, if a flap of cartilage is not present, and the degree of secondary arthritis.

7. Deafness

Your mini Australian shepherd might develop a hearing loss due to old age, congenital defects, injuries, build-up of ear wax, severe untreated ear infections, tumours, parasitic infections, drug toxicity, and many other problems.

The severity of the hearing loss may vary and dogs can develop temporary, partial, or total deafness. One or both ears can be affected. There is no precise cure for deafness in dogs. Your vet can however try to reduce the severity of the cause of their hearing loss.

Health Tests

All parents of Mini Australian Shepherd puppies must clear the following health tests:

  • MDR1 DNA genetic test.
  • Ophthalmologist.
  • Hip.
  • PRA Optigen (to rule out the probability of progressive retinal atrophy).

Healthy Dogs

The healthiest Mini Australian Shepherd puppies are those which are:

  • Carefully bred and health-assessed miniature American shepherd puppies, or
  • Carefully bred and health-examined Mini Aussie cross puppies with fewer breeds of dogs.

The Aussiedoodle, the Australian Shepherd Yorkshire Terrier mix, and the Australian Shepherd Beagle mix are popular crosses to achieve miniature dogs that are similar to the Australian Shepherd in characteristics, but smaller than them in size.

Smaller Aussies with dwarfism are at times created by an Aussie Corgi mix, but then the puppy runs a high risk of inheriting the health adversities of the Corgi breed too.

4 Best Ways to Take Care Of Mini Australian Shepherd Puppies

Now, as a dog owner, you should know what living with a mini Australian shepherd pup will feel like. You should be able to take the best care of them and help them become one of the best friends you could ever have.

1. Food And Diet

Food and Diet
Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

Remember, your mini Australian shepherd absolutely loves food. While on one hand, this love for food ensures that you do not have to worry about them starving, it also increases their predisposition to obesity. You have to monitor what your pup is eating and make sure that it does not over-eat.

On average, your dog should be having 1 to 2 cups of dog food, split into two meals. It also varies depending on the exact brand of food you are providing, and hence it is advisable to always check behind the pack for detailed instructions.

Do not forget to make sure that what you are feeding your dog is healthy and is high in nutritional value because this will also prevent them from gaining weight unnecessarily.

Best Food For Your Mini Australian Shepherd

Dog Food
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The Pedigree Small Breed Dry Dog Food is highly recommended for your pet. This food gives a complete and balanced diet for your dogs of this size and has small kibble sizes that are perfect for them to chew on.

This food combines whole grains, proteins, and vegetables in just the right amounts to support the immune system of your dog and is also easy to digest. They also have optimal levels of omega-6 fatty acid that nourish the skin and help to keep their coat healthy and shiny. The crunchy kibble pieces also help to prevent dental decay.

There are also no artificial colours or food elements, flavours, or preservatives in this.

2. Exercise

The mini Australian shepherd is a very active dog that requires around 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. It also likes to accompany its owners on hikes, runs and makes the perfect, and enthusiastic exercise buddy.

Due to their intelligence, this breed requires mental stimulation on top of the exercise. You must ensure that they do not start getting bored and show signs of frustration. A great way to do this is to give them jobs or teach them tricks. They also excel at dog sports like flyball and disc sports.

3. Grooming And Shedding

Despite their fluffy double coat, these dogs do not require much grooming. Twice a year, during the shedding season, they shed their undercoats. During this time they require brushing every day and during other times in the year, however, brushing once a week is enough.

Mini Australian shepherds do not need bathing often. It is advisable to bathe them only when they are dirty as bathing irritates their skin. Clip their nails as and when required, and brush their teeth often. To make it easier, you may also use dental sticks.

4. Training

The mini Australian shepherd dog is quite easy to train. They are eager to please their owners while also enjoying the mental stimulation from the activities. They do not do well with punishment, however, so you should use positive reinforcement techniques like verbal praise and treats.

They are also great with obedience training and they love puzzle toys and other interactive playthings.

Is The Mini Australian Shepherd Dog A Good Family Pet?

As you must have realized, there are many kinds of mini Aussies, it is just a matter of finding the best fit. The right choice of Mini Australian Shepherd could make a great family pet.

However, like every breed, they have their instincts. Being a miniature of the big standard Shepherd does not immediately make it an easy dog because they will not like being cooped up.

Your mini Australian shepherd will crave open-air, farmland, and vigorous exercise as much as its standard breed. If you have some land space, it might be a good idea to teach them a come-back cue and let them run free for a while. This will make your dog happy.

However, if you do not have enough space to run or jobs for your Mini Aussie to perform, this breed might not be the right choice for you.

Finding Good Breeders

find healthy breeders
Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

It is the duty of the dog buyer to find responsible breeders who are concerned about the dog’s health. Make sure that the puppies qualify for the breed standard, and were housed in a clean and well-cared-for environment. Breeders who house their stock in poor conditions must be avoided.

You need to keep in mind that since mini dogs are very popular nowadays, this trend is being exploited by poor-quality breeders and puppy mills.

Final Thoughts

Just as you would find a variety of characteristics and instincts of native Australian animals, Mini Australian Shepherd dogs offer a plethora of options. Each might be different from the other with an overall similar character, and it is all about finding the right fit for you.

They have a loving and loyal nature and are very good around family members. But things could get disastrous around strangers if they are not subjected to proper socialization. There is also the lingering issue of their health and the drawbacks of miniaturization.

As attractive and cute as they look, get a mini Australian shepherd only if you have enough space and time to dedicate to it and be warned that there will remain some risks that you will have to work to overcome.

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