Bred in the 1960s from a selective group of small Australian Shepherds, the Miniature American Shepherd is essentially a scaled-down Aussie. Though smaller than the Australian Shepherd, the Miniature American Shepherd offers much of the same intelligence, skill, and loving companionship as its larger progenitors. These little herding dogs have quickly established a name for themselves as regular helpers at horse shows, and have skyrocketed to fame as the 34th most popular American Kennel Club dog breed. It’s no surprise that the Miniature American Shepherd is a special dog, and that it continues to be cherished by loving owners everywhere.
Miniature American Shepherd Appearance
Like the Australian Shepherd, the Miniature American Shepherd is a fine athlete, evidenced by its agility and fit composition. At a fraction the size of the Australian Shepherd, the Miniature American Shepherd weighs between 20 and 40 pounds, with males reaching 14-18 inches in height while females are typically around one inch shorter than their male counterparts.
The body of the Miniature American Shepherd is generally proportionate throughout, though these dogs are slightly longer than they are tall. A medium-length double coat comes in four colors, all of which are AKC standard. These include black, blue merle, red, and red merle. Markings are common, and the Miniature American Shepherd may feature tan points, white markings, or both; all three of these are standard markings.
The Miniature American Shepherd’s hair is shorter on the head, and this breed, like the Aussie, has a pair of striking, alert eyes that come in a variety of colors like blue, brown, hazel, and amber; heterochromia is not unusual.
The Miniature American Shepherd has a life expectancy in the range of 12 to 13 years. Intelligent, alert, and even-tempered, the Miniature American Shepherd is a wonderful family pet and is great with children. In addition, this breed’s shepherd roots and athleticism enable it to be an effective working dog on any farm or ranch.
An all-around fun-loving dog, the Miniature American Shepherd loves other dogs and even cats, particularly if they are housemates who have grown up together. Miniature Australian Shepherds will also be friendly to unfamiliar dogs, and enjoy a rousing game of tag or fetch at the park with four-legged friends of all sorts.
The keenness and alertness of the Miniature American Shepherd isn’t just written on its face—these dogs are almost always aware of everything that’s happening around them, and don’t like anyone sneaking up on them. For this reason, the Miniature American Shepherd is adept as a watchdog, and while this isn’t an aggressive breed, it’s common for the Miniature American Shepherd to be wary around strangers until it knows they can be trusted.
Miniature American Shepherds are a high-energy breed that needs plenty of stimulation, both mental and physical. These dogs love to a challenge and while it’s best to give them some sort of herding work, they will indulge in any number of canine sports, automatic fetch machines, and puzzle toys for dogs. These dogs can easily get bored if left alone, and while they are generally well-behaved once trained, a Miniature American Shepherd can act out and may even become destructive in an effort to cope with separation anxiety and boredom.
Caring for a Miniature American Shepherd
The Miniature American Shepherd is an energetic dog that will enjoy endless fun and happiness if treated with proper care.
For the first year of its life, the Miniature American Shepherd will experience rapid, steady growth. During this time, it’s important to speak to a veterinarian about formulating an appropriate diet for a puppy. After the first two to three months of its life, the Miniature American Shepherd should be ready to eat dry dog food, though many owners choose to cook meals at home for their dog or feed them a wet dog food. Whatever the case, it should be noted that it’s important for the Miniature American Shepherd not to overeat, as obesity can be detrimental to this and any breed’s health.
The Miniature American Shepherd is a true athlete and will have no trouble spending the majority of its waking hours being active. These dogs need a lot of exercise and the best thing owners can do for the dog’s mental and physical health is to simply give them an honest day’s work out in the fields; herding is what these dogs are wired to do. For those without farms, a bit of open running in the backyard or the local park, canine activities and sports, and running, walking, hiking or swimming can also serve as healthy outlets for burning energy.
Intelligent and highly trainable, the Miniature American Shepherd is practically a model citizen for all dogs. These sharp dogs are capable of learning almost any tricks and are eager to please their owners. The Miniature American Shepherd is emotionally intelligent and sensitive, so all training methods should avoid harsh commands and punishment. Instead, consistency, patience, and a rewards-based training program will yield incredible results that will be the envy of other owners and dogs alike. Training should begin at a young age, and it’s always a good idea to supplement at-home training with puppy socialization or other group classes.
Genetic problems are somewhat common in the Miniature American Shepherd and it can be beneficial to order a dog DNA test to help identify any potential disorders early on. The best course of action for owners to take is to take their dog to the vet for regular checkups, in addition to paying close attention for symptoms of diseases commonly seen in these dogs. Another helpful step that can be taken is to conduct semi-regular evaluations for hip and elbow dysplasia and a comprehensive ophthalmological exam.
Miniature American Shepherds tend to be more prone to hereditary eye problems including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can lead to a loss of vision and blindness. Though the Miniature American Shepherd isn’t a large dog breed, hip and elbow dysplasia can also affect these dogs, so it’s important to monitor these dogs, and consider the use of a dog joint supplement and an orthopedic dog bed. Another problem sometimes seen in the Miniature American Shepherd is patellar luxation, though as of now the best way to detect a luxating patella is by watching the dog’s gait, as no testing is available for this condition.
As with blindness and other eye defects common among tightly-knit breeding lines, deafness may also be a concern in the Miniature American Shepherd. Nevertheless, the breed is generally healthy overall and is quite able to live a full, healthy life.