They may look like mini Aussies, but they're not. Meet the miniature American shepherd.
1. Key Characteristics
- AKC Group: Herding
- Height: 13–18 inches
- Weight: 15–35 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12–16 years
Miniature American shepherds are small herding dogs who look like small Australian shepherds. They have almond-shaped eyes in a variety of colors, and 1 eye may be a different color from the other. Their tails are either naturally short or docked, and they have high-set triangular ears that hang over toward the front.
The medium-length double coat is weather resistant and can be black, blue merle, red or red merle. These dogs may also have white markings or tan points on the coat, so having more than 1 color is not uncommon.
2. Where They Came From
Some unregistered dogs who were found in California in the 1960s were thought to be Australian shepherds, but they were much smaller than Aussies. The dogs were bred to keep their small size and temperament. They were originally called mini Aussies and are sometimes still referred to by that name today.
The Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA, Inc. was formed in 1990. The American Kennel Club (AKC) added the breed to its Foundation Stock Service in 2011, and in 2015, the breed was awarded its Herding Group designation.
3. How Friendly Are They?
Mini American shepherds are protective, loyal, intelligent and versatile. They are comfortable on a farm herding livestock or in the city as a companion pet. Because of their intelligence, they are easy to train.
Jaci Harbin says her tricolor mini American shepherd named Rio “was potty trained in days, and as we went through the obedience courses with her, it was obvious that it was going to take a lot more than learning to heel or do tricks to stump her.”
Mini shepherds can be wary of strangers, so training and socialization is recommended. Because of their instincts, they may try to herd other animals and young children.
Activities that combine mental and physical stimulation and exercise would be best for this smart and agile breed.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
HIGH: As active herding dogs, mini American shepherds need multiple daily walks or a jog to expel energy. Keep your dog on a leash or within a secure area for exercise.
Play that adds mental stimulation, such as games or agility, is recommended — herding dogs are used to having a job to do and enjoy working.
LOW: An occasional brushing during the week is all that’s needed to prevent matting of the coat.
Bathe the dog as needed. The nails grow quickly, so trim them often. For working dogs, check for debris and insects when they return indoors to prevent infections.
LOW: The few common health problems to know about include:
- Hereditary eye defects (such as progressive retinal atrophy)
- Hip dysplasia
- Degenerative myelopathy (spinal cord disease)
Watch this proud mini American shepherd get some exercise:
5. Where to Adopt One
Miniature American shepherds are hard to find.
The breed is not listed on major adoption websites such as Petfinder. The Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA, Inc. has a page listing breeders. Keep in mind that these are paid listings, and no guarantees of health or quality are offered.
If you contact a breeder, meet the puppy and the parents. Ask for health clearances on the eyes and hips, and inquire about any puppy in the breeder’s care who might have had a spinal cord disease. Responsible breeders should have these tests performed on existing adults and new puppies by a certain age.
- Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA, Inc.
- American Kennel Club’s Miniature American Shepherd page