Thoughts on Mini-Aussies

If you are wondering what is the right dog for you, this is the place to be. In this introductory forum we talk about topics such as breed vs. mix, size, age, grooming, breeders, shelters, rescues as well as requirements for exercise, space and care. No question is too silly here. This particular forum is for getting and giving helpful, nice advice. It is definitely not a forum for criticizing someone else's opinion, knowledge or advice. This forum is all about tail wagging and learning.

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Gunna get \'em!
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 9:24am PST 
I’ve been interested in the Miniature Australian Shepherd for quite some time. However, knowing that Australian Shepherd clubs do not accept them, and not wanting to contribute to something that is potentially “wrong” I’ve avoided the idea of them.

However, I find that I’m drawn to the smaller size without the loss of the typical Aussie characteristics. There are lots of “minis” of other breeds: Doxies, Shelties, Pinchers (not the Doberman), and poodles being some of a plethora of miniaturized, and recognized, dog breeds.

I was also worried that they might be considered a “designer” breed, being aesthetically pleasing and easier to own in the smaller, more compact size. So I did a little research and here is what I’ve found.

1. They’re in the process of being a recognized group.
2. To do so, they have changed the name “Mini-Aussie” to North American Shepherd (directly derived from the Australian Shepherd.
3. They are indeed directly bred from the Australian Shepherd, breeding specifically for the smaller proportions.
4. This creates the problem of using quality Aussie stock to create the smaller breed, thus the problem of “preserving” quality Australian Shepherds is the main concern in the breed clubs.
5. The North American Shepherd is now being considered as a “developing” breed. And can not have the name “Miniature Australian Shepherd”.

The Australian Shepherd breed clubs aren’t necessarily worried about the North American Shepherd as a new breed, however, they want clear distinction between the two breeds, and the biggest problem here is that the North American Shepherd is a Mini Aussie by all standards. Thus, to continue creating what will eventually be its own breed (much like the Sheltie is a miniature collie) they must use the Aussie stock until it is established.

There are a lot of thoughts on the matter; I like the mini-Aussie (or North American Shepherd) a lot. In fact, although I usually rescue, one day (way in the future) I have a clear idea of purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder and getting serious about agility.

Just curious to read Dogster thoughts …

Here are my sources:
“The USASA does not support the purposeful breeding of Miniature Australian Shepherds and Toy Australian Shepherds, and expects all members who have breeding programs to breed to the USASA/AKC recognized standard of excellence. The USASA further expects all members to be ever vigilant in the preservation and protection of the Australian Shepherd.”
-From the United States Australian Shepherd Assoc.

“The NAMASCUSA Board and the appointed AKC Committee are currently in negotiations with AKC / USASA for the AKC recognition of the Mini Aussie”
The below is the request for mini-aussies (now being called the North American Shepherd) to be AKC recognized.
http://www.australianshepherds.org/news/USASALettoNAMAS CUSA_June%2009_F_.pdf

Member Since
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 9:31am PST 
They have alot of problems with shyness and reactivity in the Mini Aussies, plus since they're mixed with so many different breeds (papillon, chihuahua, pomeranian) its kind of hard to tell what you're getting.

Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 10:18am PST 
Well, there are two kinds of mini Aussies- the ones that are actually small purebred Aussies, and the ones that are crossed with another small breed, often Papillon, Sheltie, or long-haired Chihuahua.

There is another division too- the breeders that are breeding for agility and flyball, versus the ones breeding strictly for the pet market. The sports ones will probably be higher energy, but more likely to be healthy and temperamentally sound. I would stay away ENTIRELY from the "toy Aussie" because in my experience, they are more likely to look like (and probably ARE) a merle longhair Chi with a docked tail. I don't know of any reputable breeders making them either.

I think a mini Aussie is a completely valid choice if you're as careful finding a breeder as you would for any other breed- you want to see health testing, and competitive winning of some kind.

By the way, "standard" Aussies are not supposed to be a big dog, either. Females in the 30-lb range are not unusual, so if someone is calling dogs that size "minis", they are just trying to get into the more lucrative category, and should not be trusted... (Maggie is bigger than that, she's 55, and at ideal weight would probably be 48 lbs or so, but there's obviously a range in size.)


Im just a little- guy
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:25am PST 
Miniature Australian Shepards are a legit breed. Just because the breed is not recognized by mainstream registries does not make them a "designer breed" or puppy mill fodder. They have established breed clubs and dog shows. Responsible people are breeding them.

They are purebred aussies in a smaller size. Toy aussies are small mutt versions often sold in pet stores and are not a breed.

The mini version is very similar to their larger AKC counterparts. They need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They are smart with a lot of energy. They should be involved in dog sports like flyball, agility and other fun activities. This is a breed who does well with active people with dog training experience. If you supply them with "work" and work with them they can be great dogs. If you don't they will likely have annoying behavior problems.

They are not difficult to train. Herding breeds are not independent dogs and are people pleasers.

Gunna get \'em!
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:28am PST 
Thanks Maggie.

I didn't know some were being mixed with paps and chis... And I would stay away from that without a doubt. I would also be looking for a dog with that lovely Aussie drive. It's what attracted me to the mini's in the first place--the fact that they still retain that drive.

If I wanted a papillon, I would look for a papilon breeder...lol. Not an Aussie...

And I do like the standard Australian Shepherd (I'm refering to it as a "standard" for differentiation purposes). I'm just drawn to the smaller size of the North American Shepherd. And by "reputable breeder" I would indeed check for all that "fun stuff".

Given, hopefully I'm looking at 10 years before looking for a new puppy...haha. I've got 3 dogs at home, all young. I'm not looking for a new one right now. I just wanted thoughts and ideas on the mini-aussie as a breed...or North American Shepherd.

ETA: Thanks Milton. I think that's what I wanted cleared up more than anything. That they are indeed a breed, not just a designer dog. I didn't want to be seaching for a breeder and find that there aren't any breeders who aren't in it just for that idea of money...

Edited by author Mon Apr 4, '11 11:33am PST


Always my angel.
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:32am PST 
Ah, but it actually gets more complicated than that! There's also MASCUSA (Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA) in addition to NAMASCUSA (North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA). Unless I'm terribly mistaken, MASCUSA are the ones spearheading the effort to have AKC recognize Mini Aussies as a size variety of Australian Shepherds (like Mini Poodles are in relation to Standard Poodles) as opposed to a completely separate breed (like the Miniature Pinscher). There is some contention between NAMASCUSA and MASCUSA, which I believe is one part of the reason that neither one has AKC recognition yet.

There's also a fairly large group within the Mini Aussie community who are opposed to any AKC registration at all, preferring to stick solely with groups like The National Stock Dog Registry - who, by the way, recognizes MASCUSA but not NAMASCUSA, at least as far as I can tell. Not that you can't be registered with NSDR and AKC both, but anyway.

So when you're talking about Mini Aussies, you've got:
A) Mini Aussies for pet buyers
B) Mini Aussies for flyball/agility
C) Mini Aussies for herding (more on this in a minute)

And then within those divisions you have:
1) Unscrupulous breeders crossing Aussies with smaller breeds to make money (usually Papillons or Chihuahuas)
2) Breeders creating a wholly separate breed that is basically an Australian Shepherd in a smaller package
3) Breeders creating a size variety of the Australian Shepherd
4) Breeders breeding for smaller Australian Shepherds who, for whatever reason, don't particularly care about registration technicalities

Now, as for point C above - there is some historical precedent for "saddle dogs," which were herding dogs in the pre-official days who were specifically bred to be pulled up onto the saddle if need be. That's largely rumour as far as I can tell, since I haven't seen a real historical document on it of any kind. I haven't exactly done a ton of research on these guys, though. At any rate, there are situations (and certain farm setups as well as rodeos) in which it is advantageous to have a smaller herder available who's more portable and can be picked up if you need to. It's similar to the ideas behind Shelties and Corgis - both small herders, though small for different reasons.

Anyway, I like Mini Aussies. I subscribe to one of the major email lists for them, and as you can imagine (given what I outlined above) they can get pretty contentious with each other. At the moment I'm inclined to like the North American Shepherd crowd, but that's only because they're more accepting of full-tailed Mini Aussies. I also have heavy sympathies toward the Mini Aussie "let's stick with NSDR and ARBA" group, only because AKC makes me leery for a variety of reasons (oh yeah, the ARBA recognizes MASCUSA as a parent club...that was a reference to American Rare Breed Association, by the way, not American Rabbit Breeders Association...laugh out loud). I mean, AKC is great and terribly convenient in so many ways, but there are a lot of things about them I'm uncomfortable about.

Anyway, you definitely can find reputable Mini Aussie breeders. You just have to be good about checking them out and all. I've even seen a few who say they have "Toy Aussies" who don't look too sketchy...usually they just call their smaller Mini Aussies, toys, to let you know what you're getting. You'll want to look out for all the Aussie health issues to be tested plus a couple of the more usual "little dog" problems, like luxating patellas and all that.

ETA: For what it's worth, MARS (Mini Aussie Rescue & Support) also uses the "Toy Aussie" moniker for toy size (less than 20 lbs) Mini Aussies. So it doesn't always indicate a Mini mixed with a toy breed, though it most frequently does.

Edited by author Mon Apr 4, '11 11:44am PST


Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:41am PST 
Lisa... wonderful post! applause

Yes, it tends to be complicated with new breeds or splinter breeds. So I'd probably evaluated each breeder on their own merits, rather than what club they belong to (if I was going to get a Mini Aussie... they are pretty cute, but I think like the regular size better)

The Poodle is probably an apt comparison. Different size varieties that are nearly but not quite separate breeds (crossing between sizes is rare but allowed with breed club approval, right?) No one thinks it was a slight to Standard Poodle when the Mini and Toy were developed, right? (I know some Aussie people are ADAMANTLY against recognizing the minis.)

Gunna get \'em!
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:44am PST 
All-Right Lisa!

Thanks for that information! I know with the Texas Blue Lacy Dogs there is all that contention in and of the breed.

I guess if I was someone really getting into the breed I would need that information before picking out a breeder. Who the dogs are registered under makes a huge difference in the TYPE of mini-aussie I would be getting. Probably in personality as well as temperement.

The good part about getting AKC recognized would be that it would eventually wipe out all that contention, huh? It would also make the mini-Aussie a steady breed where buyers could know exactly what their looking for without have to search the breed for the right characteristics. As it stands right now, it appears there isn't a line.

Think about the Doberman, there are really two kinds: those bred for show, and those bred to work. But there is a clear line between the two types.

In the case of mini-Aussies, there appear to be 3 or 4 types. That is frustrating when searching for the right puppy.

Always my angel.
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 11:59am PST 
Thanks, guys!

Yeah, I'm not sure why some Aussie people are so opposed to Mini Aussies as a recognized AKC breed...I wonder if they just associate them with puppy millers and BYBs?? Some people are just major purists, though, in any breed. Which can be good and bad, I guess...

The Poodle comparison came to me because I'm considering a Toy Poodle for my next dog, though I've been looking into Mini Aussies along the way. Kinda worked out great for this thread, I guess. laugh out loud So far they're a "maybe someday" breed, but I'm still keeping them in my peripheral vision, so to speak.

I'm thinking maybe the best comparison for the North American Shepherd might be something like a Miniature Schnauzer. Schnauzers come in three sizes, but they're considered wholly separate breeds right? It's not like Poodles where you can breed between the sizes under certain circumstances (though some Poodle people have VERY strong feelings about that too, based on what I've seen online)?

Anyway, if you just want to find a responsible breeder then personally I would look at any breeder registered with NAMASCUSA, MASCUSA, or a good stock dog registry like NSDR. Any of those should whittle it down helpfully for you. If you have a particular opinion about the future of the breed/variety, however, I'd look into a couple of the major registries and decide which you want to align yourself with. You could also subscribe to some mailing lists and decide who you want to side with that way, as well. People get pretty vocal with their opinions on those things.

ETA: Yeah, I see what you mean, Gunner. It does create a really nice level of consistency. Not sure if it'd wipe out all the in-fighting, though - there are still working BC breeders who are vehemently opposed to AKC recognition. Then again, I guess it's only been like 15 years since that happened, now that I look it up. Interesting.

The weird thing is they're basically all breeding for the same thing - a great Australian Shepherd at a smaller size. So it makes it even stranger that they fight about it so much, IMO. thinking Then again, I'm not that well-versed in breeder politics.

Edited by author Mon Apr 4, '11 12:04pm PST


Gunna get \'em!
Barked: Mon Apr 4, '11 12:03pm PST 
Lisa, from what I was reading the North American Shepherds were indeed using the Australian Shepherds as stock dogs... meaning they used them to breed the smaller guys.
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