The Miniature Australian Shepherd was developed by breeding smaller Australian Shepherds for the desired size. The breed is rapidly increasing in popularity among those interested in a compact dog with a strong dog work ethic. They are especially popular in dog agility, and do well in other dog sports including herding, obedience, disc dog, flyball and many other activities.
The preferred height of this breed ranges from 14 to 18 inches (35 to 46 cm) at the withers and the weight is typically between 17 and 30 pounds (9 to 14 kg). Coat colors are blue merle, red merle, black, and red, all with or without copper as well as with or without white trim. Eyes may be any combination of brown, amber, hazel, blue, or marbled. Some of these dog have eyes that are two different colors or may be marbled or swirled.
Mini Aussies are easily trained, but their intelligence and drive require obedience training and plenty of interesting activity. They are easily trainable because they crave approval. Once given proper socialization they will thrive in a variety of environments, provided they have an adequate outlet for both physical and mental energy. If they are not allowed adequate stimuli they may become destructive. Because of their herding background, they also may have the tendency to try to herd people, especially small children, nipping at their heels. As long as this behavior is put in check when they are young, they will generally be fine. They are social dogs and form close attachments to their owner. As a result, some may suffer separation anxiety. Minis function well as a family dog, but their excessive energy may need to be checked around small children. They are generally great house dogs but do require a large amount of exercise. They are particularly apprehensive with strangers.
In 1968 Doris Cordova, a horse woman in Norco, California, began a breeding program specifically to produce very small breed founded with Australian Shepherds. Her foundation stud was Cordova's Spike. Spike was placed with Bill and Sally Kennedy, also of Norco, California, to continue to develop a line of smaller dogs under the B/S kennel name. Another horseman, Chas Lasater of Valhalla Kennels, soon joined the ranks of mini breeders. In the 1980s fanciers formed member clubs (North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA and the Miniature Australian Shepherd Association) and registries to promote the smaller dogs in particular. Doris Cordova wrote a letter of explanation regarding the intent of developing the breed which was published in the National Stock Dog Magazine, Vol. 28, No.1 Spring issue of 1982.
Possible health conditions
Eye defects of varying severity are the most common disorder in Australian Shepherds of all size varieties. The following disorders have been recognized in the Australian Shepherd of all sizes:
Iris Colobomas (IC): A cleft in the iris of the eye. If large, it will impair vision. A dog with a small IC may be sensitive to bright light. While the exact mode of inheritance is unknown, it is probably polygenetic. They may also be the result of abnormal development in puppies from merle to merle breedings.
Juvenile cataracts: A congenital opacity of the lens of the eye due to abnormal early degeneration of the lens tissue. This can result in gradual and painless deterioration of sight, resulting in partial or complete blindness by 2 to 5 years of age.
Persistent pupillary membrane (PPM): PPM is rare, but possible. During normal development, a puppy's eyes are enveloped by a membrane which stretches and breaks away by 8 weeks of age. In an affected dog, the membranes fail to break free, whether on the front of the eye, or behind it. It causes varying degrees of vision impairment depending on placement and concentration of the strands. Diagnosis can be mild to severe. If strands have not broken free by 8 weeks, the dog is inclined to carry them for the rest of its life.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): PRA is common in many breeds of dogs and has been identified in Australian Shepherds. It affects the entire retina and is the canine equivalent of retinitis pigmentosa. The disease is recognized first in early adolescence or early adulthood. Puppies may be blind by six to eight months. All dogs affected with PRA eventually go blind. Carriers show no clinical symptoms. Symptoms are subtle, starting with night blindness, some eye dilation, progressing to complete blindness. It is quite common not to notice anything wrong until the dog is nearly completely blind.
Dogs with the MDR1 gene mutation may have adverse reactions when given certain drugs. The documented list includes drug types for: antiparasitic agents, antidiarrheal agents, tranquilizers, pre-anesthetic agents and chemotherapy agents.