"Always adopt and never shop!" Shouldn't I rescue a puppy from my local shelter? As a breeder, don't you contribute to the millions of unwanted dogs who live in shelters and who are put down each year?
My love of dogs started by helping my mother rescue dogs from our local shelter, working with them and finding them loving forever homes. You can find some wonderful pets at shelters, however it's unusual to find registered breeds there. I would never discourage someone from rescuing a dog (or any other animal). It is a selfless and wonderful act that will pay dividends in love and loyalty for many years to come. If that is where your heart is at, I highly recommend it! It is certainly very sad to see so many dogs held at shelters around the country.
My goal as a breeder is to preserve and protect the Australian Shepherd breed. In my opinion, if show kennels like CedarPaws were not allowed to continue our breeding programs there would be no way to ensure that healthy Australian Shepherds (or any breed for that matter) persevered. As a responsible breeder I require you to return your Australian Shepherd puppy or dog to my kennel if you are unable to care for him or her for any reason. In that way, I do not contribute to the many dogs who sadly end up in the local shelters.
Can I reserve an Aussie with a full tail? I don't want their tail docked.
There are many reasons why Australian Shepherds have their tails docked. First and most important is that Aussies can be born with any length of tail and often have a natural bobtail. If puppies are born with half a tail or a variation of an undesirable length, the tails are docked for aesthetic and sometimes health reasons, especially if it was not properly developed. Other reasons point to history and tradition. It was once believed that docking a dog's tail would prevent rabies, strengthen their back and help the dog to run faster. Tails were docked to prevent bites when herding, fighting or ratting. It kept the dog cleaner if there wasn't a tail to get dirty and also helped to avoid injuries and infections. And the process even saved owners money since parts of Europe taxed hunters and farmers if their working dogs had a tail, but those without a tail were exempt. Whatever the reason, the procedure has been performed for hundreds of years and has deep traditional roots.
I assess the conformation of my Aussies at eight weeks using the Puppy Puzzle method (three pages of measurements which determine if the dogs have correct structure and determines whether a puppy is of show quality) to confirm my observations of what I believe is a show-quality dog. ASCA, CKC and AKC standards require a tail length of no more than four inches to not attract a fault in the conformation ring. As CedarPaws is a show kennel, I have always abided by this requirement. Because tails need to be docked within the first few days of an Aussie puppy's life, it is impossible to identify show-quality pups at that time. If a tail were left on a puppy and it was later determined to be show-quality, it would be too late to dock the tail to conform to the show standard.
I also want to ensure that the puppy you are adding to your family has the right temperament to fit with your family's lifestyle. It is impossible to single out a puppy at a few days old and be confident that their energy level and temperament will suit your requirements. Often when my puppy buyers come to my kennel to pick up their Aussie puppy at eight weeks they have no idea which pup they will be bringing home. This is because the final assessments are not complete until that time.
Currently there is a movement that is overtaking the dog world across the globe. Laws are being drafted and passed prohibiting the docking of tails. Many countries in Europe ban the practices outright, and severe penalties can be imposed if a breeder is found guilty of docking tails (to see a chart outlining the current legal status of tail docking by country click here). I find this disappointing since one of the main reasons why I fell in love with the Australian Shepherd was because of their distinctive tails and characteristic 'wiggle butts'. It may only be a matter of time before docking becomes illegal in Ontario but until then, I will not leave an Aussie puppy's tail undocked.
What health issues do Australian Shepherds have?
Australian Shepherds are a pretty healthy breed but they can develop some health problems. Hip dysplasia and eye diseases are mostly controlled through the testing of the parents before a breeding occurs. Puppies have their eyes tested by a licensed veterinarian before leaving CedarPaws to go to their new homes. Other conditions like MDR1 can be tested for once a puppy has left our kennel, however, it's always wise to treat your Aussie puppy as though they are MDR1 mutant/mutant whether you know this through testing or not.
The one condition which cannot be controlled through screening or testing is epilepsy. Currently there is no test for seizure disorders. As breeders our only line of defense is to never breed a dog who has a direct relative that is known to suffer from epilepsy. Sadly even this preventative measure doesn't catch all cases of epilepsy and the disease can manifest even in the (seemingly) healthiest lines. Hopefully in the near future a test is developed so that we can eradicate this disease.
Can we have two puppies from the same litter?
I don't recommend taking two puppies who are the same age. The main issue with having two pups out of the same litter is that they tend to focus on their litter mate, and ignore the human who is trying to teach them boundaries. The bond which is supposed to happen between human and dog may be impeded by the bond which is created between the two puppies.
What's great about staggering the additions to your family is that an older puppy will teach the younger one how they are to behave. Your job is instantly easier! Although, you did sign up to own an Aussie, and putting the words 'Aussie' and 'easy' in the same sentence is somewhat comical. . .
How much exercise do Aussies need?
Aussies need to run. Most Australian Shepherds are very high energy so a walk just won't cut it. The good news is that there are many activities you can undertake with your Aussie which work as effectively as running. Things like chasing a ball or frisbee, playing with other dogs, going on a bike ride, jogging with their human and even mentally stimulating activities like obedience can help to tire out your pup. A tired Aussie is a good Aussie and one that is less likely to engage in destructive behaviour.
Remember that you need to wait until your puppy has all of their vaccinations before taking them out of your yard. They only have their first set of shots before leaving CedarPaws, and require a second set. Also wait until they are at least a year old before starting a running program (or having them jump) since their bones and joints are still developing. And never exercise in uncomfortably hot weather. Instead exercise in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are less extreme.
Do Aussies shed?
Aussies are a double-coated breed and will typically blow their coats three times per year depending on the age of the dog, climate, gender of the dog, whether the dog is intact and how much time the dog spends indoors vs. outdoors. What this means is that all of the dog's undercoat comes out, and you will find lots of tumbleweeds in your house unless you tackle the issue with a thorough grooming. Blowing coat allows your Aussie to prepare for a new season, and allows new coat to grow in.
So how often will you need to groom your Australian Shepherd? About once every three months. See our All About Aussies page for a listing of basic grooming tools.
What is the expected lifespan of an Aussie?
Typically Australian Shepherds live anywhere between 10-15 years.