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Australian Shepherds

What About Minis?

As an Australian Shepherd breeder I am often asked if I breed 'Mini Australian Shepherds' or 'minis'.  My emphatic answer is "No." This is often a controversial topic in the world of Aussie breeding.  My goal with this article is to educate and bring awareness to the world of miniatures - both regarding Australian Shepherds and breeds in general.  Information found here is my opinion and not meant to offend or discredit any breeders or owners who may be visiting my site.

I breed my Australian Shepherds using the breed standard as stated by ASCA, AKC and CKC as my guide.  While not a disqualifying fault, size is one of the characteristics I breed for (20"-23" for males, 18"-21" for females).  Anything outside of this standard does not make it into my breeding program.

The world of Miniature Australian Shepherds began when a woman by the name of Doris Cordova from Norco, California began selecting Aussies of small stature for her breeding program back in 1968.  Her goal was an Aussie in compact form. Two other kennels soon picked up where she left off - owned by Chas Lasater and Bill and Sally Kennedy.  This led to the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA) being formed in 1990.  It was also the start of discord among mini breeders that still remains to this day.

These smaller Australian Shepherds could be shown in ASCA so long as they were called 'Australian Shepherds' and not 'Miniature Australian Shepherds'.  To add 'Miniature' to the name meant that ASCA was dealing with a different breed, and they were therefore ineligible.  Minis were limited to showing within the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA).  Then in 1993 the AKC officially recognized the Australian Shepherd.  This threw a wrench into the world of minis because the ARBA would not permit any dog to compete in conformation shows if it shared a name with a recognized breed of the AKC.  The MASCUSA needed to change its name.

MASCUSA decided to rename its breed from the 'Miniature Australian Shepherd' to the 'North American Shepherd'.  This also meant a name change for the organizing club.  MASCUSA was thus renamed to the North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA (NAMASCUSA).  But the renaming of the club didn't end there.  Again in 1998 due to a policy change at ARBA, the club revised its name to North American Miniature Australian Shepherd.  Then again in 2011 the biggest change came courtesy of the AKC which created a permanent divide in the mini community.

In 2011 the AKC accepted a new breed known as the 'Miniature American Shepherd' into its Foundation Stock Services (FSS) program as the AKC no longer accepts any breed varieties (i.e. a smaller Aussie).  They designated NAMASCUSA as the parent club for the Miniature American Shepherd.  But due to the difference in the accepted breed name and the club name, the club was renamed back to MASCUSA but substituting 'American' for 'Australian' in the name.  However, not all mini enthusiasts were happy with this latest development.

Some mini breeders and owners were upset to see the name changed to 'Miniature American Shepherd' and they remained a separate group pursuing the preservation of the Miniature Australian Shepherd.  Because they have retained a name associated with another breed in ASCA and AKC, any dog which is registered as a Miniature Australian Shepherd is ineligible to show under ASCA, AKC or the CKC.  This breed can still be registered under the National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR).  

As for the Miniature American Shepherd enthusiasts, they had been placed into the AKC FSS program in 2011 with the hope to one day be granted full AKC registration - and this came to fruition when the AKC made the Miniature American Shepherd a part of the herding group as of July 1, 2015.  However, the breed remains ineligible to be shown in ASCA or CKC.

So, where did this smaller version of the Australian Shepherd come from?  That is also the subject of much controversial debate. Depending on whom you ask, answers range from "purely Australian Shepherds" to "Sheltie crosses" to "dwarfism promotion".  It's an ugly topic.  Add to that mix the emergence of toy and teacup varieties and you'll get an even more heated debate.  Needless to say, it's not an area that I even want to venture in as an Australian Shepherd breeder.  

So, do I breed minis or North American Shepherds?  Not a chance.  As a future or present dog-owner you must ask yourself - Why do I love this breed?  Is it because of the loyalty, intelligence and companionship of the Australian Shepherd?  Or, are you after a dog that is 'cute'?  After reading this article I hope you've made the realization that the Australian Shepherd in its full size is perfect, and there is absolutely no reason to mess with perfection.  At least, that's my opinion.

~Karen Cunningham