Illustrated Working Description

ASCA has developed a working description to describe the ideal stockdog traits of the Australian Shepherd. Thanks to Bill Dakin for the idea and to the Facebook group Form Meets Function for providing the content.

TextIllustrative PhotosCommentary
Introduction 
The Australian Shepherd was developed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a general-purpose ranch and farm dog in the American West, where a tough, enduring, versatile stockdog with an honest work ethic was required.10297662_689205317803596_7727150736356315341_nWhen dealing with lambs and a protective ewe, authority moves her out rather than force.
His usual work included moving very large herds of sheep and cattle from summer to winter grazing grounds and back, flushing range cattle out of heavy brush, and moving livestock in tight quarters such as chutes and alleys.

Credit: Kristin Tara Horowitz, HOF WTCH Misty Ridge Spur of W Lazy J RTDcs PATDcs DNA-VP, owned by Betty and John Williams, and WTCH Starstuff's Kalahari Quail DNA-VP owned by Terri Jones and Elizabeth Leonard.

Credit: Kristin Tara Horowitz, HOF WTCH Misty Ridge Spur of W Lazy J RTDcs PATDcs DNA-VP, owned by Betty and John Williams, and WTCH Starstuff’s Kalahari Quail DNA-VP owned by Terri Jones and Elizabeth Leonard.

These kinds of jobs are still where Australian Shepherds excel and are most valued.

Bucky, photo care of Kristin Tara Horowitz

Bucky, photo care of Kristin Tara Horowitz

The Australian Shepherd is categorized as one of the Loose-Eyed breeds of stockdogs. He is a confident, authoritative worker with a unique style that differs from Strong-Eyed breeds.

Photo Credit: Bill Dakin

Photo Credit: Bill Dakin

 This dog goes in, puts pressure on this group of cow-calf pairs, gets them to move, and shows restraint while they do.
He is agile, upright and close-working, and exhibits these distinctive traits while maintaining the ability and versatility to control all types of livestock in an efficient and deliberate manner.

Photo credit: Yishai Horowitz. Tara’s Lil Rippa, owned by Kristin Tara Horowitz

Photo credit: Yishai Horowitz. Tara’s Lil Rippa, owned by Kristin Tara Horowitz

Here, a dog calmly assesses her next move, taking slow steps to turn the cattle away from her without excessive force.
The Australian Shepherd excels at controlling large and/or slow-moving flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and is highly regarded for his superior ability to effectively manage livestock in tightly confined spaces.
Molly, owned by Amy Bradley, photo by Elsie Rhodes

Molly, owned by Amy Bradley, photo by Elsie Rhodes

HTCH WTCH C-Me Ebony Not Ivory RTDs, owned by Tracey McPherson

HTCH WTCH C-Me Ebony Not Ivory RTDs, owned by Tracey McPherson

 

It takes a lot of control to reign in the same kind of presence that it takes to move sour cattle and work in tight spaces with scared livestock.
The Australian Shepherd is powerful and intense by nature easily learning the appropriate force and distance needed for the type of livestock being worked.
Holding a group. WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ "Raven" Photo by Selena Hyon

Holding a group. WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ “Raven” Photo by Selena Hyon

WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp "Diva" Photo credit: Selena Hyon

WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp “Diva”
Photo credit: Selena Hyon
Each kind of livestock has different needs for power and distance.
Utilizing a loose-eyed approach to stock, a working Australian Shepherd will often display wear, grip, and/or an authoritative bark, as well as eye when necessary, to handle their stock.

Uproar's I'll Have Another. Photo credit: Great Dane Photos. Owner: Jodi Ebert

Uproar’s I’ll Have Another. Photo credit: Great Dane Photos. Owner: Jodi Ebert

Dog’s upright posture allows her to react quickly and fluidly and employ her bag of tricks when needed.
Wear
The Australian Shepherds wear is smooth, balanced, and ground covering as the dog moves easily from side to side at the back of the stock, keeping his herd or flock together and moving forward. This is a very natural movement for an Australian Shepherd, and one that he can continue doing for hours at a time.
C-Me Fury and the Mire of Tara STDc, RS-E, GS-O, JS-E, DNA-VP, owned by Kristin Tara Horowitz

C-Me Fury and the Mire of Tara STDc, RS-E, GS-O, JS-E, DNA-VP, owned by Kristin Tara Horowitz

 

Wearing nice and square. WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp "Diva" Photo by Selena Hyon

Wearing nice and square. WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp “Diva”
Photo by Selena Hyon

 You can see the dog turning her shoulder to check on the stock’s direction that way.
Grip
The Australian Shepherd will only use grip to move reluctant or challenging stock.

WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ Photo by Selena Hyon

WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ Photo by Selena Hyon

Dog goes for the weight bearing heel, as low as possible to avoid kicks in response, and hopping quickly out of the way.
The ideal Australian Shepherd naturally grips at both the head and heel, coming in low and hard on the heels to move cattle, or going to the head and gripping the nose or poll to turn an animal back to the herd.

WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ Photo by Selena Hyon

WTCH HC HTCH 4 Mile Punchline Rantin N Raven RTDcs, AFTDm, JS-E, GS-E, RS-E, HTADIIIcds, RTDIIIs, HTDIIId, HTDIs, HXAcd, HIAs, NAJ Photo by Selena Hyon

Dog goes for the nose or poll (between the horns) to show authority to the head of the cow.
Bark
The Australian Shepherd may bark to move stock or to face a challenge. His bark is conservative and should be authoritative when used.

Robyn Johnson-Garrett’s Char, photo by Kristin Tara Horowitz

Robyn Johnson-Garrett’s Char, photo by Kristin Tara Horowitz

The bark just adds an extra “oomph” to the dog’s presence, and you can clearly see them leaning away from her as they move, while she holds her ground.
While the Australian Shepherds grip typically affects a single animal, his bark can influence a whole herd, and is most effective when stock has come to a standstill such as in crowded alleyways.Holding sheep in a chute and then pushing them through. Sunfire Punchline Cowgirl Magic STDcds, HRDI, HTDI, HTADIs, RS-E, GS-E, JS-E "Singe" Photo by Selena Hyon

Sunfire Punchline Cowgirl Magic STDcds, HRDI, HTDI, HTADIs, RS-E, GS-E, JS-E “Singe” Photo by Selena Hyon

 Holding sheep in a chute and then pushing them through.
The Australian Shepherds bark is particularly useful when gathering cattle from thick brush.  Credit: Bill Dakin, WTCH Justus Slim Pickens, DNA-VP, OFTDs, HRDIII, RLFIII. Eastland County, Texas.
Credit: Bill Dakin, WTCH Justus Slim Pickens, DNA-VP, OFTDs, HRDIII, RLFIII. Eastland County, Texas.
Credit: Bill Dakin, WTCH Justus Slim Pickens, DNA-VP, OFTDs, HRDIII, RLFIII. Eastland County, Texas.
Eye
Since the Australian Shepherd is a loose-eyed working dog, he prefers to use his authority and presence to move livestock.

WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp, owned by Selena Hyon

WTCH Rocking M Oney For Show OFTm CD JS-E GS-O RS-N RN DNAcp, owned by Selena Hyon

However, if challenged, he may use eye in a direct and deliberate way until the challenge is over.

This is Robbi (SRN) owned and handled by Janna Cowen. Robbi had been challenged moments before and now using a lot of eye and presence to move the cattle. (photo by Bill Dakin)

This is Robbi (SRN) owned and handled by Janna Cowen. Robbi had been challenged moments before and now using a lot of eye and presence to move the cattle. (photo by Bill Dakin)

 

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