The Mini-Australian Shepherd – Working Dog or Toy?

by Jonni

I finally met my brother’s new “used” dog, a Mini-Australian Shepherd. The little guy is one year old; his previous owners didn’t have time for him – a common problem with any of the herding breeds. He now has a perfect home – three acres of farm and woodland, and a new owner who adores him.

After meeting this sweet little dog, I got to thinking – does he still belong to the herding breeds? Genetically, he certainly does, and his behavior and personality fit with the Aussie mold. But he’s so little!

When we research dog breeds, in order to find exactly the right one for our family, we don’t always use the scientific breed categories, which are based on genetics. Instead, we consider basic personality, size, and behavior. However, these two go hand-in-hand – a true companion breed will never act like a bloodhound, or a search and rescue dog. Companion breeds were selected over many years for just one job – being with, and entertaining, people.

So we have to wonder – what happens when a breed that is remarkably well-suited for active, intelligent work in the field, like the Aussie, is then modified to have a smaller body so it will fit into the standard-sized home? His genetic makeup will still give him an intense curiosity and great problem-solving skills, and an obsessive desire to work. Whether or not that personality fits into a family setting is going to depend on the family. Can you give your new dog the time and attention that his powerful brain and active body will demand? Or would a slower dog (both mentally and physically) be a better fit for your lifestyle?

As the mini and toy Aussies become more and more popular, they may find themselves keeping company with the many Border Collies at the local Humane Society – a sad result of poor planning and selection on the part of their previous owners, but a great opportunity for people like my brother, who have the time and space that’s needed to keep one of these intelligent, loyal dogs happy.