Mini Australian Shepherd Guide: Puppies, Popularity, Size & More

Mini Australian Shepherd puppy lying in the grass

The Mini Australian Shepherd is a ‘fun sized’ version of the Australian Shepherd. He offers the same exuberant personality, but in a small, convenient size. He fits into smaller homes much more easily than a full sized herder.

This pint sized farm dog comes with the hardworking herding instinct of a full sized Aussie.

Mini Australian Shepherds work as well in the home as they do on the farm. If fun and fitness is your style, this furry athlete certainly has you covered in that department!

Farm work and exercise are not the only things that this adaptable dog is capable of. This eager pooch is fantastic at befriending children and makes a great watchman for your home. Your children will love a dog that is just as playful as they are. Plenty of days of fun are ahead when you adopt a Mini Aussie.

However, do not let this dog’s small size fool you; he is a lot of work. Caring for him is similar to caring for a full-sized version of the breed. If you think you want a Mini Shepherd of your own, then read on for a complete guide to this fun little farmhand…

Mini Australian Shepherd Overview

A Mini Australian Shepherd plays with a toy

The Mini Australian Shepherd is an Australian Shepherd but smaller in size.

He is registered as a Miniature American Shepherd under the American Kennel Club. The mini part of his name is much more accurate than the Australian Shepherd part. Surprisingly his history began in the United States and Europe and not Australia.

This breed descended from Pyrenean Shepherds and two different kinds of Collies (the Border and Rough).

Rodeo lovers in the 60s wanted a travel sized version of the Aussie Shepherd to take with them. His small size results from generations of selectively pairing off and breeding the smallest Aussie Shepherds. This is common in most mini breeds, popular examples include the Mini Poodle and Miniature Husky.

In modern times, this breed can serve as both a family companion and a low intensity working dog. If you have younger children, a Mini Aussie is a better option than a full sized. However, your kids must be old enough to handle its energy and exuberance.

This dog is better built for a life indoors than its full sized siblings, but, this does not mean that it is an indoor dog. Never underestimate this breed for its size. His limitless energy and high intelligence make him quite a handful for inexperienced and first time owners.

Mini Australian Shepherds need a wide outdoor space to run with reckless abandon. If you live in the city, you and your pooch will spend a lot of time at the park.

Popularity

As of 2015, the American Kennel Club recognizes Mini Aussies and full sized Australian Shepherds as two different breeds. He is the 34th most popular breed in the United States.

Just like his full sized counterparts, he is classified under the herding breed group. In spite of his small size, he is perfectly capable of keeping livestock in line. In fact, the best herding dogs are often smaller, a good example is the Corgi.

He is better than full sized Aussies at herding smaller livestock such as goats and younger sheep.

Mini Australian Shepherds may look very cute and endearing, but they are not the most affectionate pooch around. Do not confuse this breed with a lapdog. This eager little farm dog would rather show its love through hard work than cuddling. In the home, he will do very well as an alert watchdog.

He has much more energy than other small dog breeds. He can be quite overbearing if he is not given enough stimulation and exercise throughout the day.

History

Mini Aussies are truly outdoor dogs

The history of the Mini Australian Shepherd begins with the history of the standard Australian Shepherd. The Australian Shepherd was first bred from Pyrenean Shepherds.

Pyrenean Shepherds were bred by the Basque people of France and Spain. The Basque people brought their Pyrenean Shepherd hybrids over to Australia, where they were crossed with Rough Collies and Border Collies. These puppies were then imported into the United States and called Australian Shepherds.

Herders and ranchers in the American south soon fell in love with this dog. They admired him for his ability to effortlessly herd sheep, goats and even cattle.

When the breed became popular in the state of California, it was mistakenly believed to have come from Australia.

By the 1960s, this herding breed had become a rodeo star.

This is where the Mini Aussie got his start. Rodeo fans wanted an Australian Shepherd that they could easily travel with. By selectively breeding the smallest Aussies this miniature version was created.

These smaller sized dogs were known by breeders as Mini Australian Shepherds until the 2010s. In 2011, the breed was renamed to ‘Miniature American Shepherd’ and accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Stock Foundation Service.

Four years later, it gained recognition under the herding group.

Mini Australian Shepherd vs Miniature American Shepherd

Two Mini Australian Shepherds standing side by side

When researching the Mini Australian Shepherd, you have probably come across a lot of search results that include the ‘Mini American Shepherd’ breed. What is the difference between the two dogs? Actually, they are the same dog!

American Shepherd is just another name for the Australian Shepherd.

Miniature American Shepherd is the registered breed name for the Miniature Australian Shepherd. By fans and breeders this dog is known as a Mini Australian Shepherd.

Though it has been bred since the 1960s, the miniature size was not acknowledged by the breed standard or recognized by major kennel clubs until 2011. Prior to 2011, the breed was simply called Mini Australian Shepherd.

Mini Australian Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd

The only difference between the two dogs is their size. Both breeds have the same fur colors, temperament and care needs.

Mini adult males stand between 14 and 18 inches tall, and this is six inches smaller than the standard size. Females stand between 13 and 17 inches which is five inches smaller than standard sized females.

Australian Shepherds are slightly more popular than Minis as the 17th most popular dog breed in the US. The Mini American Shepherd is the 34th.

Prior to 2011, kennel clubs recognized both dogs as the same breed. Minis were simply the smallest possible size for a standard sized Australian Shepherd.

Now, they are recognized as two separate breeds with their own individual breed clubs. The Mini American Shepherd Club of North America was founded in 2011.

Appearance

Miniature Australian Shepherd Portrait

The breed standard for the Mini Australian Shepherd describes him as a little dog with a strong build. He has been selectively bred over generations for hard labor on the farm. Underneath his long and fluffy coat he has the muscle definition to prove it!

Mini Australian Shepherd’s eyes can be brown, blue, or amber. Dogs with heterochromia will have two different eye colors.

Aussies always have a very expressive face and sometimes appear to smile. His muzzle is medium sized, slightly rounded and ends in a black or brown nose. His rounded and floppy ears are known as ‘rose ears’. They hang down to just above his muzzle.

Mini Aussies are very elegant in both appearance and movement. They walk with a refined and graceful gait.

Coat Colors

You will never see just one color on this dog! Its beautiful fur can have anywhere from two to four colors at a time.

Black, tan, brown and white are all of the most common colors. However, the most sought after colors for this breed are red and blue merle. Merle appears in patches of blue or red mixed with a dusting of white. Merle colored dogs look as though someone has sprinkled white powder all over them.

Merle fur patterning is the result of specific genes. A double merle coat can be beautiful to look at, but unfortunately the gene is associated with deafness and blindness. It is not advisable to breed two merle dogs together.

Since this breed is born for farm and outdoor work, its protective double coat is resistant to water and harsh weather. This allows him to work well in different and cold climates.

Their top coat is long and fluffy, and the underlayer is very dense and wooly. His coat is managed through seasonal shedding known as blowouts. It will never need cutting.

Miniature Australian Shepherd Face

Breed Size

As his name suggests, the Mini Australian Shepherd is adorably small. It is one of the few herding breeds that is classified as a small dog. Breeding the runts of standard sized Australian Shepherds’ litters for several generations has ensured that this dog will stay adorably ‘puppy sized’ for its entire life.

Adult males stand between 14 and 18 inches tall, while females stand between 13 and 17 inches. Males can reach a maximum weight of 25 to 30 pounds and females remain between 15 and 20 pounds.

Many different factors influence your dog’s final adult weight:

  • Parents’ size.
  • Puppy’s nutrition.
  • The size of their litter.
  • Puppy’s environment.

The Mini Aussie reaches its adult size between one and two years of age. Most of your puppy’s growth and development will occur in its first six months of life. You can expect to see the largest amount of weight gain during this period.

This puppy grows a bit slower than a standard Shepherd. It will grow at four to six ounces per week until it reaches nine months of age. After nine months, your dog’s weight gain will slow down as it is about to reach its full adult size.

Mini Australian Shepherd Personality

A Mini Aussie standing on its hind legs

A Mini Aussie is both a worker and a good friend. He is friendlier than most other working breeds, as they all tend to be a bit more aloof. However, he will never be a particularly cuddly or affectionate pooch.

Do not expect a Labrador. He shows his love through hard work rather than kisses, cuddles and hugs. Still, this breed will always find a way to make you proud, he absolutely thrives off his owner’s approval.

Any owner who values their time on the couch should not consider this dog. He expects his owner to be just as active as he is. You will need to spend up to 90 minutes a day to exercise and play with this breed.

Mini Aussies bark whenever they are excited, confused, alarmed or feeling playful. They may also howl at other dogs. He tends to see neighbors and other dogs as ‘livestock’ to be herded. This means that he will bark at anyone and anything he sees.

He is very cautious of strangers and will typically avoid approaching them. He is not sociable by nature, so you will need to train your dog to get along with other people and dogs.

Even a well socialized Mini Australian Shepherd will be quite distant and aloof to those outside of the family.

Are Mini Australian Shepherds Good Family Dogs?

This dog reserves all of his love for his family and close friends.

He can fit into smaller family homes that his full sized sibling may not be able to. His small size also means that he is much safer for homes with younger children. Still, his instincts mean that he can be quite a handful. Kids should be over the age of six and able to handle a dog safely.

Herding behavior may show as pushiness or bullying and he may try to ‘herd’ small children.

Overall, he is best suited to active families with children who are old enough to keep up with his energy. He should also be the only dog in the house. It is one of the few small dogs that can play safely with larger breeds, but does not play very well with smaller dogs.

Boredom Behavior

Destructive behavior is inevitable if your dog is under stimulated. Your puppy will let you know if he is feeling ignored by jumping and barking at you for attention.

Nothing satisfies a Mini Aussie better than a job well done. Even small tasks, like carrying sticks or toys, will cater to your dog’s workaholic nature enough to keep him happy.

The dog’s most lovable quality is his irrepressible and exuberant attitude. It is impossible to have a bad day when you watch this hyperactive puppy run circles around the yard!

Exercise and Training

Close up of a Mini Aussie puppy with heterochromia

Working and herding dogs are normally very smart and therefore are very easy to train. But this puppy’s big energy can make things difficult. You will need a bit of patience and a positive attitude.

Reign in an easily distracted dog by making sure that training takes place in a quiet and secure area. Keep children and other family members away until training is finished.

Fortunately Mini Australian Shepherds learn very quickly.

Your puppy will learn fast, but only if you are willing to teach and show him until he gets it right. Do not let repetition turn into nagging, or your dog will become bored. This is especially true for dogs as smart as Mini Aussies.

Mental stimulation is absolutely vital for any working breed. After all, its mind is already primed to accept new tasks. Not everybody has livestock available for tending, but your dog can help you with small tasks around the house:

  • Carring sticks and other small objects.
  • Helping keep watch over the house and the yard.
  • Competing in doggie sports and feats of agility.

You will need to dedicate up to 90 minutes a day to exercise your dog. Set aside 45 minutes for walking and spend the rest of the time for training and play. He will also need a secure, fenced in area to run around and play during the day.

Always keep your Aussie on his leash when you walk. Otherwise, he will attempt to ‘herd’ everything he sees.

For a fun way to train your puppy, and keep his body and mind in great shape, try setting up a backyard obstacle course. This master of agility just loves to show off. He excels especially at games of tag and fetch. He especially excels at games of tag and fetch.

Mini Australian Shepherds excel in the agility circuit

Health Concerns

Most small dogs have longer lifespans than larger breeds. However, both the Mini Aussie and larger Australian Shepherd live from 10 to 12 years.

Mini Australian Shepherds are susceptible to many of the health problems that a full size Shepherd can inherit. Epilepsy, or seizure disorder, is one of these conditions. Epilepsy is diagnosed if the dog suffers two or more seizures within a 24 hour period. When a seizure occurs, the joints will lock or stiffen and the dog can collapse or faint.

If your Mini Shepherd carries a homozygous merle gene, there is a 25% chance that he will be deaf from birth. If your puppy does not respond to loud noises and has difficulty perceiving commands, he may be deaf in one or both ears. Once deafness is diagnosed via a hearing exam, your vet can help you and your dog to manage the condition.

Other health problems that occur in this breed include:

  • Patellar luxation
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy

You should feed this dog the same type of food that you would give to a standard sized working breed, but in smaller amounts. Split his daily kibble into three meals, totaling up to 1 and a half cups a day. The largest meal should be given in the morning.

Pros and Cons of Miniaturization

Many owners wish that their dog could stay a cute puppy forever. This is why miniaturization has become such a popular trend with dog breeders. Miniaturization became a big trend in the 1990s thanks to adorable ‘teacup dogs’ that are small enough to fit in your palm or purse.

However, this particular miniature dog was not a product of the teacup trend. Mini Australian Shepherds were bred over 30 years prior, with the purpose of being small enough to travel easily with rodeo cowboys.

There are two different ways to create a miniature version of a larger breed:

  1. Selectively breed the smallest sized puppies from each litter for many generations. This results in smaller and smaller dogs over each generation.
  2. In some cases, a mini dog is produced by pairing a large and a small breed together. For example, a Golden Retriever and Miniature Poodle create a mini Golden Retriever mix.

Pros

There are some benefits to miniaturization besides from just looking cute!

A smaller sized version of a large or medium sized breed is often safer for families with young children and babies. Owners who may find caring for a larger dog to be too much to handle will be delighted to find a slightly lower maintenance version of the same breed.

Miniature versions of large working breeds are also a better fit for apartments and urban homes than their full sized siblings. It is unfair to keep large active breeds in small apartments.

Cons

Unfortunately, miniaturization can be hard on a dog’s body. Many miniature and teacup breeds suffer from health problems that are otherwise uncommon in the breed.

Heart, bone, and joint problems are all particularly common in miniature and teacup dogs. Patellar luxation is one of the most common joint disorders for many small and teacup-sized dogs.

A smaller than average body also makes the dog susceptible to metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism.

It is important to do your research when adopting a miniature dog; getting to know your breeder and puppy before adoption is important. Requesting the parents’ paperwork and health records is also a good idea.

Summary

If a full sized Aussie is a little bit too much for you, the Miniature Australian Shepherd may be your best bet.

A Mini Aussie can keep an active family entertained for hours on end. The little dog needs as much activity as a fully grown human being!

Mini Australian Shepherds may not be the most affectionate breed, but he is always eager to make you proud. A hard day’s work is how this little farmhand shows its love.

He may look cute and cuddly, but he was born for hard work. Regardless of his size, he must be respected as a working dog. A Mini Aussie is a lot of work, but he is wonderful company.

If you and your family can respect this dog for the workaholic that he is, he will pay you back. Let a Mini Australian Shepherd in, and your household will never be the same again.

Comments

  1. I own a Toy Australian Shepherd. She is pure bred, 100% Aussie as per Wisdom Panel DNA. She weighs 7 lbs. and is 3 years old. She is exactly like her larger counterparts, just in a tiny body. Dolly is an Emotional Support Animal and she lives up to her work. She is also very entertaining. She can sing and dance. She plays basketball and puts her toys away by name. She can go through agility tunnels and jump through hoops.. My Dolly has the heart of a lion in the body of a mouse. She is absolutely adorable.

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