The Miniature American Shepherd is a small and compact version of the Australian Shepherd. They are intelligent and learn quickly, so are very good at herding and taking part in competitions. Affectionate and loyal, they also make good companions.
Male adults reach a height of 14 to 18 inches, and females a height of 13 to 17 inches. They weigh 15 to 35 pounds at maturity.
Back in the 1800s, sheep were imported from Spain to Australia, along with their shepherds and sheepdogs. Ranchers in America started importing them from Australia as their reputation grew. Again they came with their shepherds and herding dogs to look after them on the journey. In the West of America, these herding dogs were crossed with their own sheepdogs to make the Australian Shepherd. It became an official breed in 1976.
There have always been smaller versions around, and in the 1960s, shepherd dogs in California were bred down to a smaller size, using what is thought were small Australian Shepherds. This was done by a woman called Doris Cordova from Norco. The goal was to produce smaller dogs that had the same intelligence, energy and temperament that the larger ones did. They could then be used as working dogs, but also travel with them to shows easily because of their smaller size.
They became known as Miniature Australian Shepherds, and the name later changed to Miniature American Shepherds. It was thought that they were too similar to Australian Shepherds to be a separate breed unless they were given a unique name. The American Kennel Club recognized them as a breed in 2015. However there has been some disagreement over whether they are their own breed, or a miniature size of Australian Shepherds. So there is also another school of thought that still calls them Miniature Australian Shepherds.
Because of their portable size they quickly became popular for both herding small stock such as sheep and as a travelling companion for horse riders who go to shows.
The Miniature American Shepherd has a strong protective and herding instinct, and is intelligent and alert. He is not aggressive or shy, and he is friendly and affectionate. They are loyal and enthusiastic workers.
Their coats are medium length, and either straight or wavy. Coat colors include black, blue merle, red merle and red, often with white markings. They are small herding dogs that look like Australian Shepherds, but with a more compact size. They have triangular ears that hang down, and their tails are usually either naturally short or docked.
This breed is energetic and lively, but they can manage in an apartment if they get enough exercise. However they are intelligent and like to have mental stimulation and a job to do. If they get bored they might create their own job, which might not be to your liking! They have a weather resistant coat so can tolerate cold weather. They are also a good first dog for novice owners as they are eager to please and train easily.
Miniature American Shepherds are friendly and affectionate, although they will be wary with strangers. They are loyal, protective and devoted to their family. They are good with children, and playful and good-natured with them. However they should be socialized from a young age to make sure they become well rounded. They do have a strong herding instinct, so if they are not socialized and trained well they may try to herd small animals and children.
Because of their double coat, they do shed quite heavily, and especially at shedding season which is once or twice a year. To help keep down the amount of hair around the house, a weekly brushing is recommended. When they shed, their coat can become very matted as it comes out in clumps, so at this time they should be brushed daily to keep down the matting and speed up the shedding. Brush the outer coat back and down, in the direction of growth. Then to brush the undercoat, start at the shoulder and push the long hair forwards to expose the coat underneath and brush this in the same way. Their hair doesn’t need much trimming.
Nails should be trimmed regularly and they can be bathed as needed. Bathing should only be given when necessary because there are natural oils in their hair which help to keep them warm and dry. Their teeth should be brushed regularly to keep them healthy, using dog toothpaste or a paste made from baking soda and water.
The Miniature American Shepherd is easy to train and eager to please. You should use positive methods, with rewards and treats, and be firm and consistent. Because of its natural instinct to herd, it would be a good idea to train your dog not to nip at people’s and animal’s heels. Socialization should start early. Housebreaking can be a challenge though, as this is a smaller breed. With their intelligence and trainability, they have the potential to learn many things, such as Flyball, Agility competitions, herding, and other sports. According to one trainer, they can even be taught to read!
Although they are very adaptable, Miniature American Shepherds are energetic and do still need a good amount of exercise. They can do well as city dogs, but like to have some mental stimulation, and they do well in dog competitions. Long daily walks on a leash are ideal for them, especially with a bit of interesting play mixed in. The leash is important so they don’t run off chasing small animals. Some outdoor play time will help keep at bay their natural urges to dig and chase.
High quality dry food should be given, along with plenty of fresh water available at all times. A small breed dog food will not generally give them the nutrition they need, so it’s best to look for an active dog food since they have a lot of energy.
Miniature American Shepherd puppies should be fed four meals a day till they are twelve weeks old. They then need three meals a day till they are 6 months old. Once they are 6 months old, they can be given 1 or 2 meals a day, and once they get to a year old, one meal a day is enough – but they may prefer two smaller meals.
Like other breeds, these dogs may develop food allergies. Watch out for corn and soy ingredients, and also additives and preservatives. If you suspect an allergy because of itching or an upset stomach, then you may want to try switching to their diet to very plain and bland ingredients such as chicken breast and rice for a couple of weeks and then gradually reintroduce other food.
Recommended daily feeding amount: ½ to 1 ½ cups of high quality dry food every day, divided into one or two meals.
How much your dog eats will depend on how active he is, and also how old he is, and his metabolism. Some puppies are very hungry and may do better with free feeding for a while.
Common Health Concerns
Miniature American Shepherds are generally healthy and have a long lifespan. However as with many other breeds they are vulnerable to Hip Dysplasia, where the hip joint is not as snug as it should be. This can result in lameness. Patellar Luxation is another concern, where the dog’s kneecap is dislocated from where it usually sits. This can be corrected through surgery.
They are also prone to cataracts and Collie Eye Anomaly, which is genetic and can cause mild vision issues or blindness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy can also affect this breed, and initially makes them unable to see at night. Eventually it progresses to complete blindness.
Also be aware that many Miniature American Shepherds have MDR1 sensitivity – where they have dangerous reactions to some drugs, such as anti-parasitic, anti-cancer and pain control drugs. It’s best to talk to your vet about this before getting medication prescribed, as dogs have died or had to be euthanized because of their reactions to some of these drugs. Ivermectin is one that is especially known to be dangerous.
Miniature American Shepherds are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Miniature American Shepherds in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Miniature American Shepherd rescue.