I have had “miniature” Australian Shepherds as pets, travel companions and training partners since the mid 1980’s. At the time my first Aussie came to live with me, the term “miniature” was not prevalent in the vocabulary of the Aussie world, at least not in this part of the country. An Aussie was an Aussie was an Aussie and some were bigger than others.
My first Australian Shepherd was a red merle female registered with National Stock Dog Registry. She stood 17 inches at the shoulder and weighed about 28 pounds. Patch was a beautiful girl with bright colors and excellent bone structure, but I had no idea how nice she was at the time because the breed was new to me and we just loved her for who she was. I also had no idea that because of her height of less than 18″ that she fit into the size specifications of a Mini Aussie.
Up until the time Patch came to live with us, we had larger working Border Collies on our farm out of the dogs produced by Harold Miller here in Kentucky. Mr. Miller, along with his son, are well known for their herding demonstrations at the Kentucky State Fair each year. My dad and my young son went to visit a local farmer to pick out a little Aussie puppy and came home with Patch, a bundle of red mottled fur. My dad brought her to my house for me to do some obedience work with her and to keep her until she was old enough to work the cattle as he had done with his other BC pups. Well, Patch lived with us for over 16 years…in the house, in our bed, in the motorhome…coddled. She definitely had the instinct to herd and would have been voracious enough to move those big Angus bulls, but she never had to work that hard nor risk her teeth or life in the barn lot.
Patch’s sire and dam were from an Indiana breeder and I have searched to determine her pedigree. Her breeder no longer have papers on the parents so I have not been able to trace her lineage although I have tried through the registry service.
It is dogs of Patch’s size that have been selectively line bred by a few breeders, primarily in the Northwest over the course of several generations, to reduce the size of the Australian Shepherd creating the height categories that are recognized today.
This pattern of breeding small to small does create a bit of a problem when breeders are asked to guarantee the adult size of the Miniature Aussie puppy they are about to purchase. We use the term “throw back” when referring to the Aussie heritage of having larger dogs in the bloodlines in earlier generations. That occasional size discrepancy in an otherwise standardized litter is reminiscent of great great grandpa or grandma contributing their genetic imprint to the current generation much as one of our children can carry forward a characteristic of one of their ancestors.
The size is basically unimportant other than convenience because the personality and intelligence of an Aussie, Standard, Miniature or Toy are top notch. They are excellent house pets, wonderful hiking companions, and they love to work when it is time to train obedience, agility, flyball or the activity of your choice. Aussies, regardless the size, live to please!