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Aussie Style

by Mari Taggart (Editor of the American Sheepdog Journal) from the Spring 1976 Aussie Times page 25 Copyright 2001 Australian Shepherd Club of America, Inc.

One of the subjects that should deserve more attention in the working breeder's consideration is that of good style in a working Aussie. Few breeders breed for specifics in style in their dogs, and thereby miss the boat in producing the "super dog" that we are all after.

What is "style" in an Aussie? Many folks think that "style" is like a Border Collie, crouching and creeping as they work. But style is far more than this, and has many facets in the working Aussie. Style is the way in which a dog works, the method by which he moves livestock, his working attitude, and more detailed particulars in the way he deals with stock.

The Aussie generally works well up on his feet, with head up (except in the case of heelers, who work with head lowered when heeling.) There are two basic styles in the way a dog moves stock--the "header" and the "heeler." Some folks believe a header is a dog that grips the nose, but heading is much more than this. A header tried to turn back stock to you, and, in doing so, does a natural fetch. There are a great many dogs that naturally fetch stock, and will take hold of the nose or the hock in order to do so. No definition is absolute, and most really good dogs will head, heel, fetch or drive as needed.

The heeler heels low on the hock of livestock and this is consistent with a driving style--driving away from the owner. But a heeler who does nothing but chase away is of no use as a working dog.

This is as far as most definitions go--heads and heels, fetch and drive. But, let's get more specific. HOW do we want these things done, and what IS good style within this framework? How does style best suit our needs?

All Aussies should have some eye--strong attention on the stock. A strong eyed dog (and there are some in Aussies) never loses eye contact with his herd.

Unfortunately, strong-eyed Aussies (and Border Collies) tend to come on slow to the stock and must be encouraged to take every step, but when they get in fairly close, they will drive in and take hold when it's not needed. A medium eyed dog doesn't have this problem. Loose eyed dogs turn and look around at their owners and quite often let the stock break and run while they turn around and wait for a command. [more eye stuff...same idea]

All Aussies should wear stock--move back and forth behind the herd to keep them moving. Far too many Aussies don't, and will push instead from dead center. This allows stray to escape. Of the Aussies that do wear, two types emerge--those with "long balance" and those with "short balance." Long balance means that the dog will wear from one end of the herd's flank to the other. Such a dog can work any size flock or herd, and strays never get the chance to leave since the dog moves one wing to the other in a smooth ripple. The only disadvantage with this is that the dog works darn hard and will tire faster. But the advantage is that you can have one dog working three to three thousand head. Short balanced dogs will wear, but not go very far--not to the flank of the herd. This doesn't tire them out as fast, but if you can get such a dog that is very close working you often have the problem of the dog coming right into the herd as he wears and this, of course, will split them.
[Please see the entire article in AT, from the Spring 1976 Aussie Times page 25]


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