Modern Dog (Canada)
The Miniature American Shepherd
Big things come in small packages
Versatile, intelligent, and loving, this breed proves big things come in small packages.
At first glance, the Miniature American Shepherd (MAS) might look an awful lot like an Australian Shepherd. Well, as it happens, that’s no coincidence. This newly recognized breed originated in California in the 1960s, when a group of dog fanciers who shared a love of the Australian Shepherd decided to create a smaller version of the breed. They wanted a dog with a temperament and type similar to the Aussie, but in a considerably more compact form. In other words, they sought a dog that had the same herding instincts, intelligence, and good nature, but who would be a little more manageable in the home due to his smaller size.
To achieve their desired result, these fanciers bred small, sometimes-unregistered dogs that were most likely Australian Shepherds, but that were below the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s standard accepted size.
There was, needless to say, some controversy and resistance. If you love the Australian Shepherd type and temperament, just embrace it, many said. Others struggled to understand the point of creating a whole new breed simply based upon size—which is effectively what we have here. Concerns that the Australian Shepherd could be at risk of losing his own identity were also raised, though the Aussie seems to be holding his own in terms of popularity—the breed is currently ranked the 16th most popular in America.
In any case, armed with a purpose, the fanciers continued on their mission and created a breed that was originally known as the Miniature Australian Shepherd. Some rarebreed clubs allowed these dogs in their shows, and by the mid 1990s the Mini Aussies had become quite popular.
It’s worth noting that a move to create different versions of a breed strictly based upon size is not unprecedented.
The Dachshund, for example, is bred in two sizes, which are defined by the AKC according to weight. The Standard weighs between 16-32 pounds and the Miniature 11 pounds and under. Both are in the Hound group, as the breed’s purpose and temperament is not fundamentally altered by the size difference. While the Standards might hunt larger game like badgers, as they were initially bred to do, the minis would likely target rabbits or other small rodents.
On the other hand, there is the Schnauzer. In the early 1900s, the Standard Schnauzer, a mediumsized Working breed, was used to create the Giant Schnauzer. The two breeds share similar type and temperament; it’s really the size that distinguishes them. Also from the Standard came the Miniature Schnauzer, whose compact size made him naturally more suited for the AKC’s Terrier group—not suited for drafting, but rather for ratting and general-purpose work around the homestead.
But back to the Miniature American Shepherd… In
1980, the breed was registered with the National Stock Dog Registry. The Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA) was founded in 1990, and in 2011 the breed entered the AKC Foundation Stock Service. The Miniature American Shepherd was officially recognized in 2015 as part of the AKC’s Herding Group.
This attractive breed ranges from 14 to 18 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 20 and 40 pounds. Solid or merled colours, with or without white or tan markings, are accepted. By comparison, the AKC standard for the Australian Shepherd is 18 to 23 inches at the shoulder, and weighs between 35-55 pounds for females, and 55-70 pounds for males.
Much like the Australian Shepherd, the MAS is an extremely intelligent and versatile breed. Due to his small size, he’s ideal for herding smaller stock, but he’s got the gumption to take on bigger tasks!
This playful breed does require both physical and mental stimulation to thrive. Daily walks and playtime are a must, and there is little doubt that the MAS would love to get involved in some sporting activities. He’s intelligent, but he also possesses a sincere desire to please his guardians. In the world of canine sports, that’s hitting the jackpot. These little dogs are ideally suited for obedience, rally, flyball, agility, and other sports. You name it, the Miniature American Shepherd will try it and probably excel at it.
In the home, he’s alert and watchful, but he’s also a huge cuddle-bug. For those in apartments or smaller homes, his compact size comes in handy—and this breed travels well, too. He’s just a wonderfully good-natured dog, typically quite good with children and other pets.
Health-wise, as with all purebreds there are some concerns. Always work with a reputable breeder who can provide clearances for healthy eyes and hips, and who is truly dedicated to the health and good temperament of their puppies. Or check the end notes of this article for rescue contacts!
Was the creation of the Miniature American Shepherd part of a noble vision? Was it just another example of the folly of man? Who’s to say? But a new breed was created and with his charm, good looks, and heightened intelligence, it’s safe to say that the MAS is here to stay.