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. If you like the Minia­ture Amer­i­can Shep­herd, you might also give some con­sid­er­a­tion to the:

Shet­land Sheep­dog Aus­tralian Shep­herd Bor­der Col­lie

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