Australian Shepherds are intelligent, loyal, active dogs who are excellent companions for families as well as incredible working dogs for herding livestock.
They are also beautiful and exhibit many color variations. The mini Australian Shepherd came along as a result of deliberate breeding for smaller Aussies.
Increasingly, many people considering an Australian Shepherd pause to ask “what about the “mini” Australian Shepherd?”
Besides size, how are they different? Are they hyper or yappy? Are they ok with kids?
This post is going to look at these questions as well as the history of each. The standard Australian Shepherd and the mini Australian Shepherd are both great dogs, let’s look at how to decide which one is right for you.
Brief Histories of Mini and Standard Australian Shepherds
Standard Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds did not originate from Australia. They were bred as herders by the Basque people in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.
In the 1800s, many of the Basque shepherds moved to Australia and continued to change and develop the breed.
When some of these Basques then moved from Australia to California with their dogs, the Californian ranchers were very impressed with the herding capabilities and temperament and named them “Australian Shepherds”.
Mini Australian Shepherds
In the late 1960s, some people in California started breeding unregistered Australian Shepherds to diminish their size but retain the intelligence and temperament of the standard size.
The name for the mini Aussie certified with the American Kennel Club is the “Miniature American Shepherd.” The AKC fully accredited the miniature American Shepherd in 2015. The same dog is listed as the “Miniature Australian Shepherd” in the American Stock Dog Registry.
Despite the decision of the AKC to call the breed “Miniature American Shepherd”, they are the same dog as the “Miniature Australian Shepherd”, and most people use the names interchangeably.
General Physical Comparisons
Standard Australian Shepherds
Height: 20-23 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female)
Weight: 50-65 pounds (male), 40-55 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Miniature Australian Shepherds
Height: 14-18” (male and female)
They should not be less than 12” and
not be able to be mistaken for a toy breed.
Weight: 20-40 pounds
Life expectancy: 13 years
Characteristics and Needs of Mini and Standard Aussies
Coat and Care
Both mini and standard Australian Shepherds have a double coat. There is a smooth fur on top (the “guard hairs”), and a fluffy white down-like fur underneath that separates from the skin to make an air pocket for warmth.
Brushing once a week to avoid matting of the undercoat is necessary for both standards and minis. When they are shedding, they need brushing every day to prevent matting and allow for the new growth to come in.
While their coat is the same, and there is no difference in frequency needed for grooming, the mini Aussie is less volume when you brush because there is just less dog to groom!
Both minis and standards need the same amount of exercise. Remember, they were bred to be working dogs who could herd sheep at high elevations all day. They need more than an hour daily and may become destructive if they do not get at least 30-60 minutes a day.
Unlike other mini breeds, the mini Aussies are not hyperactive compared to their standard size cousins. They need a lot of exercise, but not more or less.
While they need the same amount of exercise, the Miniature Australian Shepherds require less space.
This is a plus if you have a smaller back yard.
Check out these related articles:
- 20 Stimulating Jobs for Your Australian Shepherd
- How to Crate Train Your Australian Shepherd in 6 Steps
- How to Exercise an Australian Shepherd – 6 Unique Exercises to Try
Intelligence and Mental Stimulation
The mini Australian Shepherds were originally bred in California in the 1960s. These breeders were successful in producing a dog that is just as intelligent as the standard size of the same breed.
It is essential to understand that the intelligence they have comes from being working dogs.
They must be in very close contact with their handler, understand what they are being asked to do and make decisions about how to herd the animals where they are supposed to go.
As a result, they need mental stimulation. Be it mini or standard; a bored Australian Shepherd will become unhappy and possibly destructive. Challenge them and make them think with activities like:
- Challenges like treat puzzles
- Training (definitely basic, but they love more advanced training too)
You can get more detail here on training for Aussies, including fun herding games when you don’t have livestock.
Read Next: 10 Typical Australian Shepherd Habits
Any Working Dog Needs a Job
Minis are capable herders just like the standards. They are typically used for smaller livestock such as sheep but have the courage and determination to be effective herders of larger animals as well.
Both mini and standard Aussies need to feel useful to feel happy. Part of that usefulness is to have a close connection with their handler.
They love to be a team and to be doing an activity together; listening, taking commands, interpreting them and doing what they are told.
Just because you have a herding dog doesn’t mean you have to have a herd of livestock in your backyard. You can teach Aussies agility, play flyball or play herding games to keep their minds and hearts happy (and get exercise in too!).
One of the many beautiful things about both mini and standard Aussies is that even though they were bred to bond with a handler, they are great family dogs.
They are not just bonded to one person while cold and distant to others, they will love and protect children, and even learn to take commands from them. You can find out more about standard and mini Aussies as family dogs here.
Affection and Bonding
The mini australian shepherds are just as affectionate as the standards. Sometimes miniature breeds can be nervous and agitated easily, but the mini thrives on the love and attention that the standards want.
Their playful nature makes them love games with children, and they will bond with the whole family.
As noted above, they want a strong bond with you. Mini Aussies are not nervous or anxious by nature, but without this bonding, as well as training, any Australian Shepherd will feel lost, then may become anxious and destructive.
Other Behavior and Temperament Characteristics
Sometimes people wonder if the mini Aussies are good apartment dogs and whether they can be left alone all day.
- Yes, they can be a good choice as an apartment dog since they are smaller, but only if you can provide them with an hour or more exercise per day.
- No, they should not be left alone all day regularly, this will drive them to be anxious and crazy.
You will find information that suggests that mini Aussies are not recommended for households with young children because of their herding instincts.
My observation is that if you teach them to herd, you are also teaching them to stop herding. Play herding games which will serve the purposes of giving them a job, mental stimulation and training them with stop commands.
Neither mini nor standard Aussies are aggressive, but they are protective. They will bark at strangers coming to your house.
Generally, both minis and standards get on with other pets in the house, including cats and smaller pets.
Is there much difference between mini and standard Aussies besides the size?
Short Answer: Not much.
People often expect there to be a difference because many mini breeds seem to have tendencies towards anxiety, nervousness or hyperactivity. The Miniature Australian Shepherds have not exhibited this phenomenon.
Here is a summary of the differences:
Mini and standard Aussies need the same frequency of brushing, but the minis have less volume of fur.
Minis need the same amount of exercise but need less space.
Minis are physically more comfortable to have in an indoor space that is small or crowded.
Minis are just as smart as standards and can be trained to herd livestock, even large livestock. Common sense tells me though, that if you are herding massive range cattle over large distances that standard Australian Shepherds might be a more appropriate choice.
An interesting fact about minis: When they are herding, they are quiet. Other herding dogs often bark at the livestock animals (including standard Aussies), but the minis don’t. A quiet dog can be a great plus in many situations.
Some have observed that mini Aussies take longer to potty train. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily harder to train; they just need more time.
Where do I get a standard or mini Aussie?
It is always recommended to choose a reputable breeder so that you don’t get an unhealthy dog or support unethical breeding practices.
In the case of mini Aussies, it is good to be aware that breeding two mini Aussies does not guarantee mini pups. You can get standards from mini Aussies. Find a knowledgeable, experienced and ethical breeder.
Standard Australian Shepherds
This page on the American Kennel Club official site is the most trusted and authoritative source for reputable breeders. There is information on how to adopt a rescue as well.
Miniature American Shepherds
Here is the AKC puppy finder page for the minis
Miniature Australian Shepherds
Here is the American Stock Dog Breeders Page
Average standard Australian Shepherd is $650-$850 but can range from lower to $1800 depending on pedigree.
Miniature Australian Shepherds average price is $800, but for top quality, you can pay $2300-$10,000
Conclusion: Is a Mini or a Standard Australian Shepherd Right for You?
Mini Australian Shepherds have all of the qualities and also most of the needs of the standard Australian Shepherd. If you have determined that your lifestyle is supportive for an Australian Shepherd, then consider these things:
You might want a mini australian shepherd if:
You have a smaller house or backyard.
You might want a standard australian shepherd if:
You want to do activities with your dog that require very long distances.
Whatever your choice, remember that training both the dog and the humans is critical to the happiness and welfare of your dog. Your Aussie will also crave mental stimulation, affection, bonding and a lot of exercise.
If you learn about how to provide the needs of an Australian Shepherd, you will have the joy of a loyal and delightful companion in your household.
- Are Miniature Australian Shepherds Apartment Friendly?
- How to Entertain your Australian Shepherd – 11 Fun Activities for you and your Aussie
- How Long Should you Walk Your Australian Shepherd Puppy – Dog Walking Tips
- Do Miniature Australian Shepherds Shed? – Your Shedding Guide
- Best Dog Bed for Mini Australian Shepherd – Top 5 Picks