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This guide serves as an educational resource for breeders and upcoming breeders, offering expert tips, best practices, and essential knowledge to enhance our collective effort and breeding programs.

Acting in the best interest of the breed is crucial. Sharing knowledge and expertise is essential for the overall health of our breed, which is why we have created this guide.

-To encourage and support the collective effort of all breeders in ensuring the well-being and advancement of our unique breed.


Throughout this guide, we encourage you to study and analyze different topics while providing the tools to do so.



"A document, born from a combination of historical context, practicality,
and breed type"



"Quality and consistency through careful selection, genetic health, and
adherence to  breed standards"


"A structurally sound dog with the traits set forth in the standards for
the breed, still needs the willingness to perform"



"This evaluation process is invaluable for breeders in determining which
puppies are most suitable for breeding"


"The pedigree is a vital tool for identifying the underlying types, structure,
health, and working abilities of your dog and future litters"


"This guide offers practical advice to support you through the whelping
process and ensure the well-being of both mother and pups"



"Close monitoring can help detect and address any issues early, ensuring
the puppies develop healthily and thrive"



"Prioritizing health ensures that your dogs live long, happy lives and
reduces the risk of passing on genetic conditions"





Taken from the Australian Shepherd University,
by Nannette Newbury

As a breeder you have to know your breeds standards like the back of your hand. A breed standard serves as a blueprint, encapsulating the essence of a dog breed's ideal form and function. It's a document, born from a combination of historical context, practicality, and breed type.
At its core, a breed standard has to guide breeders, judges, and enthusiasts in maintaining the breed's integrity. It outlines desired physical attributes, unique to the breed, and help preserve the breed's distinctive characteristics over generations.

Beyond aesthetics, our breed standard also prioritize health and functionality, by specifying aspects like skeletal structure, coat texture, and gait, all crucial for the breed's performance in its original role, herding.







BUT, a written description as a breed standard cannot convey information the same way as an illustration, a video clip or physical and visual assessment, but it is a great place for you to start your journey in understanding  our breed.
So study it, analyze it, and memorize it!

In addition to this, you must learn which tasks the breed was expected to perform, and in which conditions. Studying the history of a breed is also essential to understanding the breeds physical structure and movement.
But the most important thing to understand as a breeder is that
ALL DOGS HAVE FAULTS. As breeders, we must learn which faults each of our dogs possesses in order to try to correct them in the next generation.


In the following video you will hear about the best practices for maintaining high standards in dog breeding. It focuses on ensuring quality and consistency through careful selection, genetic health, and adherence to breed standards. The symposium features expert breeder Sheree Moses, sharing insights and strategies for achieving these goals, emphasizing the importance of responsible breeding practices to enhance the health and characteristics of future generations.


Breeders must pay close attention to all of the physical characteristics that make up a breed, as well as breeding for the correct temperament and willingness to carry out the tasks set before them. A structurally sound dog with the traits set forth in the standards for the breed, still needs the willingness to perform the task set before them. Numerous exceptional performance/working dogs in areas spanning from agility to herding have been poorly conformed in structure and performed well only through their desire to do so. These dogs willingness to work is brilliant, but at what cost to their longevity and wear and tear on their bodies?

The following masterclass is based on the FCI Breed Standard Reference Books by Paula Jean McDermid that are available on Amazon. It visualizes the Breed Standard and the ideal structure that enables these breeds to be highly versatile and explains why faulty traits are a problem.


In the following two articles (Part 2 & 3), Stephanie S. Hedgepath gives you a better understanding of the bare basics in canine skeletal structure.

Article part 2 & 3:

Form Follows Function – Part 2  Canine Structure and Movement
Form Follows Function – Part 3 – Head, Neck & Spinal Column


Bare in mind that this is the very basics, so to fully understand the breed-specific structure and movement, you would have to delve a little deeper. A place to start is reading Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor's book Canine Form Follows Function: Separating Fact from Fiction.

Another book by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor is The Australian Shepherd Judging Compendium, that provides the reader with breed-specific insight and understanding of why structure and gait are important to its function. Each chapter explains a section of the breed standard followed by a quiz that is used to make the reader think. 

The following video takes you through the details of canine movement, observing how different breeds demonstrate efficient and correct gaits while conserving energy. Experts provide insights into what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate movements, emphasizing adherence to breed standards. This content enhances understanding of dogs in motion, essential for both assessing their health and evaluating movement quality.

With a better understanding of the structure and movement of the breed, the next step is being able to visually exam the dog in front of you. To help visualize assessing a standing dog, read the following article (Part 4), by Stephanie S. Hedgepath, followed by reading how to stack the Australian Shepherd, by Nannette Newbury:

Article part 4:

Form Follows Function – Part 4 – Visual Assessment of the Standing Dog

How to stack the Australian Shepherd:


Visually assessing a coated breed can obviously sometimes be hard, but even so, you should have an idea of what you would want to further explore , in the physical exam.
For the physical exam you have to learn how to feel what you can't see and what a good groomer can't hide, the skeletal structure. This requires expertise, which you can only get by acquiring a lot of knowledge and getting your hands on a lot of dogs.

To exercise in how to physically examine a dog, read the following two articles (Part 5 & 6), by Stephanie S. Hedgepath.

Article part 5 & 6:

Form Follows Function – Part 5 – The Hands on Exam
Form Follows Function – Part 6 – The Hands on Exam 2


When evaluating you should get into the habit of listing what you are seeing and feeling, either by saying it out loud or writing it down as you go. This is a great way of keeping records on each of your dogs or when evaluating a litter. You will make note of all of your impressions throughout this entire procedure. Writing it down is best, especially if you are evaluating a litter.


As a breeder, selecting the best puppy for future breeding is essential for building a stronger lineage, ensuring that each new generation maintains and enhances their qualities. To aid in this selection process, we have created the NiviosEvaluationSchedule© as a tool for evaluating litters, based on The Hastings Approach. 
Download the NiviosEvaluationSchedule© here:

We strongly advise against solely conducting evaluations on your own litters, as "kennel blindness" can come into play. Instead, seek an external, impartial party with significant breed knowledge to assess the puppies for you. 

Please note that the average points in this Schedule is experience-based. We therefore encourage you to send back a copy of your filled out document to, as this will contribute to refining our collective knowledge, ultimately benefiting future users.

In the following video, Pat and Bob Hastings, who possess extensive experience with over 28 different breeds, guide viewers through assessing the structural quality of puppies, including factors like balance, angulation, and proportion. This evaluation process is invaluable for breeders in determining which puppies are most suitable for breeding.


Creating a successful breeding program requires a strategic approach and a deep understanding of pedigrees. The pedigree is a vital tool for identifying the underlying types, structure, health, and working abilities of your dog and future litters. By thoroughly analyzing pedigrees, you can identify both strengths and weaknesses in your breeding stock and help you select mating pairs that will complement each other.

For this, IT'S ESSENTIAL TO CONSIDER BOTH PHENOTYPE AND GENOTYPE. The phenotype refers to the observable characteristics of a dog, such as its appearance, behavior, and health. In contrast, the genotype is the dog's genetic makeup, which influences these observable traits. By searching and understanding the genotypes within your breeding stock, you can better predict and influence the traits of future litters, ensuring the development of desirable characteristics, while continuously updating your breeding strategy based on your analysis and the outcomes of previous litters.


When examining a pedigree, don't limit your research to the direct lineage. It's equally important to investigate the collateral lines, such as the siblings of the parents, to get a comprehensive understanding of the genetic background.

In the following lecture by Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia, you can read about the different approaches to breeding and pedigree analysis:

Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2007 - Pedigree Analysis

Utilizing methods like the Stick Dog Color Chart Pedigree and the Symbols Pedigree can be incredibly beneficial. These charts help with visualizing and tracking inheritance patterns, which is a key aspect of genotypic analysis. By integrating these tools into your breeding strategy, you can make more informed decisions about mating pairs, maintaining the overall health and quality in your breeding program.


As a breeder, your responsibility extends to caring for your whelping bitch and her newborn puppies. This guide offers practical advice to support you through the whelping process and ensure the well-being of both mother and pups.




Provide a balanced, high-quality diet specifically formulated for pregnant and lactating dogs. Increase food quantity gradually as the pregnancy progresses, particularly in the final third, to support the growing fetuses.

Maintain regular but moderate exercise to keep the bitch in good physical condition. Avoid heavy activities, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

Health Monitoring:
Regularly monitor the bitch’s health and behavior. Be attentive to any signs of discomfort or unusual symptoms, such as excessive vomiting, lack of appetite, or unusual discharge. Immediate veterinary attention may be required if these occur.

Ultrasounds and X-rays
Schedule ultrasounds and X-rays with your veterinarian to determine the number of puppies and their development. Knowing how many puppies to expect is crucial so that you can recognize if something goes wrong during whelping.


Create a calm, stress-free environment. Ensure she has a quiet, comfortable space to rest, away from other animals and excessive noise, particularly in the final days of her pregnancy.

Temperature Monitoring

Regularly take the bitch’s temperature in the days leading up to her due date. A drop of 1°C often indicates labor will begin within 24 hours. This drop is due to hormonal changes as her body prepares for labor, known as the dilation stage.




Whelping Box
Prepare a clean, warm whelping box well in advance. The box should be large enough for the bitch to move around comfortably but enclosed enough to make her feel secure.

Have all necessary supplies ready, including clean towels, sterilized scissors, a heating lamp, a nasal aspirator for clearing airways, and puppy boost supplements to provide immediate energy for weak puppies.

Calcium Supplements

Give the bitch calcium supplements after her first contraction and to the last puppy is born. Keep giving calcium the first three days of nursing to prevent calcium deficiency and potential calcium shock.


Monitor the delivery process closely but avoid unnecessary interference. Be present to assist if needed, especially if complications arise such as prolonged labor or a stuck puppy. After whelping, help the bitch the coming days by ensuring that she does not accidentally lay on her puppies.

Veterinary Assistance
Have your veterinarian's contact information readily available. In cases of dystocia (difficult birth) or other complications, prompt veterinary intervention is crucial.

Rest and Privacy

Give your bitch time to rest and recover during the first three weeks. Avoid letting other dogs into the whelping room or having any visitors to prevent stress. Prioritize her needs over others and your own!





First Aid Course
Consider taking a first aid course for puppies. This will equip you with the knowledge and skills to handle minor emergencies, provide immediate care in case of health issues, and know how to revive stillborn puppies.

Immediate Care
Once the puppies are born, ensure they are breathing properly. Clear any membranes or fluids from their airways using a nasal aspirator, and stimulate them gently to encourage breathing.

Keep the puppies warm, as they are unable to regulate their body temperature. Use a heating lamp to provide consistent warmth, but ensure there is a cooler area they can move to if they get too warm.

Ensure all puppies start nursing within the first few hours after birth to receive colostrum, which is vital for their immunity.

Weight Tracking
Track the puppies' weight daily for the first two weeks. Consistent weight gain is a crucial indicator of their health. Any significant weight loss or lack of gain should be addressed immediately. To help with this download the Nivios Puppy Tracker.

Socialization and Environmental Training

Early socialization and environmental training are crucial for puppies. Expose them to varied environments, sounds, and gentle handling to foster well-balanced adult dogs. Introduce them to animals, people, and diverse stimuli to enhance adaptability and confidence in various life situations.

Chiropractic Care

Consider taking your puppies to a chiropractor to address any misalignments they may have from birth or early weeks. Given their rapid growth, preventing structural imbalances is crucial. Chiropractic adjustments can ensure proper alignment, promote optimal growth, and support their physical health as they mature.

A Lifetime Commitment

Caring is also ensuring puppies are matched with suitable homes and providing ongoing support to puppy owners. Establish contracts that protect the welfare of the puppies throughout their lives, including rehoming if found necessary.


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The first two weeks of a puppy's life are critical, as they are highly vulnerable to infections, hypothermia, and dehydration. It is important to keep track of them during this period to ensure they are feeding well, gaining weight, and staying warm. Close monitoring can help detect and address any issues early, ensuring the puppies develop healthily and thrive.

The NiviosPuppyTracker© is a comprehensive and visual template designed for breeders to monitor and analyze the early growth stages of their newborn Australian Shepherd puppies, during their critical first two weeks. Its purpose is to provide a systematic approach for recording and evaluating growth patterns, with an emphasis on individual care and early detection of potential health issues.

To access the template, you need to have Microsoft Excel on your device. If you do not possess a valid license for Excel, you can also use
Microsoft Office Online for PC or Microsoft Excel Mobile for iOS or Android for free.

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Download NiviosPuppyTracker on your email.

The download has now been sent to your email!

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Please note that the breed-specific data included in the template is experience-based. We therefore encourage you to send back a copy of your filled out document to, as this will contribute to refining our collective knowledge, ultimately benefiting future users.
We would also welcome any other inputs to further improve the template. Thank you for your contribution.




Together with addressing the structural needs of the breed, I can't stress enough how important it is to have your dogs health tested before breeding. Prioritizing health ensures that your dogs live long, happy lives and reduces the risk of passing on genetic conditions. Healthy dogs make for healthier puppies, which not only benefits the breed but also enhances the breed's reputation and the joy they bring to their new families.

Always screen for common breed-specific health issues to maintain the breed’s vitality and well-being. This includes various DNA tests, hip and elbow dysplasia screenings, and eye exams as the bare minimum. Also, keep health in mind when choosing to breed on a bitch and when finding a suitable stud.
And remember to BE SELECTIVE WHEN CHOOSING A STUD FOR YOUR BITCH, considering both structural compatibility, ancestry, temperament, health, and DNA. 

In the following link, you will find various articles from the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, from where you can learn more about the breed-specific health risks and issues to have in mind.

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute Articles


Sites beyond those that have already been linked to throughout this guide, for further reading and resources.


Australian Shepherd University

Delve into a comprehensive hub offering articles, courses, health insights, and breed-specific resources curated for Australian Shepherd enthusiasts by Nannette Newbury.
You can also find this site on
facebook as a forum.



ASCA - Books and Videos

Educational material including books and videos covering Australian Shepherd history, training techniques, health care, and standards.


NZ Dog Judges Association - Training and Education

Access training tools, articles, and educational resources aimed at enhancing knowledge and skills in dog judging, breed standards, and ethical breeding practices.

Unforgettable Aussies

Gain insights from Paula McDermid's  extensive resources on Australian Shepherds, covering breed and breeder history, health and breeding practices.

Quality Aussies

Faithwalk's old website Quality Aussies offers information and resources dedicated to Australian Shepherds, providing valuable insights for enthusiasts and breeders interested in understanding and caring for this breed.

This list will be updated as we discover more recommended resources.
Feel free to share any recommendations you have!                                                        

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