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This guide aims to serve as educational reading for new breeders, providing them with what we see as pillers behind responsible and capable breeding.

Breeders often keep their knowledge closely guarded to prevent competitors from gaining an advantage. However, we believe that it is crucial to always act in the best interest of the breed. Sharing knowledge and expertise is essential for the overall health and improvement. This is why we have created this Breeders Guide to encourage and support the collective effort of all breeders in ensuring the well-being and advancement of our breed.

Throughout this guide, I will try to encourage the reader to study and analyze our breed and give some of the tools to do so.


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 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. 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

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 could be reading Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor's book Canine Form Follows Function: Separating Fact from Fiction.

Another by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor is The Australian Shepherd Judging Compendium, that provides the reader with good 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. 

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 this, read the following article (Part 4):

Article part 4:

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


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).

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 NiviosLitterEvaluator© as a tool for evaluating litters.
Download the NiviosLitterEvaluator© 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. 

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.


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, considering structure, color, 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


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.

Download NiviosPuppyTracker on your email.

The download has now been sent to your email!

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.



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