Downsizing a Breed: Miniature American Shepherd

The Miniature American Shepherd was developed by breeding smaller Australian Shepherds in order to produce a downsized version of the breed. It takes many decades to downsize a breed properly and retain all the original qualities in shape and form. Throughout the process, especially early on, most planned and well researched crosses will be just one step in the right direction. If the goal of the breeder is quality over size, which is of utmost importance, it takes many generations to cement the body type and proportions needed.

Being an AKC Breeder Judge, the Miniature American Shepherd Club’s Judges Education Coordinator, approved presenter of educational seminars as well as ringside and long term mentor of judges looking to be approved to judge our breed, I am often asked what are the problems we face as a breed, what do we need to improve upon?

That is a difficult question as it is changing year by year. I have been breeding Mini American Shepherds for 25 years and still as a breed we continue to work on consistency in shape and form.

Some crosses will produce smaller size but the price you pay may be short upper arms and lack of loin since all body parts do not downsize equally. Others will produce shorter legs on an otherwise comparatively larger body resulting in a look of dwarfism. Of course this is not what we are looking for in our breed.

The breed standard states that their upper arms (humerus) is equal in length to the shoulder blade. The loin—strong and broad when viewed from the top. They are equidistant in height, measuring 50% from ground to elbow and 50% from elbow to the withers.

Other problem areas are length of body vs. height, which when measuring from the point of the shoulder blade to the point of the buttocks and from the highest point of the shoulder blade to the ground should be slightly longer than tall. Meaning about a 9-10 ratio.

Downsizing can often result in a boxy or cobby body type which is usually due to lack of loin. I like to see 2/3 rib cage to 1/3 loin.

So, each generation requires an honest evaluation of both the dam and sire. Know what you need to improve upon and breed accordingly.

You must have both short and long term goals clearly established in your breeding program. Always comparing your plan to the Breed Standard. The short term goals are what you expect to get out of any specific cross. Long term goals include how you expect to cement a body type and temperament as close to the Breed Standard as possible.

Even though any given breeding program has used only Australian Shepherd bloodlines, they can still experience toy features during the downsizing process.

Domed skulls, round and or protruding eyes, prick ears and slight bone are all things to be strongly avoided.

We are looking for length of muzzle that is equal to the length and width of the crown, almond shaped eyes, neither protruding nor sunken and the ears at full attention should break forward and over or to the side as a rose ear.

It is important to note that this breed is to be shown in a natural presentation leaving whiskers on and minimal scissoring. We do not want our breed to be shown sculpted.

A good breeder should start to see that they are more consistently producing males that are between 14 and 18 inches and bitches between 13 and 17 inches at the top of the withers with moderate bone in proportion to body height and size. They should have a full and deep chest reaching the elbow with well sprung ribs. Possessing compact feet with well arched toes. The angulation of the pelvis and upper thigh (femur) should mirror the angulation of the shoulder blade and upper arm. They need short hocks, (short hocks being 1/3 of the total height) and acceptable coat colors, along with all of the afore mentioned qualities. That is when you know you have achieved a correct and solid breeding program.

  • I am Fran Withers. I live on 52 acres in a small town in South West Michigan. I have bred, trained and loved Australian & American Shepherds for over twenty years. I enjoy the mini size, as they are much easier to get onto grooming tables, travel with, bathe and are generally easier to maintain. They are everything I loved about the Aussie, in a smaller package. I now have more time to dedicate to getting to the shows in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. I am really enjoying getting out in the show ring and having fun with my dogs and other like-minded people. Yes, we are all dog crazy. Our young dogs have done very well in the ring since we achieved full AKC recognition and I am very excited to see what the coming years will bring. I train and/or compete in Conformation, Obedience, Rally Obedience and Canine Good Citizen Certification. I am an AKC Breeder Judge and a professional Puppy Puzzler (I evaluate litters for their structure to determine which puppies are show/breed quality and which would be sold as pets). I am looking forward to watching our breed grow and achieve big things within the AKC family.

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