National Dog Show 2015 Behind the Scenes Miniature American Shepherd
Miniature American Shepherd on show bench
Close up of Miniature American Shepherd dog breed
This herding dog is popular for his portability and intelligence. You can often find him sorting out goats and sheep or accompanying his people to horse shows. Typically good-natured and alert, he has a medium-length double coat.The versatile Miniature American Shepherd (MAS) was created in the United States to be a dog who is at home in two worlds: a ranch/farm or suburban family life. He retains the herding ability of his forebears, but he’s small enough to go places and live in quarters that might not be suited to a full-sized herding dog.

Just because he’s small, however, doesn’t mean he doesn’t need any exercise. This is a highly intelligent and active dog who (overall health permitting, of course) can perform well in many dog sports, including agility, herding, nose work, obedience and rally, and he usually enjoys hiking, running and playing. He’s also generally easy to housetrain. The MAS is best suited to an active person or family who can provide him with the exercise, training and mental gymnastics he needs to stay out of trouble.

Quick Facts

  • The Miniature American Shepherd has a docked or natural bobtail.
  • This breed’s double coat comes in solid colors of black or red as well as red merle (patches or patterns of red on a cream background) or blue merle (patches or patterns of black on a gray or blue background). Any of the coat colors or patterns may or may not have tan (copper) or white markings.
  • A Miniature American Shepherd can have odd eyes. One or both eyes may be brown, blue, hazel, amber or any combination of those colors, including flecks and marbling.    

The History of Miniature American Shepherds

The MAS is one of the newer breeds in existence. In the 1960s, people in California began breeding smaller versions of Australian Shepherds, using undersized dogs of that breed as well as small, unregistered dogs who resembled Australian Shepherds. The goal was to create a dog with the activity level and intelligence of the Australian Shepherd but in a smaller package.

The dogs were originally called Miniature Australian Shepherds, but Australian Shepherd fanciers objected to the association with their breed. The name then morphed to North American Shepherd and finally to Miniature American Shepherd.

By 1980, breeders were listing their dogs with the National Stock Dog Registry. The national club for the breed, founded in 1990, is the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA. The American Kennel Club began registering the breed with its Foundation Stock Service in 2011 and recognized the MAS as a member of the Herding Group in July 2015.

Miniature American Shepherd Personality and Temperament

The Miniature American Shepherd has a lot going for him. He tends to be highly intelligent, enthusiastic and devoted to his family. The MAS is usually gentle with children and polite to other dogs and cats, especially when he is raised with them.

Like his herding breed cohorts, the MAS is energetic and hard-working. He likes to have a job, and he wants to be the best at it, so he’s a pleasure to train and compete with, always performing with flair. The MAS is a problem solver and enjoys learning games and tricks. You may have to start spelling words in his presence because his vocabulary can be immense.

Use positive-reinforcement techniques, and he can learn just about anything you can teach. Avoid speaking to or treating him harshly.

His strong herding instincts make him an excellent watchdog who is protective of his family and property. Expect him to be reserved toward strangers but not usually shy. Be sure you introduce him to pet sitters, boarding kennel personnel and other caregivers in advance so that he’s comfortable staying with them.

Start training a Miniature American Shepherd the day you bring him home or before you know it, he will have you trained. He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old and socialize, socialize, socialize. This breed can become shy or nervous if he isn’t exposed to many different people and situations early in life. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like the one for kennel cough) to be up-to-date, and many veterinarians recommend limiting exposure to other dogs and public places until the puppy series of vaccines (including those for rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until his puppy vaccinations are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect MAS doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and one who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.

What You Need to Know About Miniature American Shepherd Health

The MAS is a generally healthy breed with an expected life span of 12 to 15 years.

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems or that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Health certifications your pup’s parents should have:
  • An eye exam by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)
  • A progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) DNA test
  • A multiple drug sensitivity test with results registered with OFA
  • An exam for hip dysplasia with results registered with OFA or CHIC or PennHIP or Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) hip dysplasia evaluation
  • Participation in OFA/CHIC DNA repository
The following exams are optional:
If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines or because her dogs have been vet checked or if she gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of dogs, walk away immediately. And if you think that health testing is important only for show dogs, think again. Even dogs intended to be pets should have parents who are screened for genetic diseases. In addition, merle-patterned dogs should never be bred to other merles because the puppies may inherit recessive genes for deafness and blindness, which are associated with the merle pattern.

Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic diseases and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping a Miniature American Shepherd at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to protect his overall health. Make the most of diet and exercise.

The Basics of Miniature American Shepherd Grooming

The Miniature American Shepherd has a medium-length double coat with hair that ranges from straight to wavy. What’s a double coat? It means he has a top coat with thick, slightly coarse hair and an undercoat that has a more downy texture. The main thing it means for you is that he sheds. He’ll lose some hair year-round and will shed heavily in spring and fall when his old coat is coming out and his new coat is coming in. You’ll want to brush him daily during this time to keep the hair from overwhelming your home as well as to help prevent mats and tangles.

To keep the coat healthy and attractive, brush it once or twice a week in the direction the hair grows, back and down, starting with the top coat and then getting underneath it to brush the undercoat. Be sure you carefully comb or brush the hair on the backs of the legs and on the rear end because tangles and mats often form in these areas. Tools you’ll need include a pin brush or a stiff bristle brush.

For the most part, this breed doesn’t need to be trimmed. You may, however, choose to neaten his ears, feet, feathering (the long hair on the backs of the legs) and tail.

A puppy’s coat won’t reach its full length until he’s about a year old, but it’s a good idea to start grooming him as soon as you get him. This will accustom him to the process and help him learn to hold still and accept being handled.

How often you bathe an MAS depends on personal preference. You can give a bath only as needed or you can bathe him weekly; regardless of frequency, use a mild dog-friendly shampoo. Be sure you comb out any mats or tangles before bathing him.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. If they’re clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Miniature American Shepherd

Whether you want to go with a reputable breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Miniature American Shepherd Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes to avoid those problems.

Start your search with the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA. It should be able to refer you to breeders in the United States or Canada.

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she will take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them. Check the club’s code of ethics and ask breeders if they subscribe to them.

Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for health problems in the breed and have results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the Canine Health Information Center.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It could save you money and frustration in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, remember the adage “let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100-percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals) and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult MAS might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult MAS, if one is available, may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an adult dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.

If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Miniature American Shepherd Rescue Group or Shelter

Choosing an adult dog is often a super way to get started in a particular breed. Seek out shelters and rescue groups that can help you make the best choice for your family. Here’s how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and can have you searching for an MAS in your area in no time. The sites allow you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Miniature American Shepherds available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an MAS. That includes vets, dog walkers and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescues

Most people who love Miniature American Shepherds love all Miniature American Shepherds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. Breeders and breed clubs work to place dogs when they are in need of a new home.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They may also offer opportunities to foster a dog if you are an experienced dog owner.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
  • What is his energy level?
  • How is he around other animals?
  • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
  • What is his personality like?
  • What is his age?
  • Is he housetrained?
  • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your MAS, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopter’s Bill of Rights that can help you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or adoption, take your MAS to your veterinarian soon after acquiring him. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.