Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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Carriage, Shape & Feathering


What are the proper tail carriage, shape, and feathering for an Aussie? 

The breed standards do not address this because neither the ASCA nor AKC standards address it.  The AKC standard is recognized by all FCI clubs so the matter is not officially described anywhere.    The 2009-10 ASHGI health survey was international in scope, so included a number of full-tail dogs.  Owners were asked about tail carriage, shape, and feathering.  Based on that data, a typical tail is slightly curved with feathering shortening from base to tip.  Tail carriage was less definitive though high over the back was clearly atypical.  Most were reported to carry their tails slightly above or slightly below the topline (level with the topline was, oddly, reported in only a minority of dogs) and a significant minority (21%) were reported to carry the tail low.

Many countries have banned docking.  How do they know what tail is correct?

It is very important that countries where docking bans are in place DO NOT adopt different standards for tails than those of other such countries.  Having varied “correct” tails from one country to another risks fragmenting the breed gene pool into separate national populations.  Ideally, breeders in these countries should work to develop a consensus of what is correct based on what is most typical across the breed, not on what big-winning dogs might  have or prominent individuals might prefer.