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History Now I mentioned a moment ago that the Australian Shepherd isn't actually Australian. The shepherds actually originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, which are along the border of modern-day Spain and France. These were the Shepherd dogs used by the Basque people to herd their flocks of sheep. In the early 1800s, the Basques set out for Australia, a new and booming country for the sheep industry. In the early 1900s in the basket set out again for the wild West in California, USA. It was here, in California, that the local ranchers and cowboys saw what a fantastic herd dog the vast brought with them. Since they had most recently come from Australia, the locals dove them the Australian Shepherd. And they actually are not registered as a native Australian breed still today. The Labrador Retriever had a similar issue with its name in the early days of the breed as well. They were part of a breed developed in the Newfoundland area, or more specifically, the Labrador region of Canada. In the early 1800s, Labradors became quite popular in Britain, and an effort was made to develop the adept waterfowl dog more thoroughly. In the early days of the breed, they often went by many different and somewhat confusing names. They were known as the Newfoundland dog, St. John's dog, and the lesser Newfoundland, though none were accurate. Their original job was in retrieving fowl for the hunter, often in water or marshy areas. Appearance The Australian Shepherd, aka Aussie, has a very striking appearance and frequently seen with a blue merle coat and comes in many other colors. Merle coats are common in the breed, with red and blue being the predominant colorings. They also come in and tri coloring, which would be a combination of black and white, and in rare cases, are solid colors. They have a thick double coat and feathering, especially along there chest and hunches. Their tails are generally cropped short as a safety measure for the working size of the breed. They do come in a mini size as well, and those are usually under 20 pounds. The Labrador Retriever, or Lab, is only slightly bigger than the Aussie but has a short, dense undercoat. Like the Aussie, the Lab sheds quite a bit, but their outer coat is sleek and short. Labs have slight webbing between their toes to aid them in swimming and a water repellent outer coat. Labs come in just a few color varieties, all of which are solid colors that include yellow, chocolate, Fox red, and black. Temperament  Aussie's are incredibly loyal and intelligent. They have a calm personality, but they are also easy to excite with their high energy level. They are very social with people and other animals, even though they try to herd anything and everything. Owners of the breed can attest to the fact that these dogs are almost velcroed to the person they are bonded most closely with. You won't find yourself moving from room to room, even for a moment, without your Aussie shadow. Like the Aussie, the Lab is highly intelligent and devoted to its people. The Lab is known for being a loyal and loving companion who is always looking to its leader. They are extremely friendly, even with strangers and other animals, which means they are not well-suited to being a guard dog. They are affectionate and tend to bond closely with one person, but enjoy being around the whole family. Training and intelligence As I mentioned before, the Aussie is highly intelligent, so they are easily trained to very high levels and can excel at many types of competition work. The Aussie excels in agility obedience and trick competitions, and you'll see them very frequently for performing in rodeos across the US today. One thing to note about Aussies is they are not for new or inexperienced canine leaders. They are brilliant, and it's not uncommon for them to manipulate their people or get away with bad habits. The Lab is similarly brilliant, which has been one of the biggest reasons for its massive popularity worldwide. Labs are relatively easy to train because of their intelligence and willingness to please, but they do best when they have a job. Remember, these are working dogs who were bred to work in the field all day with hunters. They are consistently ranked as one of the most intelligent breeds in the world. They are immensely successful in military and police sent work as well as in roles as service dogs for people with disabilities. Energy The Aussie, to match their high intellect, also has a very high-energy level. The Aussie was meant to run back and forth around flocks of sheep to keep them corralled and steer them at the shepherd's direction. As you can imagine running all day requires a lot of energy to start with but also stamina. The Aussie needs a job to do to work off this mental and physical energy. Ideally, they need is several hours of high-intensity play or activity each day, especially when they're young. Like I said earlier, the Lab was bred to work with the hunter all day, running back and forth, retrieving the game. To fill this role, the Lab needed to have a lot of energy, and they still can run all day, so you need to be prepared to exercise them thoroughly each day. They also need mental exercise and teaching them scent or search games, or even good old-fashioned fetch will do wonders to exercise both their brain and body. Overall health The Aussie is a pretty hearty breed with a lifespan in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 years. One thing that can be an issue with the breed is that merle coloring results from a recessive gene commonly linked to blind or deafness. Some irresponsible breeding has resulted in double merles, which are entirely white and both blind and deaf. It's important to only consider very responsible breeders or help the special needs dogs if you have the experience. One other issue to mention that goes for any animal with potential white coloring is they can be prone to sunburns. You'll notice this most if they have a pink nose or if their eyes are blue, and they have no pigmentation around their eyes instead of the typical black liner. The Lab has a slightly shorter lifespan, around 10 to 11 years, and they can also have a tendency towards different cancers and blood disorders. Another common issue with Labs is their inclination towards being obese if not exercised regularly, increasing the chances of developing hip or elbow dysplasia. Even though they are larger dogs, they don't suffer from bloat very often, but it's still important to feed them a high-quality diet and keep them from and just inhaling their food at each meal. Social needs The Aussie is generally friendly and curious and outgoing, but they bond most closely with one person. It is still important to socialize them from a young and introduce them to children, small animals, and other dogs to be well rounded. Labs love the whole family but bond very closely with the person who works with them most often. They are extremely friendly and generally outgoing, even with strangers. It's always a good idea to socialize your Lab with children, small animals, and other dogs, but it's something that comes naturally to them. Child friendly The Aussie does very well with children and loves to play. Their high-energy levels could mean they get overexcited when they are really rambunctious or have multiple friends over. The biggest thing you want to watch out for is Aussie's are herding dogs. They will most definitely herd children, resulting in the child tripping or even the Aussie nipping the child to herd them in a specific direction. Labs do exceptionally well with children and all of their friends. Because of their size, you'll want to be cautious of the dog knocking the children over, especially when they are young or getting over-excited. The Aussie is a herding and working dog, so their prey drive is pretty low. They are curious but more likely to try to corral and herd the small animals that come across. Obviously, the more you introduce them and raise them with small animals, the better they will be with them. Labs are not hunters. They are bred to retrieve game for hunters. This means that they tend to have very soft malls but are curious and friendly with small animals. They will most likely be gentle with him as long as they are not overly excited. Other dogs When socialized well early on, Aussie's are great with other dogs, including new or strange dogs. They are generally very social and do well in settings like dog parks. The Lab may be slightly protective of their property or family around strange dogs but warm up quickly. They are typically very friendly, especially when socialized well often. Conclusion And there you have it. The differences between the Australian Shepherd and the Labrador retriever. As you can see, they are very similar in many ways despite the different jobs they were bred for. Both of these dogs make fabulous additions to active homes with confident canine leaders.

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