Miniature American Shepherd: Active Companion and Loyal Friend

Miniature American Shepherd
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Miniature American Shepherd or MAS looks a lot like the Australian Shepherd. But did you know that that’s not a coincidence? The MAS was created because some people wanted a dog with the temperament and smarts of an Australian Shepherd but in a smaller and more compact body.

Who doesn’t want a dog with a good nature, superb herding instincts, and intelligence? The MAS has all of the good traits of their Australian cousin but is more manageable in the home due to their smaller size. These versatile dogs come in a variety of colors and will thrive in any kind of environment—be it in the city or at a farm.

But is this breed a match for your lifestyle? In this article, we will talk about the characteristics, care features of this dog breed, and their history to find out if they are a good match for you and your family.

Breed Characteristics

Miniature American Shepherd in the wood

  • Adaptability: High

  • Trainability: Good; their intelligence makes them very trainable

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; susceptible to hip dysplasia, eye problems, and Von Willebrand’s Disease; needs once weekly grooming

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; but wary towards strangers

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance; has high stamina and energy

Dog Breed GroupHerding Dogs
Height14-18 inches
Weight20-31 lbs.
Lifespan12-15 years

The MAS is a small herding dog with extensive versatility. At first glance, the Miniature American Shepherd bears an uncanny resemblance to their larger Australian cousins. However, MAS are shorter with their bodies slightly longer than their legs.

The versatility of this breed is astounding. Aside from being family pets and working dogs, they are also suitable as companions in nursing homes. They do well in canine sport such as obedience, rally, flyball, agility, and other sports. With proper training and guidance from their owners, the MAS has the potential to excel in anything.

Just like the Australian Shepherd, the MAS is an intelligent breed. Due to their size, they are best suited for herding small stock. However, this does not mean that the MAS can’t handle bigger livestock.

As a family pet, this breed wants to please its owners. They are playful and are suitable pets for families with children. However, they do require mental stimulation and physical activity.

The ancestors of the MAS are herding dogs. They were bred to work and stay outside. As such, MAS need lots of exercises. Long daily walks are needed to release their stored energy. Mental stimulation like sniffing games or hide and seek will also keep your MAS happy.

These dogs are affectionate and love to cuddle. They can do well in an apartment thanks to their small size. Just don’t forget to give them their daily exercise and they will be happy to roll on the couch with you.

At home, they are alert and watchful. They make good guard dogs and will bark to alert you if there are intruders or strangers. Early socialization with strangers and other pets is needed to prevent your MAS from being too wary. If socialized early, they are good-natured, love children, and will get along with dogs and other pets.

Main Highlights

Miniature American Shepherd standing in grass

  • They are smaller than Aussies and were bred to keep their size small.

  • MAS are comfortable in the farm herding livestock.

  • They are also ideal household pets and can live in apartments thanks to their compact size.

  • Loves physical exertion and mental stimulation.

  • Does well in different types of canine sport

  • Is very easy to potty train due to intelligence and obedient nature.

  • Can be wary of strangers, so training and early socialization are needed.

  • Has high herding instincts, so they may try to herd smaller pets or young children.

  • An active breed that requires long daily walks or multiple short walks per day.

  • As herders, they are highly active and will look for work.

  • Needs once weekly brushing to keep the coat clean and to prevent matting.

  • Sheds seasonally.

  • Few health problems but the breed is prone to hip dysplasia, hereditary eye defects, and Von Willebrand’s Disease.

  • Their tails can be naturally short or docked.

  • Their medium-length double coat is weather-resistant and comes in a variety of colors.

  • Recognized by the AKC.

  • Some MAS are born deaf so early testing is needed.

  • Playful but gentle with kids.

  • They are best suited for outdoorsy people, active individuals and families, and city or apartment dwellers.

  • They are rugged but cuddly-looking.

Breed History

Miniature American Shepherd puppy

The Miniature American Shepherd’s history starts in California during the 1960s. Breeders created the MAS by taking Australian Shepherds and breeding them with smaller dogs.

There are also claims that the breeders used undersized Australian Shepherds to create a smaller dog. The goal of the breeders was to create a dog that had the intelligence and level of activity of an Aussie but in a much smaller size.

Originally, the new breed was called Miniature Australian Shepherd. But Australian breeders of the Australian Shepherds did not like the idea. Finally, the breed was re-christened to its present name and was recognized by the AKC in 2015.


Miniature American Shepherd lying on grass

As a smaller version of the Aussie, the MAS is a small dog. They are a little bit longer than they are tall. MAS are usually around 14-18 inches tall and weigh approximately 20-31 lbs.

MAS can be found in varied colors like black merle, blue merle, solid red, or red with tan or black marks on their bodies. Basically, they look like smaller and cuddlier Aussies.

They are agile, sturdy, and alert. They have double coats that are dense and weatherproof. They usually shed during the summer or spring. Female MAS will shed their undercoat usually after each heat cycle.

See Also: Do Female Dogs Get Periods?

Personality and Character

Miniature American Shepherd runnning and playing

The MAS is a very intelligent, fun-loving, and a good all-around family dog. They love children and are loving and playful towards them. Some owners remark that these dogs do not really grow out of their puppy stage and remain playful and boisterous even in their advanced years.

The MAS gets along with other pets too especially when socialized early. MAS tend to be wary towards strangers and new pets, but early socialization will help avoid wariness. Other pets and dogs raised with MAS since puppyhood get along with the dog very well.

These dogs can be reserved towards strangers but not shy. They have very strong loyalty towards their families. They will cause a ruckus if strangers approach your home.

The MAS descends from herding dogs. As such they have strong herding instincts and like physical activity and work. This is a highly active breed with lots of stamina and energy. They require long walks or multiple short walks daily.

They also need mental stimulation. Make sure to include sniffing games and/or other mental obstacles to keep your MAS happy.

Since this dog is high energy, it’s best to start training as soon as possible. MAS are highly trainable and very intelligent, and many owners remark that there is very little this breed cannot do especially if they put their mind to it and even potty training is easily mastered by this breed.

See Also: How to House Train a Dog

Aside from training, this breed is also excellent with canine sport. Obedience, flyball, rally, and agility are just some of the sports you can let your dog try. The key to training this breed is to start early (especially housebreaking). They require a firm and consistent trainer. They also respond well to positive reinforcement and praises.

If you love the Australian Shepherd but live in an apartment, the MAS could be the perfect solution. They have all the playfulness and intelligence of the Aussie but none of the size. They are perfect for apartments thanks to their small size. They also do well in homes with fenced yards.

They make good family pets thanks to their eager-to-please attitude. They are best suited for people and families who are active and love the outdoors, city or apartment dwellers, and even farm life.

Health and Potential Problems

Miniature American Shepherd puppy's head

Because the MAS is a relative of the Australian Shepherd, they have some of the same health problems. Some of the most common conditions this breed encounters are spinal defects, collie eye abnormality, epilepsy, cataracts, patellar luxation, and hip dysplasia.

In some cases, the cause of the health problems is associated with the merle gene in the breed. As such, there are also MAS puppies born deaf, so it is important to start testing early.

See Also: How to Train a Deaf Dog

However, MAS that are healthy and visit the vet regularly can expect to live a long and happy life. Life expectancy for this breed is approximately 13 years.

Care Features

Miniature American Shepherd lying by the fence

MAS were bred to herd, so they are high energy, high stamina dogs. They need lots of exercises, preferably a long walk every day or short multiple walks daily. They thrive on mental stimulation too. They love sniffing games, hide and seek, and other obstacles that challenge their intelligence.

This dog sheds approximately twice a year. Brush daily when they are shedding. Even when they are not shedding, once weekly brushing of the coat is recommended to prevent dirt buildup and matting. You will also have to practice regular bathing to get rid of debris and other dirt on their coats.

Their nails and coats should be trimmed regularly. Their ears should also be checked for wax buildup. Finally, don’t forget to brush their teeth to prevent the development of periodontal diseases.

See Also: Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Feeding Schedule

It is important to note that while the MAS is a small dog, they are not in the toy dog breed category. Therefore, potential owners should avoid feeding them dog food formulated for toy dogs.

Perhaps the best choice is to find dog food specially formulated for active dogs. This will ensure that the energy needs of the breed are met.

Follow instructions when feeding your dog. Always make sure to give the appropriate amount of food for their age and weight. Give treats sparingly to avoid obesity.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

red Miniature American Shepherd

MAS have beautiful coat colors which come in autumn red, blue merle, and tri-colored (skin, whitish, and black). MAS are very easy to groom. Their coats are short but dense, so they only need a once weekly brushing with a stiff bristled-brush.

Some owners can get away with less frequent brushing, but these dogs are a bit low on the ground so outdoor exercise will find them with debris on their coats. It’s better to brush weekly to keep the coat clean and untangled. During shedding season, brush their hair daily to help mitigate the loose hair.

For hygiene, brush their teeth 2-3 times weekly, but a once weekly session is better than none. Check their nails monthly for a trim. They are a relatively healthy breed, but they should still be taken to the vet regularly for checkups.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Miniature American Shepherd puppy with a dog

MAS can be shy at first especially towards strangers including dogs and other pets. They are rarely aggressive, but early socialization should take care of their wariness. MAS that are raised from puppyhood with other pets and dogs get along fairly well together.

MAS are playful and protective. They seem to have endless energy, and they love to tumble and play with kids. Their protectiveness, gentleness, and playfulness make them good companions for young children.

However, MAS have strong herding instincts. It is important to train your dog not to chase, herd, or nip at small pets or kids.

Wrap Up

Miniature American Shepherd puppy on white

The Miniature American Shepherd might be small, but they still have the “herding dog” in them. They have the same energy, intelligence, and loyalty as the Australian Shepherd; they are just smaller. This means that they make the ideal household pet.

This breed is easy to live with especially if you’re a city or apartment dweller. They are small enough to travel with and are very at home in dog parks and on the farm. The MAS is a very versatile breed that can be used to drive livestock or as a companion for small children and families.

As an active dog, they are best suited for active owners who love to exercise. They are happy when they have something to do and thrive on canine sports and mental stimulation. This is a perfect breed not only for farmers and ranchers but also for active people and young families.

Have you come across a MAS lately? Do you think that the Miniature American Shepherd is a good match for your lifestyle? Do you think you can keep up with their exercise requirements and active personality? Tell us by leaving your comments below. If you decide to adopt a MAS, our article on little dog names will help you pick a good name for him/her.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.