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A Miniature American shepherd outside.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Herding group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 13-18 inches
  • Weight — 20-40 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Medium, head-turning double coat
  • Coat color — Black, blue merle, red, and red merle with tan points and/or white markings
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Moderately vocal
  • Life span — 12-13 years
  • Temperament — Social, affectionate, and energetic
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — United States

Miniature American shepherd fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Miniature American Shepherds Milo; Finn is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Miniature American Shepherds love Luna, then Bella.

  • Miniature American shepherds look like smaller versions of Australian shepherds. Miniature American shepherd dogs, formerly miniature Australian shepherd dogs, were likely bred down from their Australian counterparts, and the two share similar physical and social characteristics.
  • Don’t let their size fool you. Miniature American shepherds are herding dogs that require tons of physical and mental stimulation. Lots of exercise and participation in dog sports are high on these pups’ to-do lists.
  • Miniature American shepherds are new pups on the block (sort of). The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 2015, making it one of the newer breeds on the registry.
A Miniature American shepherd resting on a bench.

Miniature American shepherd temperament and characteristics 

The miniature American shepherd is known for its sweet and loyal personality. They’re incredibly affectionate dogs known for showering their humans with plenty of love. The miniature American shepherd makes a great family pet, including in homes with small children and dogs. This breed also has a noted love of horses.

As a herding breed, they’re typically not great with cats, but a responsible breeder or shelter can give you more insights into the miniature American shepherd dog’s friendliness toward cats. Though miniature American shepherds can be welcoming toward strangers, they are typically a bit reserved at first.

American shepherd dogs are very playful and require a good bit of physical and mental stimulation. They thrive in homes with active families who can give them the love and attention they crave.


The Miniature American Shepherd has a beautiful thick coat, and the coloring varies. According to the AKC breed standards, acceptable coat colors are black, blue merle, red (liver), and red merle. The merle will exhibit marbling, flecks, or blotches in any amount. White markings are not required, but when present, they do not dominate. Tan markings vary in shades from creamy beige to dark rust, with no preference.

Common miniature American shepherd health problems 

Miniature American shepherds quickly become members of our families, and no one likes to think about their beloved dog getting sick. Still, knowing about potential health problems now helps ensure your dog receives prompt care later.

  • Multidrug resistance mutation. The MDR1 gene mutation is common in herding breeds like the miniature American shepherd. It means your dog may have reactions to some drugs.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy . This hereditary eye disorder can be generalized (only affecting a dog’s sight at night) or centralized (can cause central vision loss).
  • Hip dysplasia. A dog with hip dysplasia has an abnormality in the hip joint that can lead to pain and early-onset arthritis.
  • Cataracts. Dogs with an opacity of the lens have cataracts . Cataracts may be genetic and appear in puppies or young dogs, while diseases like diabetes trigger other occurrences.

👉 Responsible breeders will not breed dogs with hereditary cataracts.

Cost of caring for miniature American shepherds

Caring for any animal is an expense. But veterinarian bills can add up if they have a health issue. The price tag depends on the problem.

While there is no treatment for progressive retinal atrophy, dogs with MDR1 live regular lives, except for needing different preventative drugs every month. Generally, low doses of parasite-preventative drugs like Heartgard are safe to take every month. Ivermectin is also generally safe, though some pet owners will also avoid it and opt for milbemycin (Interceptor) instead. But others, like loperamide, could have neurologic effects. It’s essential to work closely with your vet to discuss safe medications for your dog, but you likely won’t have to spend more or less to treat MDR1 than you would for a dog without it.

Hip dysplasia gets managed with options ranging from exercise to surgery, which costs $3,000 or more. Cataract surgery is typically $5,000 or more, though it varies by the vet and area.

Health insurance can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The greatest benefits go to pet parents who sign their pets up early. Other options worth considering are creating a budget or starting a pet savings account.

A Miniature American shepherd in flowers.

History of the miniature American shepherd

This breed is a descendant of a Pyrenees mountain herding dog, which arrived in the U.S. from Australia, a stopover for the Australian shepherd on its way from Spain.

Yes, it’s confusing, but the miniature American shepherd dog we know today was developed in California by ranchers who began breeding Australian shepherds to be smaller. The miniature American shepherd reached its current breed standard size in the 1970s and became a hit on the rodeo circuit. Known as mini Australian shepherds for decades, they changed to a new name: miniature American shepherd with AKC recognition in 2015.

These days, you can find these agility-loving dogs living it up at dog parks, playing fetch with their people, and settling in for post-exercise cuddle sessions. Though they still have the physical and mental stimulation needs of their herding ancestors, their favorite gig is being a family dog.

Caring for your miniature American shepherd

Miniature American shepherds are loving family pets. However, bringing home a new puppy of any breed is a big life change with plenty of to-dos. The first vet trip is right at the top of the list. You’ll need to schedule your dog’s vaccinations and prepare for teething.

Miniature American shepherds may be small herding dogs, but they’re curious and energetic. Puppy-proofing your home will keep them safe.

No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re ready just in case. Here are some other essentials for miniature American shepherds.


Miniature American shepherds are highly-intelligent dogs bred for work. Exercise helps them stay physically and mentally stimulated.

Daily walks are a great start. Games of fetch or participation in dog sports like agility courses are also a favorite of the miniature American shepherd. Some dog parks have agility courses, or you can make one in your backyard. Puzzle toys can also keep your dog engaged.

Like humans, these pups require hydration before, during, and after physical activity, especially in the heat. Be sure to keep your dog’s bowl full of fresh water.

A Miniature American shepherd running in the snow.


Keeping a miniature American shepherd groomed is mostly a matter of maintenance. The medium-length coat won’t require trimmings. You may be able to go your dog’s entire life without stepping foot in a groomer’s office.

Still, you’ll want to take care of the basics. Daily to weekly brushings will keep your mini American shepherd’s coat shiny. The ASPCA suggests bathing your pet at least once every three months. Be sure to clean their ears regularly, including after dips in the water like baths. Daily teeth brushing can protect against gum disease. Be patient with your pet — not every miniature American shepherd takes to grooming right away. Shower them with praise and other rewards like treats.

Hypoallergenic dogs

Baths and cleanings can also help prevent allergens from getting into your home. Still, there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog breed. A protein found in dander, fur, and saliva can trigger reactions. Hypoallergenic dogs just shed less, so they have less effect than dogs that shed more. Miniature American shepherds are not considered hypoallergenic and shed a moderate amount.

Diet and nutrition

No need for fad diets. Most healthy miniature American shepherds do well with standard dog food with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal, which ensures it is nutritionally complete. Look for dog food designed for your pet’s size and age (puppy, adult, and senior).

Most veterinarians recommend feeding adult dogs twice per day — breakfast and dinner. Your vet can provide the best guidance on food portioning, but the dog food bag will have general guidelines. Sometimes, the bag will give recommendations based on daily intake. In these cases, divide by two.

Generally, a 30-pound, neutered adult dog should consume 794 calories per day.

👉 If your miniature American shepherd has a health condition or is overweight, talk to your vet. They can help you customize your dog’s diet.

Training your miniature American shepherd

Miniature American shepherds are highly intelligent and eager to please, making them one of the easier dogs to train.

Still, early training is essential. The Humane Society emphasizes using positive reinforcement. Small, low-calorie treats and praise will help your dog learn new commands better than yelling and timeouts. Reward your pet for completing a command. Eventually, you can wean off treats.

Keep commands short. Miniature American shepherds may be smart, but they can’t follow a lecture on the importance of waiting. “Sit,” “stay,” and “come” work best. If you find training overwhelming, speak with your vet. They can help you find professional trainers in your area who can help teach your miniature American shepherd in a group or one-on-one setting.

Miniature American shepherds thrive on mental and physical stimulation and can become anxious without it. Your vet can also advise about anxiety.

A Miniature American shepherd training in an agility course.

Breeds similar to the miniature American shepherd

Not quite sure that a miniature American shepherd is the best choice for your home? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to look into and think about other similar breeds. Responsible dog breeders and shelters can also give you more information on breeds and specific dogs. But here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Border collie. Border collies are also herding dogs and have playful, friendly demeanors.
  • German shepherds. If you’re looking for a larger herding dog, consider the German shepherd. These gentle giants make great family pets and are generally good with small kids.
  • Australian shepherd. These high-energy dogs were developed in Spain. They have similar temperaments to miniature American shepherds but are bigger.

Frequently asked questions

Do miniature American shepherds make good pets?

Miniature American shepherds make great pets for many types of homes. They generally get along great with small children and other dogs. As herding dogs, they may not be a good fit for homes with cats. A shelter or breeder can provide better insights. Miniature American shepherds do well in active households that can meet their needs for physical and mental stimulation.

Is a mini Aussie the same as a mini American shepherd?

Yes, mini-American shepherds and mini Aussies are the same dog. Mini American shepherds are small Australian shepherds and used to go by the name mini Australian shepherd. The name change was controversial but essentially done to gain AKC recognition, which the breed received in 2015.

How big do mini American shepherds get?

Miniature American shepherds can grow to be up to 18 inches and 40 pounds.

Do miniature American shepherds bark a lot?

Miniature American shepherds aren’t excessively vocal, but they aren’t quiet, either. They bark a moderate amount.

Are miniature American shepherds hard to train?

Every dog is different. However, miniature American shepherds have a reputation for taking to training easily. Their intelligence and eagerness to please help them pick up on commands quickly. Training from a young age can help a mini American shepherd become the best version of themselves.