Should I Get a Mini Australian Shepherd or a Regular Standard Australian Shepherd? What Are the Differences?

Mini Australian ShepherdI cannot tell a lie. I’m wavering. I’d initially wanted to wait at least a year before bringing another dog into my life. I’m blaming it all on my daughter, Cait.

She’s been having me look at Aussies in Rescue and Shelters for her. She’s thinking she wants a Mini Aussie with a tail. Specifically a Mini Aussie Blue Merle. This is the girl she has her heart set on. She’s also thinking smaller is better for apartment living.

Looking at all these Australian Shepherds in various sizes (there are even Toy Aussies now) is torture. It’s taking all my resolve not to find myself one today!

black-tri-aussieWhile Cait is interested in a mini Australian Shepherd merle, I would want to go back to Kiera’s breeder to get a standard size Australian Shepherd Black Tri.

In my opinion, Kiera was the perfect dog in every way. Stunning. Not over-the-top energy and yet indefatigably athletic. She could go on long runs with Andrew and still have plenty of oomph left over. And, of course, it goes without saying, brilliant.

So all of this has me researching what the differences are between Mini Aussies (also called American Aussies) and standard Aussies besides just size and weight. Come to find out, there are what I would consider significant differences. The Mini Aussie is way more than just a smaller version of a Standard Aussie.

Differences between Mini Aussies vs Standard Aussies:


First, Mini Aussies are now their own AKC breed.

The name for the mini Aussie certified with the American Kennel Club is the “Miniature American Shepherd.” The AKC fully accredited the breed in 2015. While the American Stock Dog Registry lists them as the “Miniature Australian Shepherd.”

Despite the decision of the AKC to call the breed “Miniature American Shepherd,” they are the same dog as the “Miniature Australian Shepherd,” and most people use the names interchangeably.

Height and Weight Differences

Standard Australian Shepherds’ height in males ranges between 20 to 23 inches in height. Females range from 18 to 21 inches. The average weight is 50 to 65 pounds for males and 40 to 55 pounds for females.

Miniature Australian Shepherd males are between 14 to 18 inches tall and females are from 13 to 17 inches tall. The weight range is from 20 to 40 pounds.


Both breeds come in the traditional Aussie colors: Merle, Black, Red Merle, Red tricolor, Black tricolor, Blue Merle and Red. The tricolor refers to white and tan or copper markings.

Life Expectancy

A Standard Aussie’s lifespan is typically from 12-15 years. (Kiera made it to 13 and would have lived longer if she hadn’t developed vestibular disease.)

Mini Aussies come in at around 13 years life expectancy.


Depending on who you talk to, some think Mini Aussies are bigger barkers and more anxiety-prone. There are others who say the opposite–that they actually bark less than standard Aussies. And when they are herding, they seldom bark at all. And, in theory, since they’re smaller, they can do better in an apartment and a smaller backyard. Some think they are also more affectionate than standard Aussies. While that may sound wonderful, as velcro dogs to begin with–“even more affectionate” can cause problems if you have to leave your dog alone for hours at a time.

But both sizes, as herding dogs, are high energy, intelligent, and protective of their family. These are velcro dogs who don’t like to be separated from their persons. Either size can develop separation anxiety if you leave them alone for too long. They typically bond most strongly with one family member but are protective of all.

Socialization and Training

Because these are herding dogs, they need a tremendous amount of socialization to not become anxious and distrusting of strangers. This should be your number one priority. 

Training is also a must. If you don’t train your Aussie they will train you. An untrained, unsocialized Aussie is an Aussie that winds up in Rescue because they just become too much for their family to handle.

Because they are strong-minded, high-energy dogs, they don’t make good dogs for first-time dog owners. Yes, they are gorgeous and smart, and funny. But they are a handful. Heed these words and take them seriously. Be a responsible dog person and don’t get a dog that you don’t have the time and experience for.


Be prepared for sticker shock. Prices seem to be all over the map for both, ranging from $1,500 on the low end to upwards of a heart-stopping $5,000 or more on the high end.

Because Cait isn’t in a position to spend that kind of money and she grew up with herding dogs, she’s comfortable going to the rescue well, knowing that she also has me to help her evaluate any dog she’d be considering. Even with that, she’s aware that it likely won’t be a walk in the park, that she’d be bringing home a dog that will need extra TLC and training. Wish us luck.

23 thoughts on “Should I Get a Mini Australian Shepherd or a Regular Standard Australian Shepherd? What Are the Differences?”

  1. I’m still on the fence about whether to get another pure bred Aussie or a mini Aussie. My husband and I have had two Aussies, one male and one female and they were both absolutely great dogs. We are retiring soon and trying to figure out if a mini would be better? I just don’t want a yappy little nervous dog. What is the temperment of the minis? It’s good to read all the comments, very helpful!

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      Truly, a Mini Aussie is a full-sized Aussie in a slightly smaller body and shorter legs. Easier to pick up and easier to tire on walks. : )

      While all dogs can develop unwanted barking habits, Mini Aussies are not generally known to be yappy or overly nervous. Proper training and socialization from an early age can help prevent these behaviors. But even more than that is to find a fantastic breeder. Good dogs start with good breeders!

      Given your experience with standard Aussies and your upcoming retirement, a Mini Aussie could be a great fit for a slightly smaller, but still energetic and affectionate, companion.

    2. We have a mini Aussie with a most beautiful plume tail…She carries it with pride. We have typically had German shepherds, but into retirement, I also wanted to go smaller. Her mom weighed 20 lbs and the sire was 30. Our 2 year old tricolor female is off the mini scale, at 18 inches and weighing 45 Ibs. She was the smallest of her litter and has surpassed all her siblings in size, a couple by almost double! She is healthy according to our vet, but I need to be more mindful of not to over feed her. So…she’s on the cusp of being a regular Aussie.
      She’s great with kids and I don’t think she’s ever been cranky…always a smile on her face. She hardly sheds, so this is a BIG change for us. (Did I mention we’ve always had German shepherds?) When I brush her, the soft undercoat is what comes out, and it’s only a handful…unlike or GS’s which come out in bags!
      She does bark a bit, but only to warn us someone is at the door. Then she stops. Oh…something we weren’t accustomed to. She definitely is a Velcro dog. She’s like a shadow and has us in sight at all times. I’ve had to work with her on leaving the house and she’s doing much better at figuring, though we go sometimes, we always come back. When we return, even if it’s for an hour, it’s like she hadn’t seen us for years. I find this a bit ridiculous, but once we give her some hugs and pats, she stops.
      She loves her routine, and she can tell time! Eating, walks, when my husband comes home from work, etc.
      Anyway, though a bit of a diva at times, we truly adore her, and though we understand all dogs are different, we would not hesitate to get another. It’s a great breed…easy to train, especially with patience and consistency. Good luck!

      1. Monica,
        Thanks for sharing your experience with your Mini Aussie. She sounds delightful–and very typical for the breed. I’m sure this will help others who are considering Mini Aussies.

  2. We have a Australian toy shepherd a , gray and white , one blue eyed one brown and he is overly protective to the point he nipped people,what can we do to stop this?

    1. Hi Marcelica,
      This isn’t something I can be of much help with here. You need to find a local experienced positive trainer who can come to your house to observe and work with your Aussie. Somebody needs to be there to see the chain of behaviors that occur leading up to the nipping. What is it your dog is doing? What is it the people are doing? And then create a tailored plan to help you. I hope this is something you’re able to do sooner rather than later as it gets harder to train away from deeply established behaviors. Good luck!

  3. Hi Karen,
    I understand your dilemma-I just went through the same. I’ve owned 4 full sized Aussies for the last 30 years – all were long lived except for my last one who died at 10 yr in October–his death was the hardest as I wasn’t prepared for it at all, I contacted his wonderful breeder just to let her know the sad news and lo and behold she had a litter of miniature American shepherds about to be born (11/27). I hesitated but now completely on-board with a mini–will pick him up at the end of January. I love these dogs –every one of mine has been a delight. Good luck with your decision.

  4. We’ve owned Aussies for over 30 yrs, each one had our hearts and love, my husband was a Marine station at camp lejuene, over 6 yrs. Always was the one who took care of their last days, it was like losing your best friend. Now it was up to me, so hard to do. But I’m sure they’re with my husband now. I was so lost, and just purchased a mini, always had standard size. She’s so loving, and lays on my husband slippers. I’m grateful for making other Aussie part of my life. They can be a handful, at first, their love and devotion will always be with you.

  5. Hi! I really want a mini Aussie but my wife is worried about the amount of shedding. Can you please shed (ha) some light on how much mini Aussies shed and how it differs (if at all) from how much regular Aussies shed?


    1. Hi Jacob, mini Aussies shed the same amount as standard Aussies. Sorry… :)

      What has saved me is to get a cordless stick vacuum. Super light weight and easy to whip out at a moment’s notice. Makes it easy to stay on top of all the hair.

      Maybe if you make it a two-fer? A mini Aussie and a cordless vac?

    2. We have a beautiful standard tri aussie (9 years old) and are actually picking up our second standard aussie (blue merle puppy) tomorrow. The best purchase for grooming I have ever made was an All-In-One Pet Grooming and Vacuum kit!! It has several different brush attachments (for dog and upholstery). As you brush, all the loose hair and undercoat goes straight into the vacuum container. The hose is long, so the noise isn’t close to your pet. It also has amazing clippers with guards (for paws and sanitary) that ducks all the hair as you trim, and a nail grinder which takes in any dust. I got mine on sale for $20, but let me tell you, I’d happily pay $200 for it if I had to! I no longer use a groomer at all, and the upholstery attachment gets all the stuck on hair off car seats and car floors! It’s cut my indoor vacuuming down at least 70% because I’m sucking all loose hairs as I brush. Normal brushing gets a LOT of hair, but always leaves a lot in the coat that are still loose. Good luck!! Either way, they are well worth the shedding, I promise!

  6. where can i find a senior aussie shepard that needs a home?
    i am 82 and my wife is 81? we had an aussie years ago and she lived to be 14.

    1. Hi James,
      I completely understand wanting to live with another Aussie but realizing that as we’ve slowed down a bit, we’d want a dog that’s slowed down a bit too.

      You can check with breeders near you to see if any have older dogs. Or you can try Aussie Rescue.

      These two tactics should get you pointed in the right direction.

      Best of luck!

  7. Had a mini ausie only lived 8 years due to arthritic spurs in back that paralyzed her and had to be put to sleep. She had the sweetest, personality. You never had to correct her but once and that behavior never happened again. Always obeyed and never aggressive. She weighed 15# as an adult. We purchased a puppy from a local breeder
    and this dog was as much an opposite as could be. She weighed 18# at 9 months. Tall and more aggressive to strangers as time went on. Knew what was expected of her but would only obey in her own time. Returned after months of emotional stress and finally a month of boarding training. Tearful surrender but she wouldn’t ever be the companion the first dog was????

    1. Hi Bec, I’m sure that had to be a very tough decision for you. It sounds like you tried your best to make it work. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we aren’t able to turn a difficult situation around. I feel for you.

  8. As to price, because of the increasing popularity of Mini Aussies you will naturally see an increase in cost. Also, good breeders are vigilant in testing their breeding stock for genetic problems like eye problems and hip issues. Go and meet the breeder and see and sense who the person is with this business. Some you will immediately walk away, others you will get a sense of how much they love their dogs…and you will too. I wouldn’t recommend an Aussie for an apartment or leaving them alone for hours at a time. They are very emotional dogs and can become distraught and ruin you abode. Leaving them for a few hours is fine, just not all day because you work. These are very intelligent dogs and need stimulation and exercise daily with a responsible adult teaching a child how to care and nurture their dog. We tried crate training or last dog, a male, and he tore apart his crate. We then put him on our bed and he curled up and went to sleep(your daughter will like this). They are natural herders and want to be with you and will guard the household free of charge!

    1. Thanks for sharing that info. Much appreciated. As I tell all would-be aussie owners, it’s up to you to do your due diligence in finding and purchasing from a reputable breeder. I’m sure nobody wants to be supporting puppy mills.

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