Debating the Mini American or Australian? An Ultimate Shepherd Guide

There is an endless debate regarding these two dog breeds. They’re often put side by side and occasionally confused with one another. So, how does the Miniature American Shepherd vs. Australian Shepherd compare?

The Miniature American Shepherd and Australian Shepherd are two very similar breeds but with distinct differences. They exhibit identical personalities, temperaments, physical features, and needs in terms of care. However, they show a few differences in size, exercise requirements, and purchasing cost. 

Keep reading this article as we compare and contrast the Mini Australian Shepherd with its older cousin, the Australian Shepherd. We’ll delve deeply into their backgrounds and even discuss the controversial name change of the Mini Aussie. 

Miniature American Shepherd Vs. Australian Shepherd: Similarities and Differences

Key FactorsMiniature American ShepherdAustralian Shepherd 
Date of Origin1960s1800s
AncestryUndersized Australian ShepherdsCollies, the Leonese Sheepdog, the Basque Shepherd, and the Pyrenean Sheepdog. 
HeightMale: 14-18 inches (35.56-45.72 cm) –Female: 13-17 inches (33.02-43.18 cm)Male: 21-23 inches (53.34-58.42 cm) –Female: 18-21 inches (45.72-53.34 cm)
Weight 20-40 pounds (9.07-18.14 kg)40-65 pounds (18.14-29.48 kg)
Life Expectancy11-13 years12-15 years
Sensitivity LevelsHigher than AverageAverage
Exercise Needs1+ hours daily2+ hours daily
Grooming NeedsModerateModerate
Mini American Shepherd vs. Australian Shepherd


Both breeds were developed in the United States

However, the Australian Shepherds came first in the late 1800s. They were bred from various pastoral dogs, some imported from Australia and New Zealand, hence the breed name. These dogs include collies, the Leonese Sheepdog, the Basque Shepherd, and the Pyrenean Sheepdog. 

On the other hand, the Miniature American Shepherd was created in the 1960s by selectively breeding undersized Australian Shepherds. The goal was to produce miniature replicas but maintain the intelligence and deposition of the Aussie. The desired size of the MAS was attained in the 1970s. 

Also Read: 4 Main Mini Aussie Pros and Cons: How to Understand Your Dog

Physical Appearance

The most apparent difference between the MAS and the Aussie is the size. 

The Australian Shepherd is roughly twice the size of the Miniature American Sheperd. An adult male Aussie ranges between 21 to 23 inches (53.34-58.42 cm) tall, while the female ranges between 18 to 21 inches (45.72-53.34 cm).

Similarly, the Aussie is heavier than the MAS. Adult males weigh between 50 to 65 pounds (22.68 to 29.48 kg) and 40 to 55 pounds (18.14 to 24.95 kg) for females on average. 

Apart from the size, both breeds have similar physical characteristics. 

They have double coats, which come in distinct Aussie colors. Their bodies are strong, sturdy, and slightly longer, with proportionate, clean-cut heads. Their tails are bushy and naturally bobbed and curve upwards when held upright. 

Lastly, both breeds have gorgeous almond-shaped eyes, which can vary in color but are primarily blue, brown, or amber. Some dogs can exhibit heterochromia, that is, different colored eyes. 

Personality and Temperament

Both breeds show almost similar personalities and temperaments. They’re loyal, fun-loving, friendly, intelligent, and all-around good-natured family dogs. They’re gentle with children and other pets, especially when brought up together. 

However, most believe Miniature American Shepherds are more affectionate and sensitive than Aussies. But, both breeds show strong attachment to their owners, which can be problematic when they’re left alone for long periods. 

Both are herding breeds, so they’re energetic and need plenty of work. They tend to chase, push, or nip the heels of children and small pets due to their herding tendencies. They’re also very protective of their owners. Their guarding instincts can make them suspicious or aggressive toward strangers. 

Training and Exercise

The MAS and Aussie are highly responsive to training, thanks to their high level of intelligence and eager-to-please nature. They possess an incredible ability to learn obedience commands and respond well to training that stresses positive reinforcement. 

However, their intelligence can be a blessing and a curse. Both breeds need regular mental stimulation, which can be achieved through training and enrichment games, among other things. Similarly, they’re high-energy, athletic dogs, requiring plenty of physical activity to burn off excess energy. 

Failure to challenge their bodies and minds will result in behavior problems. Therefore, a different breed is a better match if your lifestyle can’t provide enough time for training and exercising these dogs. 

Miniature American Shepherds require at least an hour of daily physical activity to thrive. At the same time, Aussies need at least 2 hours daily. Activities can include long walks such as hiking or several short walks, say, two 30-minute walks daily. 

Play sessions and alone time running around in a sizeable fenced-in yard are essential, too. These dogs also love and perform admirably at competitions like obedience, agility, and track.

With enough exercise, the Miniature American Shepherd can quickly adapt to any environment. They can even live in the apartment due to their size. 

Conversely, Aussies thrive in rural settings or homes with big yards because of their size and energy requirements. 


Mini American Shepherd dog

Both breeds require the same amount of grooming. 

They shed hair all year round but significantly during the fall and spring seasons. Therefore, regular grooming helps to keep things in control. 

You’ll need to thoroughly brush them once weekly during light shedding and daily during heavy shedding.

These dog breeds don’t require daily baths as they can result in skin irritation and hair loss. However, you can bathe them weekly since they’re outdoor dogs. 

Additionally, clean their ears weekly and clip their nails when needed. You should also clean their teeth regularly and have them scaled occasionally to prevent dental issues. 

Health and Care

These dog breeds have different lifespans.

While a Miniature American Shepherd can live up to 13 years, its Australian Shepherd counterpart can live up to 15 years. 

However, various factors such as diet, hereditary diseases, and activity influences their lifespan.

The MAS and Aussie are genetically predisposed to specific health problems that can shorten their lives. They’re more prone to the following conditions than other breeds:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Vision problems
  • Obesity 
  • Respiratory problems
  • Deafness
  • Epilepsy 
  • Skin allergies

But, like other dogs, they can live long and healthy lives if cared for. A nutritious diet, vaccines, plenty of exercise, and routine veterinary checkups are crucial. 

On that note, it’s also important to only buy your dog from a trusted breeder who does genetic testing and can offer a health guarantee. Genetic testing reduces the possibility of canines having inherited health issues which is costly in the long run. 


The cost of buying either breed will depend on several factors, including

  • The dog’s age, grade, and pedigree 
  • Your location
  • The type of breeder

However, the Miniature American Shepherd tends to be more costly than the Australian Shepherd because most breeders consider it a designer breed. Its relative newness and the limited number of breeders are also contributing factors. You can pay up to $3,000 for a puppy from a trusted breeder. 

How Big Is a Mini American Shepherd?

Miniature American Shepherds stand between 13 to 18 inches (33-46 cm) at the shoulders. The withers height for adult females ranges between 13 to 17 inches (33-43 cm), while the adult males stand between 14 to 18 inches (36-46 cm).

On the other hand, the overall body length of a full-grown Mini American Shepherd is roughly between 20 to 28 inches (51-71 cm), and it weighs between 20 to 40 pounds (9.07-18.14 kgs). 

Why Are Mini Aussies Called Mini American Shepherds?

Mini Aussies are called Mini American Shepherds because they’re the same breed. The breed’s original name was Mini Australian Shepherd (Mini Aussie) since the dogs were initially selectively bred from undersized Australian Shepherds in the USA.  

Mini Aussies became very popular among herders, and in 1990, the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of the USA (MASCUSA) was founded to become the first registry for these dogs. 

However, some Aussie breeders and the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) refuted this name. 

ASCA even refused to be directly associated with the breed and considered them different from theirs.

And so when the AKC registered ASCA in 1993, they asked MASCUSA to rename their breed so it doesn’t match the Australian Shepherd (Aussie.) MASCUSA changed the name Miniature Australian Shepherd to North American Miniature Australian Shepherd. 

For the next several years, various organizations tried to agree on obtaining separate recognition of Mini Aussies. 

A consensus was eventually reached, and the breed named Miniature American Shepherd (MAS) was born in 2011

AKC also named MASCUSA the national parent club of the rechristened MAS and gave the breed full recognition in July 2015. 

It’s worth noting that the Mini Aussie community is still at loggerheads over this compromise

Not all tiny Aussie breeders agreed to the name change from Miniature Australian Shepherd. Therefore, some individuals still refer to their small dogs as Mini Aussies, not Mini American Shepherds. 

Mini American Shepherd Vs. Australian Shepherd: Which Dog to Pick?

Both dog breeds are connected in lineage, hence have a lot in common. 

The only remarkable difference is the size—MAS is smaller and easier to handle than Aussies. They can adapt to any environment if all their needs are met. 

Aussies, on the other hand, are larger and need more space and exercise requirements.

So, whatever choice you make should be based on your desired lifestyle.

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