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Pincie Creek Australian Shepherds

About our breed

There are things that happen sometimes with dogs, things that you've heard of but don't believe, or think they can never happen to you.  Or just "Lessons Learned" that might help someone else.  We'd like to share some things that did happen to us so you will know not only that it CAN happen, it can happen to you:

The Merle WHITE in Disguise - Everyone knows that a merle (or "double", or "lethal") white puppy, which sometimes results from the breeding of two merle parents, is easily recognized at birth because of its predominantly white body and the absence of color around the eyes and/or ears.  Right??  WRONG!!  We try to avoid breeding merle to merle if possible, but sometimes there's a particular cross we want to make and in order to make it, we have to breed merle to merle.  We had a litter from two merle parents.  There were three obviously merle white puppies.  The others were marked normally with color completely covering ears, eyes, etc.  There was one small blue male puppy with even less white than the others - he had only a narrow blaze, white chest, and white feet.  Merling covered the rest of his body.  His mother tried to push him away at birth and we suppose she knew then there was something wrong.  But we helped him to nurse a few times and then his mother accepted him just like the others.  He didn't grow as quickly as the other puppies but was active and had a good appetite.  When the puppies' eyes opened we saw that his were a beautiful sky blue.  About this time we began to notice he didn't act like the other puppies.  He didn't explore the nursery like the others.  He sat alone most of the time and cried pitifully like he was lost.  We thought it was because he got off to a rather slow start and was smaller than the others.  The older the puppies got the more difference we noticed.  He didn't find the food bowl as readily and when one of his siblings pounced on him in play, he would startle and cry as if terribly frightened.  At the age of five weeks we had him tested and he was both deaf and blind.  This perfectly marked puppy was actually a homozygous merle.  So...merle white puppies are not always readily recognizable.  Be extra cautious when evaluating merle puppies from merle to merle breedings.

Hemophilia doesn't exist in Australian Shepherds.  Right?  WRONG.  Several years ago we bred an outside bitch that belonged to a friend of mine to one of our male dogs.  When the pups were three days old my friend wanted to go out of town and I agreed to puppy sit.  She brought me the bitch and the puppies straight from the vet's office after having tails docked and dewclaws removed.  There were only three pups in the litter (all males, two blues and a black) and when I looked in the towel lined basket I was astounded at the amount of blood I saw, and commented on it.  My friend replied that the vet did have a little trouble getting one of them to stop bleeding but they'd be okay.  I got mama and babies settled in and left them alone for a while.  A couple of hours later I checked on them and found the biggest, fattest, prettiest puppy in the litter, a blue, lying dead in a pool of blood.  A little warning bell went off in my head as I remembered what I'd heard about puppies that bled to death after tail docking, but I thought, "Nah, that couldn't happen to me."  My friend was very understanding about the death of the puppy, the bitch had chewed the stitches out and we both attributed his blood loss to that.  But deep inside I still felt uneasy.  I took the other blue male as stud fee, and we sold him to a friend of ours that lives locally.  The black tri male was sold out of state.   A couple of months later the friend called and asked if we'd had any trouble with the other puppy bleeding excessively.  With my heart pounding I asked him why.  And he told me that his puppy had been in the vet's office three times, twice with uncontrollable bleeding under the skin from unknown causes, and now because uncontrollable bleeding resulted when he lost one of his baby teeth.  He'd had pressure packs and two blood transfusions.  The vet seemed to think he was getting into rat poison somewhere but my friend said there was no way he was getting into poison.  I knew something was terribly wrong.  We had blood drawn on pups, sire, and dam, and sent to Cornell University for analysis.  The diagnosis was hemophilia, the type which is transmitted through the dam.  The other puppy, a black tri male, was not affected.  (Incidentally, the vet at Cornell told me that their experience had shown that blue dogs, of all breeds, are affected more often with hemophilia than other colors.)  After talking with the owner of the bitch and the bitch's breeder, I was satisfied that there was no known history of hemophilia in the line.  That's when we learned from Cornell that hemophilia can occur "spontaneously" in a bitch by the mutation of a certain gene, with no family history of the disease, and she then passes it to her male puppies.  So if you ever have a similar situation, trust your instincts if you sense something is wrong.  Hemophilia CAN occur in your dogs.

The Bred Outside Bitch - Suzy was a nice red tri working bitch that belonged to a friend of ours.  He asked us about breeding Suzy to one of our male dogs for a working litter.  We agreed, and after having the necessary testing performed to determine the timing was right and the bitch was clean, he dropped Suzy off for a ten day stay to be bred to our red merle male.  Instead of being ready Suzy seemed to be either just getting ready or already going out of heat and was not very cooperative, but we chalked her behavior up to being a maiden bitch and we managed to get her bred.  Our friend picked her up, we gave him the expected due dates, and cautioned him about keeping her confined.  "No problem," he said.  A little more than two weeks before the expected due date he called us with the news that Suzy was a mother.  Skeptical because of the early birth, we asked if the puppies were all right and he said they were fine, there were nine of them, all big and fat and healthy.  We asked what colors and sexes he had, and he started off, "Well, there are two blue merles, two blacks..."  "Whoa, wait a minute," we said, "that can't be.  Both parents are red."  He said that was true but he sure had blue and black puppies.  Now we knew the bitch hadn't been exposed to another male we started questioning him pretty closely.  And he admitted that before he brought her to be bred she had been running loose because they lived out in the country and there weren't any dogs close by...well, there WAS a blue merle male Aussie about two miles down the road but he didn't figure there was any way...  We told him there certainly had been a way, that his bitch was already bred when she came to us, and we would not register this litter as sired by our dog unless he wanted to pay for DNA testing. Which of course he didn't.  (There were also some reds in the litter so it's possible, although not likely, that some of the puppies were sired by our male.)  We were LUCKY -- had the visiting Aussie male been red, we might never have known what happened until much later down the road.  Besides almost causing a litter to be registered erroneously, this "friend" had also exposed our male dog to possible diseases carried by the visitor (thankfully, everybody tested clear).  So be extremely cautious when taking outside bitches for breeding -- it CAN happen to you.




~~ Inquiries Welcomed ~~
Roger & Kathy Stevens
175 Fortson Road
Dothan, Alabama  36305
Phone 334-692-3883 (call after 7:30 p.m. CST)
or email us at


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