While the American Kennel Club does not differentiate between Australian Shepherds based on size, their height at the top of their shoulders, the American Stock Dog Registry does.* The AKC gave the option for dogs to be registered as Miniature American Shepherds to account for the request for size differentiation. So, Australian Shepherds registered with the AKC can be any size. Miniature American Shepherds are only registered with the AKC, ASDR does not register this dog. Ok, now to Panhandle Australian Shepherds. We breed ASDR dogs only, at this time. I like a lot of the AKC Australian Shepherds I simply don't have one yet :). What does that mean for you? ASDR registered toy, mini and standard Australian Shepherds have the same breed makeup. So, for instance, if you ask me if mini Australian Shepherds like water I'll tell you it depends on the dog. The fact that the dog is a mini does not mean it may be more skiddish, less active, not a 'water dog'. BUT, here's what I've learned and I'm so glad I did. Lines (parental lineage, the dogs a breeder evaluates and chooses to breed, the crosses a breeder chooses to make) are VERY DIFFERENT one from the next. So while it is not true that 'skiddish around new people or in crowds' is a characteristic of a well bred Australian Shepherd, you may certainly find it to be common in a particular breeders dogs. OR VICE VERSA :), 'especially outgoing, has never met a stranger'. One of the favorite bits of feedback I get about my male toys is that they are a man dog in a little dog body. The surprise comes from various assumptions. First, there are a handful of small breed dogs that are known for being fearful, reactive, barky, skiddish. It is a surprise to many people to have a confident, outgoing, fearless little dog. The second common assumption is that the genetic makeup of a toy or mini Australian Shepherd is different, somehow, from a standard sized Aussie. NOW, brace yourself if you bring this up in various online forums. Many people INSIST that smaller Aussies MUST be crossed with smaller breeds to be as small as they are. I'll say this to that, a puppy from my 12" merle male Snickers and 13 1/2" black tri female Sassy tested 100% miniature american shepherd by Embark.** That doesn't mean another breed wasn't introduced at some point but it's also a helpful indication that it wasn't, or, if nothing else, is now an undetectably small percentage of the dog's makeup, enough so that it's genetics match a purebred.*** That's enough for now, hope this gives you a little bit of framework.
*There are various other dog registries not mentioned in this article. This article was written as a beginner/fly over tool for people just looking into the Australian Shepherd breed for the first time.
**Embarks fine print states that their tests are for educational purposes only. Because there are an infinitesimal number of dog 'breeds' the data collection is not feasible. The science isn't available for a 100% accurate breed identification test, that said, consider their stated margin for error and go from there. I believe it's 15%.
***Each registry has it's own ways of attempting to ensure accuracy. Most of them operate somewhat, if not mainly, on the honor system. Saying a dog has strong vs weak 'type' is the verbiage used to communicate how much a dog looks as you should/would expect it to per it's written definition of breed standard.
Now for a PS: IF a dog is unregistered there is a reason and it's not a good one. How can I be so bold? Because it's not that hard AT ALL to acquire a registered dog and to register your litters. It isn't even very hard to find a dog a breeder will sell you with breeding rights for the same price other breeders are selling without. Why might your breeder not have papers? Because said breeder didn't purchase a dog from someone who's dogs are papered. Why might either of them not have papers? Often, they didn't spend the additional required by the original breeder to be given breeding rights. They may have 'pure bred' dogs but if they tried to file for papers the original breeder could/would refuse to sign off. A second reason they don't have papers could be that the breeder of their dog evaluated their program, or lack thereof, and couldn't agree to support their endeavor. (poor facilities, lack of resources, refusal to health test, etc). A third reason could certainly be that your breeder bought a pet quality dog, a dog that didn't pass the minimal tests/evaluations (by 8 weeks) it needed to to have the potential the be a breeding prospect. No papers, on the surface, can seem like not that big of a deal. But that's just it, it's not that hard to get and have them. It's a pretty low bar relative to all that caring for puppies and being a trustworthy, reputable business person requires. I, personally, am uncomfortable working with someone that doesn't have that duck in a row. ;)
Again, this is a chatting-in-the-latte-line flyover. If you'd like to dig a little deeper on any aspect of this 'article' ask away!