Smart, energetic, and protective — that’s the Australian Cattle Dog.
There isn’t a more loyal companion than this buddy. You’ll become its whole world from day one. They have many names, and each justifies a particular trait. But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies with these dogs.
Let’s learn all about the breed’s history, personality, and well-being. We’ll cover:
- Origin of the Australian Cattle Dog
- Common Health Issues and Lifespan
- Nutrients for the Australian Cattle Dog
- Grooming Tips
- Where to Find the Breed in the US
- Australian Cattle Dog Facts
The Blue, Red, or Queensland Heeler
If you don’t think that a dog’s obsession with its owner is a real thing, you haven’t met a Blue Heeler dog yet. Now that’s a true friend in every sense of the word. We’re talking about a loyal, hard-working, and energetic breed.
Initially, they were herding dogs, and they still require daily activities to spend their excess energy. They usually bond with only one family member, and the others are more like occasional play buddies.
You can find the dog under many names, including Blue and Red Heeler or Queensland Heeler.
Herders With Australian Ancestry
The Australian breed has a fascinating history. During the early 80s, Australian farmers urgently needed a herding dog that would tame their wild cattle. Because the European breeds couldn’t get the job done, the farmers started to mix different dogs to get strong, working ones.
They wanted a dog that could work under the high Australian temperatures and tame the herd without barking because that made the animals even wilder. So, farmers crossed the Blue Merle with the Australian breed Dingo.
The mix produced the so-called Australian Cattle Dog, which fulfilled the farmers’ criteria. Later, they crossbred it with dogs like Collies, Dalmatians, and Kelpies and got even more fascinating dogs.
These dogs are also known as the Blue or Red Heeler and Queensland Heeler. Queensland comes from the city, and they added Heeler because of the dog’s herding style of nipping and biting at the heels of the uncontrollable cattle.
The Blue Heeler dog breed was the most popular among Australian farm crossbreeds and was famous for its blue eyes and coat. The Red Heeler also got its name because of the beautiful red coat of some mix-breed Australian Cattle Dogs.
Appearance Resembles Their Dingo Ancestry
The breed inherits most of its wild physical appearance from its parent — Dingo, Australia’s wild dog. At first sight, you’ll notice that the Heeler dog breed has a muscular body. Although it’s medium-sized, you shouldn’t underestimate its strength.
These dogs have long tails and double coats. The eyes are brown and oval, giving them a curious look. Some Heelers have blue eyes, but they’re not acceptable by show standard. It’s considered a unique characteristic of this breed.
The breed also inherited its broad skull and medium-length muzzle from the Dingo. Also, the Heeler’s ears are small and always pointed upwards, giving it an alert expression.
Size & Weight
The length and weight can vary slightly between the mixed breeds. Generally, cattle dogs are medium-sized. The Australian Cattle Dog size is about 18–20 inches for males and 17–19 inches for female dogs. A full-grown Blue Heeler weighs 35–50 pounds.
Coat Color & Type
The breed has a double coat. The undercoat is dense and shot, while the outer coat is hard, flat rain- and heat-resistant. That has helped the Heeler dog to survive the Australian weather.
Most Cattle Dog puppies are born white due to their Dalmatian ancestry. When they mature, they develop their striking coat colors.
The coat can be of two types: spotted or mottled. The main colors of the Australian Cattle Dog are red and blue, hence the names. Other colors include gray, black, and white. It all comes down to the parents’ genes.
The blue coat on these dogs results from their black and white hair mixing. That’s what gives the impression of a bluish color.
If you’re wondering whether the Australian Cattle Dog is shedding, it does, especially during shedding season. Also, their coats aren’t hypoallergenic, so people with allergies should be careful around them.
Fun Fact: Breeds with blue coats are more “invisible” at night than other dogs, so the Blue Heeler is perfect for keeping an eye on the cattle without being noticed.
Temperament — An Intelligent Herder That Can Outsmart Its Owner
The Blue Heeler personality can be challenging for first-time owners. These dogs will give 100% and expect the same of you, too.
Blue Heelers are very attached to their owner and protective of their family. The strong herding instinct in these dogs is one of the reasons why they can’t live in small apartments and crowded places. They’re born to run wild and free in the fields. So, if you want this dog, you better get the best invisible dog fence. Limited space and view intimidate this freedom-loving breed.
These dogs are always out and about, so you should provide constant physical and mental stimulation. Otherwise, they can become pretty stubborn and fall into mischief, like nipping and biting furniture, barking, or becoming aggressive.
If You’re Searching for a Couch Potato, You’re in the Wrong Place
The Australian Cattle Dog temperament is a whole new experience for dog owners worldwide. These dogs never get tired of agility exercises or playing Frisbee, so you have to be creative and keep them entertained, or things will go downhill really fast.
These dogs are the happiest when they have a task, especially a herding one, so make them feel special and needed. They simply have to be the star of the show wherever they go, showing their tricks and running around.
A Strong Family Devotion
Healers are good and loyal family dogs. They’re attached to their owners and excellent watchdogs.
But are Heelers good family dogs in all cases? It depends on the family and how they raise the dog. You should keep a few things in mind before welcoming this furry pal into your family:
- Keep the dog away from small children. While they’re generally good with kids, Heeler dogs may be problematic around small children because they’ll see them as prey and may start to “nip” at their heels and bite them.
- They’re not suitable for older people. Their energy can sometimes be tiring. If you can’t meet their needs, Australian Heeler dogs can become aggressive and stubborn towards their owners.
- They can be dominant over other animals in the house. Heelers can be quite aggressive towards cats unless they’re raised together. Also, they might see dogs of similar size and sex as competition.
- A big NO for people living in apartments. The breed needs space and freedom to run, so don’t try to tame this wild spirit unless you want an aggressive and needy dog.
Heelers are good dogs with gentle hearts that will do anything for their families. Like all dogs, this one also needs time and love. And it’ll all be worth it.
They Have a Tendency to Bite, Even in Play
The Blue Heeler dog has a biting habit. They could forget they’re playing a game and start to nip and bite at people’s feet. Some find this habit more savage than sweet, so be ready for judgmental looks from strangers.
Friendly Yet Wary
Blue Heelers are very fond of their families, especially their owners. But what about visitors, neighbors, and strangers on the street? When introduced for the first time, the dog will see them as enemies and have a you-can’t-sit-with-us attitude.
Expect your Heeler to bark and nip at their heels. But once your dog decides that your innocent neighbor or friend is no longer a threat to you and the family, they may become best friends.
To avoid this first impression with strangers, socialize your Cattle Dog puppy from a young age with people and other animals.
Watch Out for Destructive Tendencies
You don’t want to deal with a bored dog of this breed. They’ll become destructive towards your home, family, and yard. On top of that, their barking can become high-pitched, which will make you leave everything and go play with them. Also, since nipping and biting are among the typical Blue Heeler traits, that can be a problem if you don’t train your dog well.
These dogs can sometimes have an independent attitude, disobeying your orders and manipulating you and other family members.
The Australian Cattle Dog breed is healthy, except for a few medical issues. Throughout their lifespan, these dogs can face eye and ear problems, retinal atrophy, and hip and elbow dysplasia.
It’s crucial to do regular vet checks. Also, if you consider adoption or breeding, always ask for health certificates to at least predict or prevent future complications.
The environment and temperature your dog lives in can also affect its health. These Heelers were originally bred to survive under the Australian sun, so cold temperatures can be a problem. Although they can manage cold climates, always make sure they have dry and warm shelter. For instance, consider getting dog heaters outdoors so that you protect them from hypothermia and other life-threatening situations.
Australian Cattle Dog Lifespan
The average lifespan of these dogs is 12–15 years. The most common causes of death include:
- Neurological Diseases
- Infection Tumors
- Injury Traumas
- Bone and Muscle Problems
Sometimes you can’t prevent health issues because they’re written in the genes. All you can do is try your best to take care of your dog and be cautious about the most common problems for the breed.
Common Health Issues
Let’s prepare by exploring the typical health issues of these dogs:
While the Blue Heeler dog needs extreme physical activity, which can cause various orthopedic issues like hip, elbow dysplasia, and osteoporosis.
Hip dysplasia is the most common — a condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit into the hip joint. Beware of that because some dogs won’t show any symptoms.
All you can do is balance your pet’s physical activity and snuggle them in the best memory foam dog bed to make them comfortable. We recommend these beds for dogs prone to hip dysplasia because they provide muscle support. Also, the memory foam will hold warmth during the cold season.
Deafness is an inherited condition that you can detect at a young age. Scientific research shows that the genes for it in dogs are related to the white hairs in their coats. The good news is that you can detect the illness thanks to the Brainstem auditory evoked response test, or BAER.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
The most serious issue your dog might get is progressive retinal atrophy. It’s an eye condition that can damage the retina and cause night blindness. As time passes, the diseases can become progressive and cause 100% blindness. The Heeler dog breed is quite energetic and active, so this condition can be fatal for its physical and mental health.
Meal Time — Plenty of Nutrients for a Highly Active Lifestyle
The breed needs plenty of quality food to keep its health and energy high. Also, these dogs are prone to obesity, so it’s crucial to balance the Australian Cattle Dog weight with carefully chosen meals.
Generally, adult dogs need 2–3 cups of food, while puppies require 3 cups in 3 portions. Always try to provide food rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. If you’re into homemade dog food, avoid the following ingredients:
A lot of meat, vegetables, and fresh water will be the best choice for these dogs. Always keep track of their weight progress, and try to measure the food per size and age.
Grooming Time Is Easy, Thanks to Their Odorless and Oil-Free Coat
Here’s everything you need to know about grooming your dog:
Cattle dogs shed, so when it comes to their coat, practice quality, not quantity. Three times a month is enough brushing, but do it carefully. Also, try not to bathe your dog too much because that can destroy the natural oils that protect it from infections. We recommend a bath every few months or whenever your pup gets dirty and stinky. That’s usually rare because of the odorless coat.
Brush their teeth 2–3 times a week. For even better protection from tartar and bacteria, wash their mouth daily.
A monthly nail trimming is enough for most dogs. If you notice yours has difficulty walking, or you can hear a tapping sound on the floor when it walks, it’s time for a nail grooming session. A good nail trimmer for dogs will get half the work done, so try to find one.
Buying an Australian Cattle Dog
The breed is common in the US, so you have many options. It’s up to you whether to buy or adopt a Blue Heeler.
If you’re into adopting, do thorough research about reputable Australian Cattle Dog rescue and adoption centers.
When it comes to breeders, always ask for health and DNA certificates. Try to find a reputable breeder who will give you an honest review and opinion on whether the Australian Cattle Dogs are suitable for you and your family.
Pro tip: Always research the breed before buying. That way, you’ll be ready to ask questions and sense the breeder’s true intentions.
Australian Cattle Dog Facts
- They’re often called “Velcro” dogs because they always want to be near their owner.
- They’re number 10 on the smartest dog breeds list.
- Heelers were officially accepted as a breed in 1980.
- The Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog is a breed variation born without a tail.
- The white patch on their head is called a “Bently Mark.”
- Australian Cattle Dogs love water and are excellent swimmers.
- The price of a purebred Australian Cattle Dog with a superior pedigree can vary between $2,000 to $5,500.
One look into their adorable eyes, and you’ll forget every hole in your socks and every piece of damaged furniture. That’s the Australian Cattle Dog — your best friend and cheerleader.
Your faithful companion will follow you everywhere, so say goodbye to privacy. Also, this dog will be the reason to get out of the house for a walk. Plus, the breed is healthy and doesn’t require much grooming. But keep in mind that it can cause trouble in the presence of children, strangers, and small animals.
This Australian treasure dog can be quite unpredictable, but one thing is sure — it’ll never leave your side!