The Australian Cattle Dog makes an excellent guard dog and is a very smart and independent thinker. However, it is also loyal and loves its family. All in all, it’s a wonderful pet to have.
Did You Know?
The Australian Cattle Dog ranks 10th in terms of obedience trainability in Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs.
The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Australian Heeler, Blue Heeler, the Queensland Heeler, and the Red Heeler. It is a herding dog that had been developed in Australia to control cattle. It loves to run around and always have an activity at hand. Given below are some interesting facts about the Blue Heeler.
The precursors to the modern Australian Cattle Dog were first introduced by an Englishman, Thomas Simpson Hall in around 1840. Hall’s family had numerous cattle stations spread over many areas, and he needed to herd thousands of cattle over many miles every day. The Australian dogs were incapable of achieving this task. The colonial dogs, known as Smithfields, were not very useful either. They belonged to breeds designed to herd sheep over short distances. Hall tried to remedy this problem by importing several cattle-droving dogs from his home county of Northumberland. After having limited success with the British breeds, he then bred the imported dogs with an Australian wild dog breed known as the dingo. The resulting breed served Hall well until his death in 1870. Hall had not let others use these dogs (known as Halls Heelers), since they gave him a clear advantage in his trade.
After Hall’s death, his family’s cattle stations and property were auctioned off, and so were the Heelers. They could now be used by other people. These dogs were bred with Bull Terriers (to make them more tenacious), Dalmatians (to make them more loyal and affectionate towards their owners), and Kelpies (to increase their endurance and herding ability). The terrier strain was phased out due to the dogs’ aggressiveness towards the cattle. Instead of just nipping at the heels of the cattle in order to direct them, this strain tended to latch on to the heels, sticking to the terrier’s breeding as a hunting dog. The Kelpie strain was ideally suited to the hot, harsh climate of Australia, and was thus propagated extensively. Modern Australian Cattle Dogs are a variable mixture of Collies, dingoes, Dalmatians, Kelpies, and to some extent, Bull Terriers.
The Blue Heeler has a compact body that is sturdy and has well-developed muscles. This body structure gives the dog agility and strength. The body should be slightly longer than it is tall. The ratio of height (till the withers) to the length (from breastbone to rear) must be about 9:10. The eyes of this dog are dark-brown in color and ovular-shaped. The skull is broad. The ears are wide-set, small to medium-sized, and must be upright when the dog is alert. The muzzle is medium-sized. The tail is set neither too high nor too low, and is slightly curved.
Physical Description: Males are 18 to 20 inches (45 to 50 cm) tall at the withers, whereas females are 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) tall. The appropriate weight is between 33 to 50 pounds (15 to 22 kg). This breed has a double coat that is smooth, with a thick undercoat.
Coat Color: Coat colors are blue-speckled, blue-mottled, or blue, which may have white, black, or tan markings, and red-speckled or red-mottled. Puppies are white when they are born, and they obtain their color as they grow.
This breed is not a pack dog and prefers to be independent, although it can socialize with other dogs if taught from an early age. The Blue Heeler is an independent, intelligent, and hard-working dog. Due to its sharp and alert mind and high levels of energy, it needs to be engaged in some task and needs to be given a job to do. It is good at obedience training, and hence, it needs mental and physical activity like learning training commands and tricks, going for runs, etc. A bored dog may resort to barking, and may even experience behavior problems.
Personality Traits: This breed is very loyal, obedient, courageous, and affectionate towards its owners. It is naturally cautious by nature towards strangers, making it a very good guard dog. It can also be taught, right from childhood, to socialize with people and children. As it is a herding dog, it has a tendency to nip at the heels of people and herd them, particularly small kids, as they run around a lot. This tendency can also be kept in control with training. The owner must establish himself/herself as the alpha member of the family; otherwise the dog may take over. Get this breed only if you can keep it engaged and busy most of the time; if you want a dog that will be sitting around most of the time, then this breed is definitely the wrong choice.
This is a highly intelligent breed that learns obedience training very quickly. However, while training your Blue Heeler, make sure that you do not use a very strict or heavy-handed approach.
› Training must be done in a gentle and friendly manner, but with firmness and assertiveness. This dog responds very well to praise.
› Ensure that there is a consistency in the training, and when you teach one command, make sure that the dog has learned it completely before moving on to the next one.
› The best way to ensure that your dog follows the commands properly is for one person to begin with the training, and for other family members to include themselves a little further down the process, after the dog has got the hang of it. Ideally, one person should conduct the training and establish him/herself as the leader.
Exercise and Size of the House
This breed requires a lot of exercise. A short stroll and spending some time in the park playing fetch will not suffice. It needs long, brisk walks. Jogs are better, and this dog makes an excellent jogging companion. It is not suited for apartment living; rather it needs a big yard to run around. It does better in a rural setting than in a city or urban area.
The coat of this dog protects it from both hot and cold weather. The coat is easy to maintain and requires only occasional grooming with a bristle brush; one with strong bristles, not soft ones. It is recommended not to bathe this dog unless it is absolutely necessary. Shedding occurs twice a year.
The Blue Heeler is susceptible to health problems like hip dysplasia, infertility, pyometra, elbow dysplasia, arthritis, blindness, and progressive retinal atrophy. Dogs with merle coats carry recessive piebald alleles that give the coat the white coloration; these alleles can result in congenital hereditary deafness in the dog. The life expectancy of this breed is 11 to 13 years.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a very enjoyable dog to have around. If you are willing to provide your pet with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and also want a dog that will be good at guarding, loyal, obedient, independent, and love you to no end, this is the perfect breed for you.