Animal-World > Dogs > Herding Dogs > Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog

Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler

Family: Canidae Australian Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler Picture, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler"Smokey"Canis lupus familiarisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Alison Buckley
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My red heeler's name is Zee. She is 10 and the best dog anyone could ever have. Today my Vet confirmed what I already knew.........she is going blind. My... (more)  Teesa Lilly

   The Australian Cattle Dog is an especially energetic, loyal dog suited for cattle herding and other organized activities. They have a wild appearance, but can make great friends.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a hearty breed with a lot of power packed into its small frame. It is a high energy dog that can keep up with a high energy owner. This is an extremely loyal and protective dog that is wary with strangers, but relaxed and trusting with people it is familiar with. This dog is alert and intelligent, suiting it well for its traditional job of herding, or more modern activities, such as participating in agility trials or playing Flyball.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: lupus familiaris
Australian Cattle Dog Facts

Common Name(s) Australian Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler, Blue Cattle Dog, Heeler, Queensland Heeler, Red Heeler

Breed Type This breed is a member of the herding dogs. These dogs were bred for herding cattle or sheep, which explains many of their characteristics. They are extremely active, intelligent, and driven to work. If not provided with an organized activity, such as herding trials or Flyball, these dogs are likely to find something less desirable to do, such as digging up gardens or chewing on shoes. Herding dogs are still currently used to herd livestock, but they can also be great pets for active owners with the time and energy to meet their needs.

Background The Australian Cattle Dog was developed in Australia by cattle ranchers to control the movement of cattle. This compact dog is agile enough to herd these large animals by nipping at their heels, and quickly dodging their hooves. It was also bred for its endurance to travel long distances. This breed is a direct descendent of the Hall's Heeler, which is a cross of the Dingo (Australia's wild dog) and the smooth-coated Scottish Collie. In the 1860's, the Hall's Heeler was mixed with the Australian Kelpie and Dalmatian to make the Australian Cattle Dog.

Description The Australian Cattle Dog is small to medium-sized. Its height is 17 to 20 inches, while its weight is 33 to 55 pounds, making it a compact, muscular dog. Females are slightly smaller than males. The head is broad and medium-length, with a tapering muzzle. The jaw is powerful with large teeth. The eyes are almond-shaped and brown, while the nose is large and black. The ears are medium-sized, and naturally stand straight up, and the tail is long. This breed has a medium-length coat with a dense undercoat and smooth, hard outer coat. The coat colors include blue mottled or speckled, with or without black, blue, or tan markings, and red speckled, with or without darker red markings. They have an average life-span of 12-15 years.

Care and Feeding This breed has no special dietary needs. It should simply be fed a well-balanced canine diet. The only grooming it requires is an occasional brushing.
Australian Cattle Dogs need regular checkups. Vaccinations are due as follows:

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, and Corona virus (DHLPPC)
  • 10-12 weeks: Second DHLPPC
  • 14-16 weeks: Third DHLPPC and rabies
  • Annually: DHLPPC and rabies booster

Housing Your Dog This breed needs plenty of room to roam and exercise. It prefers an open area in a rural or suburban context, but can adapt to a large yard in the city. This breed is not appropriate for an apartment.

Social Behaviors The Australian Cattle Dog is an independent breed that needs no canine companions. In fact, it may show aggression toward other dogs. It is friendly with people it knows, but becomes most attached and obedient with one person. Many Australian Cattle Dogs love spending time with their owners, following them everywhere, including the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. It is extremely protective, which makes it a good breed for children, though the children may not think so. It rarely becomes aggressive, but is likely to "herd" children by nipping at their hands and feet, which can be frightening to a small child.

Handling and Training This breed needs firm training and socialization. Since it was bred to be fearless in the face of large animals, physical reprimands are not very effective. However these dogs respond well to positive reinforcement (giving treats or affection for responding correctly).

Activities This breed loves exercise and structured activities. It needs regular opportunities to exercise its muscles and brain. Some suitable activities include agility trials, herding trials, Flyball, Frisbee, and fetch. They should also be provided with appropriate chewing toys to prevent them from chewing everything else.

Breeding/Reproduction This breed is born white with whatever color patches that will be present in the final coat. Average litter size is 4-8 puppies..

Common Health Problems Australian Cattle Dogs are susceptible to deafness, hip dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy. Some early signs of deafness in dogs include biting harder than their siblings, since they cannot hear their yelps, and waking up late for feeding time. Some veterinarians are not supportive of deaf dogs, so it is important to find one who is. Hip displasia, caused by looseness in the hip joint, can cause discomfort after exercise, an altered gait, and even an inability to walk. A veterinarian can diagnose and prescribe treatment for this disease, which may include weight management, exercise, massage, supplements, and surgery.
Progressive retinal atrophy causes night blindness first, and then day blindness. There is no treatment for this disease, but many dogs adapt well to blindness, with few signs of the ailment, as long as they are in a familiar setting.

Availability Australian Cattle Dog breeders can be found on the internet or locally. Prices range from approximately $150 for an adult, $300-$750 for a puppy of pet quality and $1200+ for a puppy of show or breeding quality.

References Peter Larkin, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs (Dog Breeds & Dog Care) ,Lorenz Books, 2003
Kristin Mehus-Roe, The Original Dog Bible: The Definitive Source to All Things Dog, BowTie Press, 2005
Walter R. Fletcher, Dogs of the World, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1983
Pet Education, www.peteducation.com (2007). Foster & Smith Inc. Author: Ruth Bratcher

Lastest Animal Stories on Australian Cattle Dog


Teesa Lilly - 2010-03-18
My red heeler's name is Zee. She is 10 and the best dog anyone could ever have. Today my Vet confirmed what I already knew.........she is going blind. My heart is breaking. I lost my father 3 months ago. My mother has altimzers. Six weeks ago she had to leave her home of 45 years to move into assisted living without my Dad to help her. Why does my Zee have to be going blind now? She has been my constant "rock" through all of this. I can't stand to see something happen to her, too. I'm sorry I sound like a cry baby, but I had to tell someone. Thank-You.

  • Kristy - 2010-03-24
    Hi Teesa Lilly...I'm very sorry about your mother and the loss of your father ...and about Zee. My 10 year old dog Rebel a red-heeler is also going blind. He's still very happy though, and it seems that he really only has 1 eye he can see out of now. I'm just giving him lots of love... as always. I think it's harder on us than them since they already depend on us so much as it is. Hang in there you are not alone.
  • Kelly - 2010-06-27
    I have a red heeler and his name is Zip. He is my buddy and rock! The last couple of weeks I have noticed he was bumping into things when it was dark. At first I thought he was being a goof, but then when he did it again I knew something was wrong. So I searched on the internet and have learned this breed does go blind. He will be 8 in October. He can still see during the day but not at night. Did Zee first have night blindness and if so what is her progress on becoming completely blind? Sorry for all your bad news.
  • Angela - 2010-09-30
    I had a Red Heeler many years ago he had diabetes and went blind, just wanted to let you know he did great, he could still smell and hear and was a great companion even though he was blind...plus I got him a lighted ball and for a long time he could see well enough to play with it. Good Luck to you and Zee!
  • rebecca pearson - 2010-10-23
    Hi my name is rebecca and I have a red heeler named cane, he just turned 6 and we just found out that he is going blind. He already is blind at night and in about 9 mths he will be totally blind. I have realixed that I am the one that will need to adjust and he will be fine. But it has just broken my heart he came into my life after my 4yr old son thomas died, and then when cane turned one I gave birth to my son quinten so they share the same birthday. Thanks for listening.
  • jack - 2015-01-19
    We had a red heeler named Rusty who was blind in one eye when we adopted him at 7 then went deaf and at 10. I can't tell you the why but he still had three more years with us. It was worth the extra care and effort. We are grateful for the time we had with him. And have been blessed with a blue heeler named sue. I'm sorry to hear about zee and your parents. Will say a prayer for you.
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Derek - 2015-01-07
my blue heeler had 1 puppy, how common is this ?

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-01-07
    Not common, their average litter size is 4-8.
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Manon - 2014-12-29
I have a female blue heeler almost two years old,we go hiking winter and summer. Twice now anniebleau has been doing this weird thing like freeking out almost as if she has a bug crawling on her she goes in circle and seems to try to get whatever is on her off. However she only does this when she gets back into the vehicle after a long hike. And she has done many mts in her two years. It has happened only twice so far, but still I'm certain it will happen again. I'm thinking, maybe her muscles tighten up or cramp up. She sleeps all the way home and the next day it's as if nothing has happened. Back to her normal self, very active. What do you think.

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-12-29
    Boy I don't know what to tell you... it could be a skin problem, like dry skin or allergies. Or as you say, muscles. You may want to get her a checkup with your vet.
Reply
Dave - 2014-11-28
We have two ACD's, an 8yr old male (adopted), and a 5yr old female (brought home at 8wks). The two share traits of the breed..energetic, loyal, protective, intelligent,etc., but differ wildly in personality. The male is a bit of a loner, ie; no cuddling, likes his space, content to stay in yard by himself for hours. While the 'pup' wants to be as close as possible at all times..sleeps next to me, lays with head on lap during tv time, won't stay outside unless I'm out there, will get up from a nap if I leave the room, etc. The female fits the 'velcro dog' description. The male doesn't. The female also is a complete 'water dog'. I've read owners state that their ACD's hate water and I can't contest that. Our male won't do more than get his feet wet, but the female will dive into any pool of water available. We spend some weekends at a local lake, and I kayak. If I head out, she will NOT be left behind, and will trail my kayak any distance. To the point that we've fitted her with a life-vest, for fear of her tiring in the middle of a lake! These are the greatest breed I've owned, and I'll be a cattle dog owner from here on out. If you're considering one, do your research! They are not for everyone. If you're not prepared to play the alpha, they WILL assume that role. They need a 'job'. Whether that is simply catching a frisbee of herding cattle, they need something to focus on. Amazing animals who's loyalty, dedication and intelligence is unmatched imo.

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