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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I adopted a puppy almost 3 months ago. Her mother was a blue heeler and the vet thinks her father to have been an australian shepherd. This dog is very sweet and... (more)  Anonymous

   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, (2007). Foster & Smith Inc. Author: Ruth Bratcher

Lastest Animal Stories on Australian Cattle Dog

Anonymous - 2011-04-27
I adopted a puppy almost 3 months ago. Her mother was a blue heeler and the vet thinks her father to have been an australian shepherd. This dog is very sweet and loving and loves my family. I have two small children, ages 2 1/2 and 5 and she is great with them except when she sees them running and decides to run after them and "herd" and nip them. This dog is very bright and learns tricks very quickly. But she is extremely energetic. She must be crated while I work for about 4 1/2 hours a day. I exercise her for 30 min. 1 hour in the afternoon, which is all I can do. Before she gets her exercise she is digging my yard, grabbing things off counters and tables, and chewing anything she can get. I can't leave her unsupervised for more than a few minutes at a time. She has tons of chew toys and my older Golden Retriever to play with, but gets into constant trouble. When I crate her to keep her out of trouble for a few minutes she makes so much noise that she wakes up my children and drives everyone nuts. So my question is when-if ever-is this dog going to calm down? I don't think I can take a full year of this behavior and I already give her all the time I have to exercise her and train her. My husband is done with her and wants her to go. Should I find her a home in the country or wait it out and risk losing my sanity?
Thanks for any advice.

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-04-27
    I have included an article on the Australian Cattle Dog for you to read. Just click on it. It doesn't sound like this pup will calm down. It is a herding dog and high energy. It is the nature of the dog. It is a hard decision to make but you have to look at what you believe to be best for the children, the pup and you and hubby.
  • Clarice Brough - 2011-04-30
    What a darling pup! You got a high energy breed topped with being still a puppy. Just like a litte 2 year old always on the go. Even as she gets older she'll still be an active dog, but I think that puppy behavior should calm down.
  • Ann - 2011-05-29
    Try teaching the pup how to chase a frisbee. I too have a high energy herding dog and just adopted a cattle dog. Frisbee really helps take the energy out of them. I believe they claim that playing frisbee for 20 minutes burns the about the same as an hour of walking. You can download a free book from Hyperflite that tells about getting your dog started playing frisbee.
  • lauren - 2011-07-05
    Find a dog trainer.
  • Bridget - 2012-12-12
    We have a Corgi/Blue Heeler mix who is very energetic. I have taken her on a 6 mile run, and 30 minutes later she is up wanting to play again. The quickest way to tire her out is to do mental tasks with her. She loves to play hide and seek with her toys. We also do lots of training with her, and will go lay down and sleep for several hours after a hard 15 minute training session. You have to understand the task-oriented mentality of the herding dog. As well, our dog is crated when we are gone (she is 1 year old, and eventually will have the run of the house), but when we first started crating her, we had a lot of issues with her anxiety. We used positive reinforcement with her to correct this issue. So we put her in the kennel, and used a clicker. Every time she calmed down, even if it was for a split second, we clicked and treated her. After 4 sessions, she learned that she was required to be quiet in her kennel. If your dog is very food motivated, clicker training and reward are a very effective method with very smart dogs like the heeler.
  • Any - 2015-08-29
    Never crate a blue heeler. They will get agressive, win never trust you and will never be trained. They need to work so give her a lot of attention, teach her tricks, praise her a lot when she does something good,and when you walk her, take a ball or a fresher and play. Blue heeler are the complete opposite of a golden retreiver.
Emilee Ritchie - 2015-07-30
Hi I'm emilee. I have a 2 year old ACD names lexi I have had her sence she was 2 months old she was supper sweet to people and dogs until she got about one 1/2 years old she is very dog aggressive now and people carful she bit one lady but the woman admitted it was her fault not my lexis so but whenever I take her to the vet or to get her nails done she pees and poos everywhere she only pees a lil when I bring new people to the house and when I say dog aggressive she almost killed my mom's small dog on more then on occasion I'm just hoping someone on here can help me

  • Any - 2015-08-29
    We have Ruby for 8 years and a half. She is nine now. She bit my husband on the nose and another friend on the face (more a heavy nip than a bite).she hates to be dominated or punish her, it is better to whisper and it is easy to see she understands the message. We need to muzzle her to go to the vet. She has strictly no fear. It is impossible to wash her which does not matter since she is very clean anD does smell. Beside all that she is the best dog we everhad. Obedient, faithful, very smart and lovely with (just)us. I forgot, she hates all other animals beside our Amazon parrot.
Ann Mussinan - 2015-08-19
I have an Australian Shepherd and a Queensland Heeler Mix out of OK, USA. She was a purposely bred dog to herd cattle, be family friendly and very, very protective of her known land and home area. At 11 years old, she now has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Is this common with this mix breed? Also, what is the normal life age of this type of breed?

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-08-21
    The average life-span for both theAustralian Cattle Dog and the Queensland Heeler is 12-15 years. And yes, congestive heart failure is a illness both breeds can be susceptible too.
Ryan Fiorentino - 2015-06-20
Hi everyone, I just adopted a 3 yr old blue heeler named Jenkins! I am very very exited and have already taking to him very very much. I don't have the whole picture on Jenkins past or previous owners, but to my knowledge he hasn't ever had an owner. Also, he has spent his life escaping from shelters/fosters and has never really bonded with someone. He doesn't have a single ounce of aggression in his body or barely makes a noise! Now, I'm in the first week of adoption and looking for pointers on how to gain his trust in me and let him know he is safe and sound! Also, since he is afraid of cars, loud noises, other dogs and such, he doesn't feel comfortable going on walks. Do you think it would be best to grow his trust before we start going on walks/hikes? Keep in mind his track record of escaping and running away, but I feel bad keeping him inside all day! Thank you so much for ANY and ALL pieces of advice!