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 first Blue Heeler was ACD registered and female. She was what I would call the perfect dog. Well behaved and loved everyone. She was protective of me and would... (more)  Juli

   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

Juli - 2013-11-15
My first Blue Heeler was ACD registered and female. She was what I would call the perfect dog. Well behaved and loved everyone. She was protective of me and would attempt to bite only if she felt I was threatened. It took me ten years to get another Blue Heeler without feeling like I was trying to replace her. This time I bought a farm dog, not registered but certainly pure bred. He is very different from my first one. He is very aggressive with everyone except immediate family (this includes about 7 people), I mean he is even aggressive toward people he saw weekly when he was a pup. Doesn't matter if it is adult or child. He also a submissive/excited dribbler. pee pee pee....not as bad now that he is a year old but he still does it with most except me. I don't know what made him the opposite of my previous heeler and I should not compare but I thought I knew the breed from her behavior and he is similar in some ways but different in so many others. SO hardheaded. I socialized him as a pup and had family to include kids around him every weekend, took him to puppy class which he excelled (top of his class in obedience) except after that seems to be when the peeing started. I run him at least 2 miles every day if possible on the treadmill and play ball or Frisbee when time and weather allow. It sucks to have to lock him away every time we have company. Anyway, despite his attitude, I adore him and he makes me laugh. Like a comedian. My first heeler was always so serious and he is constantly being silly. Example...when I refused to play with him because I was watching tv one night, he kept shoving his toy at me and juggling it around in his mouth. I still refused to play so he put his toy in the toilet which I found after I went to the bathroom..eeeew. Any advice on if his aggressive behavior is a normal trait would be great. I am hooked again though even with his faults, I love him.

  • Donna - 2014-05-03
    I have a female Blue Heeler who has the same characteristics as your male. She is extremely silly a good deal of the time. She is extremely protective of me but not so much my husband. She was also a submissive/excited dribbler up until about 2 months ago. She's now 20 months old. She is very leery of other people, even people she has seen since the day I got her at 6 weeks of age. I, too, have to lock her away when company comes over, at least for about 15 to 20 minutes. I started socializing her immediately upon bringing her home, but she still nips at these same people I socialized her with. From all the reading I've done on the breed, this seems to be normal behavior for the breed. My last dog was a Heeler/Border Collie mix, which the British Kennel Club recognizes as a McNab. She was a wonderful dog, but also leery of anyone outside the household.
  • Michelle - 2014-09-06
    I have a bullterrier that was a demon in the house. The dog used to pee where he wanted,digging holes, and also biting my furniture and clothes. I found a online training system which has taught me how to train very easily ; the change is a 180 degrees. This is the address if interested: www.theonlinedogtrainers.com
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AP - 2013-02-08
I have had two ACD's and they have been such wonderful pets that I don't think that I will ever feel right if my home is without one.  We are a multi-dog household and my Heelers are friendly with the other dogs, children in the house and with us.    One of my heelers was so friendly once that he sat down in the 'Pet me' position in front of a guest at my home, was patient but finally licked  him in a friendly gesture to say, Hey!  Pet ME!  Unfortunatly, the guest was not a dog person so this was a bit disconcerting. However, the Heeler just took this all in stride.



They are very active, highly intelligent, confident dogs. The Frisbee idea is a good one as are nice walks.  This is a friendly, happy fellow.  I am surprised to see the comments about nipping kids or not liking other dogs. That has not been my experience with either of my Blue Heelers.  In fact, when we take our current one out, particularly to the pet store for treats, people ask us if we don't adopt him, can they?  Well.....he still comes home with us.

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Robin Yaro - 2010-06-12
We have 4 Heelers which we have had since they were all puppies. Pepper (13) is going selectivly deaf. Banshee and Ghost (10) and Rocky (3). They are the best dogs we have ever had. We got Banshee and Ghost as littermates and didn't find out until Ghost was about 4 that she had either been stepped on or kicked by a horse and had her pelvis fractured. Other than having problems getting up and down now, she is still active even with her handicap which is a testament to how resilient these dogs are. They are very protective even to the point of taking on a Rottwieler to protect my husband after his back surgery. I would not recommend a Heeler as a family pet. If they grow up with the children it might be different but they are a bit aloof and do not like to be handled unless it is on their terms. They can also be aggressive with people. We recently took on my daughters 2 dogs, both mixes (not heeler), and they integrated pretty well although Rocky is a bit agressive towards the other male.

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J9 Colorado - 2011-03-20
I love this breed. My resued Blue Heeler/Mix, Jesse Girl, is the BEST. She is a loving and extremely faithful dog. She is so smart, hardly ever barks, and is great with small children. Her bad qualities (don't we all have them!) are burying our socks and gloves in the yard. It is amazing what we find after the snow melts. She loves to go camping, hiking and is an awesome fishing dog. She needs a walk EVERYDAY ...but I think all dogs need to be walked everyday. She is more mellow than some ACD's, but is beautiful and looks 100% like a blue girl should, expect for being a little tall (she is 47-50lbs). I think this breed is excellent! I just think you have to be the right person for the breed and realize they need exercise and like being given direction. If you want an intelligent, loving dog with a personality...not a typical dog personality.. this is it!

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Jason - 2014-06-15
My ACD keeps running away and I'm not sure what to do. I'm pretty sure she needs more excircise. Also she has become very aggressive towards my nieghboors and turning my other dog aggressive. What age does an ACD mellow out?????

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-06-27
    I'm not sure they do mellow out. They were bred as work dogs for herding and they do best if they have a 'job' to do. From what I've heard about them, if they don't have a job or get plenty of exercise everyday, they can begin to display disruptive behaviors. Sounds like your guy needs more activities, which will keep both him and you happy.
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