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
Latest Reader Comment - See More
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,... (more)  Dave

   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

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.

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:
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.
jackiek - 2013-04-08
Hi, I'm considering adopting an ACD puppy (cross between ACD & ASD)- 6 weeks - and we're pretty certain he's deaf. We already have a 3 year old Sharpei-pug cross and we're a family of myself and my two kids, 10 & 12. For sometime I've been considering getting a second dog. Company for our dog Honey, because she's alone in the house for the larger part of the day while we're at work or school. And we've just been offered this ACD puppy so I've been doing a lot of reading. I'm a little concerned about how the two dogs will interact, but I'll suggest a trial weekend before committing. Does anyone have any stories or suggestions for integrating an ACD puppy into a household that already has a dog? Some stories I read seem to suggest they can be a little aloof. I also want to be sure that we're the right family for him. We love dogs, but this breed seems to demand a lot of attention and I don't want him to be bored - I'm thinking my two kids will help with that. Are these 'one person' dogs or will they follow commands from multiple household members? Honey is very active, and protective of us and our home - she goes crazy if she sees someone passing the house. She is ok in general with other dogs, but has been known to be aggressive when she meets strange dogs when we're out for a walk. She does have issues with separation anxiety, which seems to have improved over time as she realizes we always come back. I am also worried that if we don't take this puppy he will be put to sleep. Thanks in advance for your comments, advice!

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-04-09
    It's really great for you to consider adopting this very special puppy. I very much like both the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd, and the mix could be a real interesting pet with a blend of the characteristics. My take from the behaviors and temperament of these two is that the puppy would be an active herding dog that is also a good family dog, and could probably be integrated into a home with another pet. Though the ACD part is less likely to want another dog around, the ASD part is more adaptable to other dogs. The Pug/Shar Pei mix should be tolerant, if socialized properly with the new puppy.  And because it is a puppy ('baby'), the chances of socialization are even better. Puppies are usually most adaptable. Honey is older, but is also a smart dog. She will most likely not only recognize it as a 'baby', but will also recognize the disability... and so may become a caretaker in a sense. At least... that would be ideal and  in my opinion the chances of acceptance are good. Also Honey does need some exercise, and though not as active as the puppy will be, this new friend could help with her activity needs and offset boredom. Good luck!
  • Peggy Rae Brock-Torpey - 2014-02-08
    I have three heeler/aussy shepard mixes....I've found my older red female immediately went to momma mode with her neice...when Jesse Rae passed I was given then 'found' (a puppy 3 months just showed up at our fence) two puppies. So I've had to give each their equal attention or they all were starting to get jealous... and when I interacted with each I did it with the others there....these were all family seems to work...all have different personallities and it hasn't been easy but making sure they know they all get individual and group love has calmed the snarling...hope this makes sense...please rescue this pup!
  • Mary Kay - 2014-02-27
    I would not bring in a Cattle Dog if your dog has displaced anger. Getting hyped up when someone walks past your home will start a fight. Your little dog will lose with an ACD. They can be small in stature but are like bulls & made of muscle. My chihuahua snapped at my Cattle Dog yesterday & he attacked her. Multiple punctures by the time I got from one room to where they were. He would have killed her if I wasn't home. All the books say they do not play well with others. He is generally very sweet & aloof. He is deaf. Whatever triggered it now has me living in fear & not allowing them to ever be alone unattended.