Australian Cattle Dog Breed

Devoted, loyal and affectionate towards their people, Australian Cattle Dogs (or the Blue Heeler or Australian Heeler) are born to be working dogs. These smart, busy, active, energetic dogs need a job to do to keep them happy and healthy. Although they thrive on herding livestock, they can adjust to an active outdoorsy family lifestyle that involves plenty (and we mean plenty) of daily exercise. The ideal jogging / hiking / fishing / camping companion, Blue Heelers can be wary of strangers and need proper socialisation and training from an early age. With the Heeler name coming from the fact that they herd cattle by nipping at their heels, Australian Cattle Dogs are prone to be biters. Keep your Australian Cattle Dog mentally and physically fit to avoid them becoming bored and mischievous.

Australian Cattle Dog Facts

Medium-sized dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs look like solid, muscular, active working dogs - and that’s exactly what they are! With their speckled or mottled smooth double coats, they’re very distinctive

  • Breed Group: Herding
  • Height: Female: 43-48cm, Male: 45-50cm
  • Weight: 15-23kg
  • Life Span: 12-16 years
  • Coat: Smooth, double, short
  • Colour: Blue-grey or red

Australian Cattle Dog

Breed Characteristics

Friendliness
Medium
Exercise needs
High
Health issues
Medium Low
Barking tendencies
High
Grooming needs
Low
Shedding level
Low

What Does a Australian Cattle Look Like?

With their mottled or speckled coats, Australian Cattle Dogs look distinctive. These medium-sized dogs are sturdy and muscular which means they live up to their name - these are dogs that are built to work. Known for their strength and agility, the Australian Cattle Dog has broad-based triangular ears, all the better to hear cattle with. Combine those with their dark, alert and intelligent eyes and you’ve got a dog that’s all about the work.

Even a quick glance at a Australian Cattle Dog will let you know that they’re related to Australia’s wild dingo - their build and angular faces are very similar. Although their long, bushy tail is more fox-like. All Australian Cattle Dogs are born with a white coat. As they grow older, it turns blue-grey or red, with a mottled or speckled pattern.

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Australian Cattle Dog

Breed Facts

Breed group:
Herding
Height:
Female: 43-48cm, Male: 45-50cm
Weight:
15-23kg
Life span:
12-16 years
Coat:
Smooth, double, short
Colour:
Blue-grey or red

Australian Cattle Dog Temperament: Always Busy

Australian Cattle Dogs need a job to do. They're all about the work or at least staying busy. An Australian Cattle Dog loves nothing more than being active, both mentally and physically. One walk a day won’t cut it with these busy, energetic dogs. With their amazing endurance, an Australian Cattle Dog is an active household’s dream dog. They’re always up for a hunt, fish, bike, hike, run, kayak or camp. If you live on a farm or lifestyle block where they can herd many types of livestock, even better.

Let them get bored at your own risk - without the proper outlet for their energy, Australian Cattle Dogs will provide their own entertainment and can be destructive, whether that’s digging through the bins or digging up the garden.

Sure, these are hard working dogs but Australian Cattle Dogs are also loyal, affectionate and devoted to, and protective of, their humans. So much in fact that they bond closely to their person and become velcro dogs, rarely leaving your side. An Australian Cattle Dog tends to be wary of strangers. Their protective natures means they’re always on the lookout for anything that might threaten their herd so expect to hear their sharp bark when they spot someone unfamiliar.

Bred to herd (and herd with force), an Australian Cattle Dog's instinct is to get everyone in line, including you, children and other dogs. Heck, anything that moves, including cars. If they think someone is out of line, Australian Cattle Dogs will nip at their heels. The Australian Cattle Dog has a strong tendency to bite, even when they’re playing. That’s why proper socialisation and training from puppyhood is absolutely essential.


Keeping Australian Cattle Dogs Healthy: 3 Issues to Watch Out For

Australian Cattle Dog are bred to work outside so they’ve got a long expected lifespan (up to 16 years) and they’re not prone to many health issues either. Preventative care, like regular vet check ups and daily toothbrushing, can help ensure your Australian Cattle Dog lives a long and healthy life.

Deafness

Blue Heelers are at risk of developing deafness. Signs of deafness include lots of barking and not reacting to normal noises. There’s currently no treatment for deaf dogs but there are ways to manage it to help Australian Cattle Dogs continue to live as full a life as possible. These include keeping them on a leash at all times when they’re outside. Deafness is inherited, so responsible breeders should screen their parent pups for it.

Eyesight Problems

It’s quite common for Australian Cattle Dogs to develop Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). It starts with night vision problems and widened pupils. Cataracts might develop in the later stages. Over time, it can lead to blindness. Although there’s no cure for PRA, blind Blue Heelers can still live long, happy lives.

Hip Dysplasia

Like all active working dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs can develop hip dysplasia. This is when the hip joint’s ball and socket don’t sit properly. Signs include hobbling, not being as active as usual, stiffness and limping. There are many ways to treat hip dysplasia, including diet changes, weight management and surgery. As an inherited condition, responsible breeders should screen for it.


Caring for Your Australian Cattle Dog

With their smooth, double layer coat, caring for your Blue Heeler is less about grooming and more about keeping them busy. Expect exercise (a lot of it!) and training to form part of your daily lives together.

Grooming

Bred to work outdoors, Australian Cattle Dog’s coats are naturally protective to help shield them from the elements. With no smell or oily residue, grooming an Australian Cattle Dog is fairly straightforward. Think a quick brush once a week and the occasional bath.

Twice a year, an Australian Cattle Dog sheds their undercoat, usually in big tufts and clumps. You’ll need to bump brushing up to a few times a week to help get rid of the dead hair. A comb or rake can be helpful during shedding season.

Other grooming needs include daily toothbrushing to avoid the build-up of plaque and tartar and regular nail trimming.

Nutrition

Hardworking dogs, they aren’t known for being fussy eaters. So, they should happily tuck into high quality commercial dog food that’s suitable for their life stage: puppy, adult or senior Aim for a mix of meat and biscuits/kibble. Dry biscuits/kibble can help clean an Australian Cattle Dog’s teeth as they eat, sloughing tartar off the surface.

Because of how active they are, Australian Cattle Dogs might do best on a diet that’s high in protein. Consider working dog-specific food, or ask your vet for advice.


    Exercise

    As a very active, high energy dog, your Australian Cattle Dog needs more than a quick walk and some outdoor playtime. Expect to spend 1 to 2 hours every day exercising your Australian Cattle Dog.

    The key to an Australian Cattle Dog's happiness is having a job to do. Although their ideal living situation is on a farm where they can herd livestock, they can settle for daily (or nearly daily) runs with their owner. Look for dog sports clubs in your area. Australian Cattle Dogs thrive on agility or obedience training where they can put their high prey drive and heaps of energy to good (and fun) use.

    When the running is over, exercise their brains too with puzzle toys.


    Training Your Australian Cattle Dog

    To help get their biting and herding tendencies under control and directed into other positive outlets, early socialisation and obedience training are an absolute must for Australian Cattle Dogs. Proper socialisation where they can meet other people and pups in a safe and calm manner will help them learn to be more accepting of new experiences when they’re adults.

    As they grow, it’s important to continue to keep them busy - enrol them in dog sports, like obedience, herding or agility. Sure, this is a time commitment for you but it can be a fun way to strengthen the bond with your pup.

    An Australian Cattle Dog does best with a confident, experienced pup parent who understands their need for consistent training and patience. Australian Cattle Dogs are smart and independent, which can translate into stubbornness! Positive reinforcement will work well for your Australian Cattle Dog.


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