About the Breed: Australian Cattle Dog
Unlike the other herding breed with Australian in its name, the Australian Cattle Dog is actually from Australia. He is often more commonly referred to as simply cattle dog, blue heeler, or red heeler.
The breed was developed with one sole purpose in mind: to drive cattle. At the time of its creation in Australia, there were numerous herding dogs, but not all of them had the stamina to take cattle the miles necessary to move the stock across open land to cattle stations. The cattle dog handles this task like no other. He is a tireless working dog and is smart and wily enough to handle the toughest or angriest cow.
The breed is made to be a medium-sized dog that is stocky. They range about 18-20 inches in height, with males being only slightly taller. They are just a tad longer than high and are well muscled. They are evenly balanced, though, and are quite agile and quick moving.
Australian Cattle Dogs come in two main colorations: blue and red. Both variations are heavily speckled, but this is different than the merle pattern seen in other breeds. Instead, this is a ticking of color dispersed throughout the coat. The blue heeler variation can have additional blue, black, or tan; whereas, the red heeler variation is simply red and white with predominant ticking. There may be red patches on his face, although patches are not desirable on his body.
His coat is made for outdoor weather and is resistant to rainy conditions, which allows him to work in all conditions. Although his coat is short and lies close to the body, there is a short, dense undercoat beneath it for extra warmth.
The Australian Cattle Dog can be great fun, but he’s not for everyone! He is energetic, lively, and always looking for fun. This means he requires a lot of daily exercise and activities, or he will find a way to do that independently. Cattle dogs like to be part of action and bond tightly with their human family. This means they want to be with their people all the time and don’t do well when socially isolated from them.
The breed is highly intelligent and can learn a wide variety of skills and tricks. They excel at training and can compete in a variety of performance events. The downside to the breed is that they are bred to be independent thinking, working dogs. After all, you’ve got to be one smart, tough pup to move a stubborn cow. This can be translated into his life with humans too, and without plenty of training, an owner may find the dog not listening very well to commands and making his own decisions.
Australian Cattle Dogs can live happily within a family group, but they may not be suitable for small children. They aren’t always as tolerant as necessary with this age group, and the instinct to chase small running and screaming children will be almost irresistible to him. Cattle dogs do nip at moving objects, so this doesn’t always blend well with young children.
While the Australian Cattle Dog is very intelligent, he can be a handful to train. This is due to his more independent nature. It will require patience and consistency to make him more reliable. Positive reinforcement training techniques are the best method to use and show him that the things he values in his life are contingent upon his behavior.
Otherwise, the breed loves to learn new skills and is excellent at learning obedience commands, tricks, agility, and more.
Additionally, socialization is key for a young puppy and into adulthood. Cattle dogs can be more reserved with strangers as well as territorial or protective of the family. The dog must have a lot of experience with new people to reduce the risk of aggression later in life towards strangers. Proper training makes him an excellent alert dog instead.
Shedding & Grooming
The Australian Cattle Dog is a true wash-and-wear dog without any fancy trimmings or details. His coat is made to be washed only when truly dirty. Weekly brushing is more than enough to reduce shedding and loose fur in the house.
Besides brushing, regular nail trims and tooth brushing rounds out the grooming requirements.
Health & Life Expectancy
The Australian Cattle Dog is a healthy breed of dog that averages a lifespan of about 11-13 years. There are a few health issues that do occur in the breed:
• Congenital deafness
• Progressive retinal atrophy
• Orthopedic problems like dysplasia
• Injuries (Some of the more common reasons for vet care appear to be fractures, ACL tears, and other injuries)