Some breeds are incredibly popular, despite being riddled with health and behavioral issues. Others are largely unknown even though they are phenomenal dogs and pets. The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the latter. These unique dogs are still used to herd livestock and hunt in Australia, and they have the makings of a perfect pet. Yet, they are not in the top 50 most popular dog breeds in the world according to most dog clubs. Why is that? Should you consider adopting or buying an Australian Cattle Dog? Here are 7 interesting facts about the Australian Cattle Dog.
7 things to consider before buying an Australian Cattle Dog.
Also called Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers, and Red or Blue Heelers, these dogs are truly special. They were bred specifically for driving cattle through playful bites on their heels. Their high intelligence, as well as their speed and obedience also make them good hunting companions. All this, as well as the interesting coat of the Australian Cattle Dog, is due to a rather special history.
7. The Australian Cattle Dog has a very curious heritage.
Originally, the Australian Cattle Dog was a cross between a few European shepherd breeds, such as the Collie and the Bluebird, and a bit of Australian flavor, in the form of a wild dingo. That’s right, the Australian Cattle Dog is one of the few modern dog breeds to be so closely related to its undomesticated ancestors.
Does this make the Australian Cattle Dog “wild” and dangerous? Not at all. The dingo blood of these Heeler dogs certainly adds to their high energy and slight prey drive, but it’s not something you’ll see in other shepherd and/or sighthound breeds. Instead of being dangerous in any way, the Australian Cattle Dog is a near-perfect blend of energy, stamina, intelligence, obedience, and sociability, all thanks to its unique heritage.
6. It’s more than just a working dog breed.
Shepherd breeds are among the most popular, beloved, and well-bred pet breeds today, and for good reason. As a general rule, they are intelligent, easy to train, energetic and playful, and very sociable. The few exceptions are the shepherd/guard breeds that were more focused on protecting their herds from predators, but this is not the case with the Australian Cattle Dog.
Since there are no large predators in Australia, there was no need to breed the Australian Cattle Dog to be aggressive toward wolves or anything like that. Instead, they focused solely on herding cattle and working with their fellow dogs. This is what has made the Australian Cattle Dog an exceptionally intelligent, trainable, and social breed, just like any other popular and beloved shepherd breed.
In addition, Australian Cattle Dogs are also used as hunting dogs. Although not bred for this purpose, their high energy, trainability, and appetite for small game, inherited from their dingo heritage, make them excellent hunters. But, if you’re a pet owner, this is probably more concerning than encouraging. Still, there’s no need to worry about this breed’s predation: with proper socialization and training, accidents with domestic cats and other pets are easily avoided.
5. Like most shepherd breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog is exceptionally social and friendly.
Another key factor that makes these dogs excellent pets and livestock dogs are their social nature. As we said, some socialization is necessary if you want your Heeler to get along with cats and other non-dog animals, but that’s okay. Besides, this socialization is always necessary and it is important if you want your dog to get along with other dogs and with people as well. The fact that Australian Cattle Dogs are naturally social doesn’t mean they don’t need socialization, it just means it’s easier to do.
4. Thanks to the absence of excessive inbreeding, these dogs are in good health.
Many popular breeds suffer from a large number of health problems due to excessive inbreeding to meet the demand for puppies. This is not the case with Australian healers. For one thing, they are not yet very popular, so puppy mills have not yet derailed their gene pool. Also, because of their dingo ancestry, they have “fresh blood”, so to speak.
So, while you still have to watch out for the usual problems such as hip dysplasia, deafness, and some eye problems, you can expect these dogs to have a relatively long and healthy life, up to 15 years on average, or even more with good care.
That being said, it is obvious that Australian Cattle Dogs are truly special. These herding dogs descended from dingoes, are excellent for herding cattle, as pets, and even for hunting. Intelligent, loyal, affectionate, very energetic, and playful, Australian Cattle Dogs should be much more popular than they are outside of Australia. Add to that their unique coat and you shouldn’t hesitate to get a dog of this breed if you have the opportunity.
3. Red and blue healers have a variety of coats, but they are always quite fascinating.
The Australian Cattle Dog not only has many names, but it also has two distinct sub-breeds: the Red and Blue Heelers. The only real difference between these two breeds is their coats, as they are virtually identical in all other respects.
They do, however, have rather original and unique coats. Blue healers can be blue-spotted, blue-spotted, or solid blue. Red healers can be either red spotted or red spotted. Both types can have additional markings though, typically tan, red, or a combination of black and tan. All of this adds up to one of the most eye-catching and memorable looks in the dog world.
As far as grooming needs go, all types of Australian Cattle Dogs have short coat that doesn’t shed too much. In fact, as a double-coated breed, Heelers shed mostly seasonally in the spring and fall. Extra brushing can help minimize seasonal shedding and a visit to the groomer can help but is not necessary. An infrequent weekly brushing should be enough to keep their coat for the rest of the year.
Other grooming needs are standard: eye and ear cleaning, dental hygiene, and skin care. Nail trimming is a good thing, but should not be necessary as often, as the abundance of time spent outdoors should allow your dog to file his nails while running.
2. As a working breed, the Australian Cattle Dog needs plenty of exercises.
If you buy such a dog, you should be prepared to spend extra time in the dog park. Australian Cattle Dogs are very energetic working dogs and they need to expend that energy if they are to stay healthy and happy. You need to free up enough time for two outings of at least 40 minutes each, ideally longer.
This doesn’t mean just jogging around the block. Remember, these are working dogs. Herding involves much more than just jogging in a straight line: it involves following herding patterns, responding to commands, coordinating with other dogs, etc.
So your Heeler dog will also need some mental complexity in his exercise. You can achieve this most easily by playing games and giving your dog “work” tasks like carrying objects, etc. Having a yard is also ideal for such an energetic breed, but you would do well to make sure your fence is secure. These dogs have a relatively strong hunting instinct and can escape if left unattended.
1. It is a very intelligent and easy-to-train breed.
People often equate these two things, but they are not always related. Many highly intelligent dog breeds are often a nightmare to train. Dogs such as huskies and dachshunds – as adorable as they are – are as incredibly intelligent as they are stubborn, melodramatic, and difficult to train.
That’s why most of the most popular pet breeds are hunting dogs and shepherds, such as the Australian Cattle Dog, because these breeds are not only intelligent but also very trainable. The Heeler is an excellent example. They need obedience training, but once that training is complete, you can teach an Australian Cattle Dog to do just about anything that any other breed of dog can do.
While most experts still place the Border Collie at the top of the intelligent dog rankings, there’s no denying that the Heeler is also near the top. This is hardly surprising, given that this dog is descended in part from the British Shepherd and Collie breeds.