An Australian Cattle Dog can make a wonderful pet for the right owner. You should know some basic facts about the personality, grooming and health of this breed before you purchase one.
The Australian Cattle Dog, also called the Blue Heeler, Red Heeler or Queensland Heeler, first appeared in the late eighteen hundreds. This new breed was the result of breeding early Collies, which were too heavy-coated for the harsh environment of the Australian outback, with the native Dingo. The offspring of this breed was later mixed with Kelpies, Bull Terriers and Dalmatians.
The product is the Australian Cattle Dog, a stocky animal, with short but dense hair, which forms under and outer coats. The two layered coat provides for cold weather protection, and shedding is seasonal, once or twice a year depending on climate. The dogs are either blue or red speckled. Their tails are low set, long, slightly curved, and undocked. A full grown Australian Cattle Dog will usually stand between 17 and twenty inches high, and weigh between 30 and 35 pounds. Agility and courage are standard characteristics of the breed, as such traits are needed for dealing with 1500 pound steers, as the dogs were bred to do.
The highly intelligent Australian Cattle Dog needs activity and attention. It is loyal to its owner, but can be suspicious of others, and dominant, making for a fine guard dog. The animals have been known to nip at the heels of people as they do when herding cows. Their wild Dingo ancestry contributes to this aggression. This trait can be problematic, especially in regards to children, unless the dog has grown up around the specific child. It is important to train your Australian Cattle Dog to be careful with children. Not only are they inclined to herd people with ankle biting, but they are not naturally compliant, and may get annoyed if a child provokes them by being too rough.
The Australian Cattle Dog needs a lot of space to run around. Even a typical backyard is likely not enough, and certainly an apartment is not suitable. They need a large yard at the minimum. Having great natural stamina, they also need plenty of exercise, so you should plan to take your dog on long walks everyday or it can become bored and destructive. They can also be occupied by playing with toys, and many owners have attested that their Australian Cattle Dog will put away his own toys, a task that will keep the dog busy and happy.
The Australian Cattle Dog's dense coat should be combed and brushed with a firm bristle brush, and occasionally bathed.
Australian Cattle Dogs are easily trainable, and the training process should begin early. Positive reinforcement is most effective for training, as the dogs may refuse to comply with force or even fight back.
There are a few genetic defects that a potential owner should ask a breeder about before buying an Australian Cattle Dog. A good breeder is willing to discuss these issues, which include hip dysplasia, deafness, and PRA. Overall these dogs have a long lifespan averaging between 12 and 15 years.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a brave, protective, fun loving breed beloved by its owners.