Breed Profile: Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)

If you want a very intelligent, energetic dog with a fun personality, the Australian Cattle Dog may be a great choice. But not if you live in an apartment.

Australian Cattle Dog breed profile
The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as a blue heeler. By: sally9258

Breed

Australian Cattle Dog (blue heeler”

Group

Herding

Physical Description

This medium-sized dog is strong, highly agile and has amazing endurance. Weighing 35-40 pounds, the Australian Cattle Dog lives 10 or more years, but not usually more than 13.

These hard-working dogs come in blue or red mottled or speckled pattern with or without black and tan markings. Their body is slightly longer than the tail.

They have a longish snout and inquisitive ears.

Origin

Not surprisingly, these dogs were first bred in Australia, in the 1800s. A man named George Elliot was looking to create a dog that had a bit more stamina and chutzpah than the cattle dog in England.

The cattle in Australia had much farther to roam, so they were more difficult to control than the English stock that were accustomed to regular direction from dogs. Elliot crossed a blue merle collie with a local Australian wild dog, the dingo. This created a working dog with attitude who could handle the rigors of outdoor life in the bush.

Two other cattle farmers, Jack and Harry Bagust of Caterbury in Sydney, Australia, liked Elliot’s dogs but realized that these dogs lacked the protective guard dog qualities — they would drive the cattle but they would not protect the owner’s gear. In the outback in the 1800s, a good dog to protect your things was a necessity.

The Bagust brothers crossed the Elliot dogs with a dalmatian, looking to breed in some loyalty and a better ability to work with horses. Unfortunately, the working ability was lost with this mix. Looking to restore the working ability, they bred kelpie into the dog and success was found.

In 1893 Rober Lakeski began showing these dogs and developed the standard that truly began the breed in 1903, when it was adopted by the Cattle and Sheepdog Club of Australia. It was not accepted into the American Kennel Club for almost 100 years, finally being inducted on May 1, 1980.

Fun fact: These dogs were originally known as Queensland blue heelers, or blue heelers, because they often controlled cattle by nipping at their heels.

Purpose

This dog was bred in the Australian Outback for herding cattle long distances in harsh conditions.

Temperament

The Australian Cattle Dog bonds closely with its family and is suspicious of strangers, although not aggressive. These dogs require strong leadership. They are, however, very obedient when they know what is expected of them and are eager to please.

Amusingly, they have a tendency to nip at the heels of running children. Some experts say that this trait rules them out for families with young children. Others claim that the dog’s attachment and loyalty to its family makes it an ideal pet. One family is truly thankful for their young cattle dog, who saved their children from a fatal snake attack.

Exercise Needs

This dog must have at least two to three hours of good solid exercise and obedience or agility work every day. They need wide open spaces to run, and they need a job of some sort to keep them mentally alert. They would make good agility dogs if not being used on a farm.

Grooming Requirements

The Australian Cattle Dog has a smooth, light coat and thus minimal grooming requirements — just the occasional brush and bath, along with all the other regular dog maintenance — ears cleaned, nails clipped, teeth brushed.

Common Health Problems

Ailments that pop up in this breed include hip dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans, deafness and progressive retinal atrophy.

Is the Australian Cattle Dog the Right Dog for You?

The Australian Cattle Dog (blue heeler) is good for a working farm, an owner with a lot of time for obedience and exercise,  and owners with large outdoor areas for the dogs to play. These dogs do not do well in apartments. They are highly intelligent and highly energetic. That being said, it is hard to beat the loyalty and the fun-loving personality that a cattle dog displays.

Check out this video from Animal Planet:

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Please consult rescues and adoption resources first. Check out Petful’s adoptable pet finder. You can filter results by ZIP code and breed.

Sarah Blakemore

View posts by Sarah Blakemore
Sarah Blakemore has been researching and writing about pet care and pet behaviors since 2007. She has cared for many pets over the years and has volunteered with several animal shelters around the world.

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