Get to know

Australian Cattle Dogs

d

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Puppies reviewed

Nate Ritter, DVM

Puppies reviewer

To control semi-wild cattle over long distances in the hot, unforgiving Australian backcountry, Heelers had to be tougher than the average sheep herder, or even the average European herder.

Content on Good Dog is generated, fact-checked, and evaluated by qualified writers and veterinarians.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a dog of many names: ACD, Heeler, Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Australian Heeler, or Queensland Heeler, but no matter the name, they’re a tough, smart, high-energy dog developed to control unruly cattle in the Australian wilds.

To control semi-wild cattle over long distances in the hot, unforgiving Australian backcountry, Heelers had to be tougher than the average sheep herder, or even the average European herder. They had to be nimble, resilient, and highly intelligent, but also courageous and rough-and-tumble. These traits persist today, in a bold, energetic, biddable, tough dog ready to take on any challenge. They make great companions, but can be hard to manage unless well-trained.

Browse available puppies

Connect with reputable breeders to find the dog of your dreams

This is the heading

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur
adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, nec

This is the heading

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

At a glance :

Very High Energy

Energy level

5/5

Medium

Size

 

Highly Trainable

Training

5/5

Very Low Maintenance

Grooming

2/5

High-energy, biddable, protective

Temperament

 

Vocal

Barking

4/5

12-16 years

Lifespan

 

Why people love the breed

People love these dogs because they’re intelligent, active, tough, and loyal-–not to mention eye-catching.

Think Border Collie meets Rambo: Cattle Dogs are skilled herders who rely more on power and courage than stealth and finesse. Because when you’re facing a giant steer with huge horns and lashing hooves, it’s not the time to be subtle. They tend to be a “grab the bull by horns” kind of dog, at least figuratively. The greater the challenge, the happier they are. They bring this attitude to their home life, where they view everyday activities as contests to be performed with an all-in attitude. 

They are extremely loyal dogs and tend to be one-person dogs, suspicious of strangers and not afraid to give them a nip if they’re out of line.

 If you want a smart, protective, good-looking companion, the Heeler may be your match. But only if you have lots of time and patience. This breed needs way more mental and physical exercise than most, and won’t be content to lounge in front of the fire. They want to get out and look for adventures every day. If you don’t help them find good ones, they’ll find bad ones all on their own.

Appearance

With a unique coloration and dingo-like look, the Heeler is unique amongst breeds. This is a handsome, sturdy dog that’s built for strength, speed, agility, and endurance.

In proportions, these medium-sized dogs are slightly longer than tall, with a level topline. The body is powerful, with strong bones and ample muscling. The head is broad, with strong jaws, rather small prick ears, and oval eyes. The tail is set low and carried in a slight curve.

Per breed standard, the movement is tireless and easy. When working, it must be able to turn, accelerate, and decelerate instantly. The weather-resistant coat is straight and moderately short, with a short, dense undercoat.

The coloration is a breed trademark, as it involves white hairs interspersed among dark hairs. Puppies are born with a white coat, or mostly white (except for patches, which have no intermingled white hairs), and gradually get their speckles within a few weeks. They can be red or blue, either solid or speckled, with or without tan points. The speckled pattern can be lightly or heavily mottled, and with or without patches.

Grooming

Grooming a Heeler is easy. The hard part is getting them to hold still long enough.

Grooming requires brushing the double-coat with a pin or bristle brush every week or two, and bathing every month or so. During shedding seasons (twice a year) be prepared to brush every day for about two weeks. Bathing in warm water can help loosen the hair and hasten the shedding process. Otherwise dirt tends to fall from the coat and bathing is not a priority unless you just want them to smell pretty.

 

Trim the nails as needed (less often in working or extremely active dogs), check the ears (don’t clean them unless they’re dirty) weekly, and brush the teeth daily.

Breed temperament and characteristics

Like all herding dogs that needed to follow the shepherd’s cues from a distance, and to do so for long periods, Heelers are extremely intelligent and biddable, as well as energetic. But they are also free-thinkers.

Heelers were bred to follow directions. Herding dogs had to pay attention to the person directing them or they might head the stock the wrong way. But they were also bred to think for themselves. Herding dogs who continued to head in one direction when an outlier took off in another needed to think fast and on their own to fix matters. They also had to be ready to avoid or intimidate a bull without waiting for directions. Thus, Heelers had to also be self-reliant. This created a breed that is both biddable but with a bit of independence. Most of the time, your Heeler will look to you for direction, and eagerly do as you say. But occasionally they’ll blow you off and do as they think if they have a better idea.

Heelers were bred to be tough and tenacious and they can dig their feet in and be as willful and stubborn as any stock they ever tried to herd. When this happens it’s best to take a deep breath, start over and come at the problem from a different direction, and with a lot of treats. You will not best them in a battle of willpower.

They tend to be suspicious, and don’t warm up to strangers easily. Many are protective, and may even nip at people they want to go away. They can be aggressive toward strange dogs, and may try to herd other pets and even children. They may not be gentle enough for toddlers or the elderly.

They are energetic. Very, very energetic. They need to exercise their mind and body several hours a day, otherwise they can become destructive. They do best with people who like outdoor adventures and especially like training their dog.

Heelers can take over if you give them a chance, so they also do best with people who are firm, calm, and consistent. Leaders lead by taking the lead, not by force.

They are affectionate, but not fawning.

Exercise

Heelers require a lot of exercise—several hours a day of both mental and physical challenges. Only then can you expect them to snooze beside you.

The Heeler was bred to control large herds over large areas. This meant they had to be on their feet, often running, for long periods. A dog that ran out of energy just wouldn’t do. So today’s Heelers are pre-programmed to be tirelessly active. If they don’t get that chance, they become frustrated, destructive and even neurotic. Be sure you’re up to the commitment before getting such an active breed. You don’t need a herd of cattle to keep your Heeler exercised—although it would help—but you do need to give your dog at least two and preferably three hours of exercise a day. This is a great breed to take jogging. However, have your veterinarian check out your dog before committing to longer distance running, and wait until the dog is fully mature. Too much stress on immature joints can harm them. Hiking is also a good choice, as they can carry their own backpack, and are large enough to get over rocks and other difficult terrain. They’re also decent swimmers. Plus they tend to stick close when you ask them to. Some do well at dog parks, but some, perhaps the majority, do not, because many simply don’t play with others well. Don’t forget that a Heeler is an intelligent dog that needs as much mental stimulation as physical. While herding is the favored activity, more easily accessible ones such as obedience training, trick training, nose work, or tracking are all excellent ways to exercise their mind.

Training

Heelers are super smart. Heelers have successfully competed at the very highest levels of herding, obedience, tracking, and agility competitions.

They’re smart about obeying directions, and equally smart about disobeying them. While they are eager to please, they also hold their own opinions in high regard, and if you fail to give clear or reasonable directions, they will take matters into their own hands. Or paws. Because of their suspicious nature, Heelers should be extensively socialized as puppies, meeting many new people and dogs in non-threatening situations. Heelers do best with calm, quiet, consistent, and firm leadership. The breed already tends to be noise-sensitive as well as overactive. As with all dogs, they respond best to positive reinforcement, especially if they are already acting out of control. Cues should instead be delivered quietly and calmly. These dogs are capable of learning complex behaviors, so don’t be afraid of asking for too much—as long as you are being clear, calm, and consistent. Heelers enjoy learning and it counts toward their exercise time. At the same time, you’ll have difficulty teaching a Heeler who is frustrated from lack of exercise.

Diet and nutrition

Heelers are high energy dogs that need high-energy food. Just be careful they don’t get chubby.

Puppies should eat puppy food three to four times a day until around 4 months of age, then two times a day until around 9 months of age, at this point transitioning to an adult diet. For puppies, feed them using their body condition as your guide. If they are overly thin, feed more, and if they start to be chubby after the age of 6 or 7 months, talk to your veterinarian about cutting them down. Active adult Heelers may need to eat a commercial diet formulated for active dogs. These diets are higher in both protein and fat. Even Heelers can get overweight, so be careful that you don’t overfeed your Heeler as your dog ages and eventually slows down. They’ll need fewer calories then. In addition, neutered or spayed dogs tend to need fewer calories. Factor in all the treats you may be doling out during training, which can add up to a lot of calories. You should be able to feel the waist and see a narrowing through the loin from above. You should also be able to feel the ribs with minimal probing. Discuss any special diet concerns with your veterinarian. Your Heeler’s optimal diet will change with age. Some health problems require special diets that may only be available through prescription.

Health issues

Heelers are so active and driven sometimes they can be pretty stoic, so you must watch them carefully. They do have a few problems to which they seem susceptible.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) :
This disorder occurs due to a group of diseases that cause the receptors of the eye’s retina to gradually deteriorate, causing blindness. Various DNA tests are available, depending on breed. Ophthalmic exams performed by ophthalmologists are recommended as well.
  • Elbow dysplasia
A condition in which the elbow joint develops inappropriately, causing arthritis and lameness. No genetic test is available to date, therefore, the recommended screening test is x-rays.
  • Lens luxation
The lens of the eye becomes fully or partially detached and moves out of place.

Lifespan: 12 to 16 years.

The world’s oldest dog was at one time a 29-year-old Blue Heeler named Bluey.

Hip dysplasia

A complex condition that involves both genetic and environmental factors and arises when the head of the femur doesn’t fit in the pelvic socket, causing arthritis and lameness. No genetic test is available to date, therefore, the recommended screening test is x-rays.

Deafness

The inability to hear with either one or both ears being affected.

Other health issues

Other disorders that occur in Heelers include liver shunts and patellar luxation.

History

Heelers are the only breed believed to be derived from the Australian dingo.

Cattle ranching in 19th century Australia was difficult because of the hot climate, rugged unfenced terrain, and belligerent cattle. The European herding dogs weren’t bred for these conditions and weren’t generally tough enough. Thomas Hall and family crossed their European herders called Smithfields with some tamed dingos they had, creating a rugged herding dog strain called Hall’s Heelers. Later, other breeds, probably Collies, Dalmatians, Bull Terriers and Black & Tan Kelpies were mixed in, creating the Queensland Blue heeler. A standard was developed in 1897, emphasizing the Dingo characteristics. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1980 as the Australian Cattle Dog. It is in the Herding group. DNA evidence places it right with other herding breeds. Heelers played roles in the movies Mad Max 2, Secret Window, and Last of the Dogmen. Celebrity owners include Matthew McConaughey, Owen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, High Jackmanm Mark Harmon, and many more. Img: Shada Australian Cattle Dogs

About the author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

About the author

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Breed Scorecard

Characteristics and temperament

Affectionate with family
3
Watchdog level
5
Playfulness
3
Adaptability
4
Social needs
3
Temperament
High-energy, biddable, protective, suspicious, intelligent
Intelligence
3
Good with other dogs
3
Good with cats or other pets
3
Friendly with strangers
3
Good as a service dog
3
Good for apartments
3
Barking level
3

Appearance

Height
17-20"
Size
Medium
Colors
Blue mottled, Blue speckled, Red speckled, Red mottled, Blue
Coat texture
Fairly hard
Coat length
Short

Training

Trainability
5

Exercise

Exercise needs
3
Exercise time
2 to 3 hours per day
Mental exercise needs
3
Favorite activities
Herding, hiking, Frisbee

Grooming

Grooming needs
2
Brushing frequency
Weekly
Needs professional grooming?
2
Drooling level
2

Health issues

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
Hip dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia
Deafness
Lens luxation
Other health issues

Other

Bred for
Bred for
Country of origin
Cattle herding
Popularity level
Cattle herding

FAQs

We offer a diverse selection, including Cane Corso, De Bordeaux, Shih Tzu, and more.

Each puppy comes with up-to-date vaccinations and a health check from reputable breeders.

Yes, we have a range of sizes, including teacup puppies and larger breeds like big dogs in Rancho Las Vegas.

We provide after-sale support and health guarantees to ensure your puppy’s well-being.

Visit our Rancho or West Las Vegas locations to meet the puppies; contact us for an appointment.