Australian Cattle Dog
Breed Group: Herding
Temperament and Behavior
Bred to work hard as a herder and guardian of livestock, the Australian Cattle Dog is both loyal and protective. As one would expect from such a dog, they are extremely active outdoors. When indoors, however, they are much calmer. But unless they get the substantial amount of exercise needed, they become destructive and/or incessant barkers. Agility training, jogging, playing frisbee several hours a day, or working livestock as they were bred to do, are all outlets for their energy. Using their voice frequently, they make excellent watchdogs. Because they are also willing to fiercely defend their home, they make an exceptional guardian too. Wary of strangers, any guest from the next door neighbor the UPS delivery man is likely to find themselves confined to their vehicle. With livestock absent, they may attempt to round up small children, other pets, bicyclists, and perhaps cars, nipping as they do so. Upon reaching puberty, an Australian Cattle dog will likely challenge family members for dominance. If the family is not to be controlled by the dog this attempt must be controlled with firm, consistent leadership. They will also likely try to dominate other dogs. Do not trust them around a cat either unless raised with them. Any other small pets are unlikely to be safe. Although generally pleasant with the entire family, they frequently bond closely with a single family member. Many seem to prefer children; perhaps because children are more likely to play with them contributing to the high activity level they crave. But supervision should always take place, as these dogs will not accept being ill-treated.
Physical CharacteristicsThe Australian Cattle Dog is a strong, well-muscled, agile, medium-sized dog. Of moderate build, their ideal weight is 35-45 pounds. Males are typically 18-20 inches in height, and females 17-19 inches tall. Their coat is moderately short and weather-resistant coat which provides them reasonable protection from both heat and cold. Coat colors include blue or blue-mottled with or without other markings. They are also red or tan. Puppies are born white and develop their color within a few weeks of birth.
Trainer's NotesSocialization and training will make the difference between a dog that everyone wants and a dog that is a nuisance or a hazard. Their need for socialization is exceptionally high. Without proper socialization, they will likely become too sharp and prone to biting. All training must be positive. There is absolutely no chance of forcing a dog that gets kicked in the head by cattle and comes back for more to do anything they do not want to do. But Australian Cattle Dogs bore easily in training. Trainers must do what they can to stay ahead of the dog, which is easier said than done. These intelligent dogs learn very quickly and frequently out-think their trainer. Needing a dog wise owner with the time, space, and willingness to provide for the dog’s needs, Australian Cattle Dogs are not for the typical dual-income suburban family.
Australian Cattle Dog
HealthThe Australian Cattle Dog’s most significant health concerns include PRA which affects between 15% and 20% of the breed, together with Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia which affects about 15% and 10% of all dogs tested respectively. OCD and deafness are other problems to watch for. Puppies should come with a BAER printout showing normal bilateral hearing (hearing in both ears). Minor concerns include PPM, Cataracts, and Lens Luxation, all of which affect their eyes, and the blood clotting disorder called Von Willebrand’s Disease. Australian Cattle Dogs have an average lifespan of between 10 and 13 years.
PopularityThe Australian Cattle Dog is ranked by the AKC as 70th in populatity with about 1,500 dogs registered each year.
Breed HistoryThe Australian Cattle Dog originated in the early 1800’s in the vast, open lands of Australian Outback where they were used to protect and herd both cattle and sheep. The European herding breeds proved unable to manage wild Australian cattle. The ranchers and Overlander drovers needed a dog that could travel long distances over rough terrain controlling the cattle and sheep without barking which only makes wild cattle more difficult to handle. Over time, breeders combined the Bull Terrier, the Dalmatian, the Black and Tan Kelpie (a herding dog not AKC recognized) and the wild Australian Dingo creating the Australian Cattle Dog. Slow to catch on in America, they eventually proved their merit as a talented herding dog and companion. The AKC fully recognized the breed in 1980.
Additional InformationThe Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Australian Heeler, the Queensland Heeler, the Blue Heeler, and Hall’s Heeler. Two notable owners of the breed are Mel Gibson and George Strait. The National (US) Breed Club is the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America.