Also known as Red Heeler, Blue Heeler, Australian Heeler or Queensland Heeler, we’re looking at an intelligent, active and loyal breed that makes the perfect farm dog or household companion for active owners.
This breed was selectively bred by the 19th century by Australian settlers to herd cattle on ranches. His nickname “heeler” comes from this breed’s predisposition to nip at the heels of cattle in order to move them. This breed played a key role in expanding the Australian beef industry. This breed was selectively bred to withstand the harsh environment and climates. The drover dogs that were initially imported from England weren’t performing as needed, so cattle farmer Thomas Hall from North South Wales Colony bred blue-merle collies with a few tamed dingoes to give life to Halls Heelers, the ancestors of the present-day heeler. A favorite among the many cattle runs of Queensland were blue-colored heelers, loved so much by Robert Kaleski who started showing them in 1897 and wrote the standard for the breed. It is thanks to several soldiers stationed in Australia during WWII that the breed was introduced to the US. This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1980 and is now categorized under the herding group.
This is a dog who loves to work and thrives on activity. He looks forward to be involved in family activities. When it comes to strangers, he is wary of outsiders so you’ll need to keep in mind his protective nature. This breed needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Fail to do so and you’ll soon discover how he’ll find outlets for pent up energy and it won’t be pretty. He’ll likely chew your couch, dig up your flower bed and bark from frustration. This is a loyal breed that tends to attach to one family member. One of those “one-man” dogs. He’s predisposed to becoming a shadow, following his chosen person room-to-room. He has a stubborn streak, but this was after all much needed back in time to out-will stubborn cows!
If you’re not using this breed for herding, you can keep him active and healthy by enrolling him in canine sports such as agility, rally, obedience and flyball. From early puppy hood, this breed needs to learn not to nip. As mentioned, this breed tends to be mouthy from its original purpose of nipping at the cattle’s heels. So you’ll see pups trying to chase and nip a lot especially during play and this needs to be curbed early. The nipping and chasing can also be seen directed towards other animals and even joggers, bikes and cars. Once an adolescent, you may notice testing behaviors and more stubborn behavior, but with consistency you’ll be able to surmount any challenges. This breed wasn’t selectively bred to be a household pet, he was bred to work and needs alternate outlets for his “hardwired” behaviors. Enroll him in agility or other doggy sports.
The best household
With small pets, lots of caution is needed as this breed has a strong prey drive. If you are planning to have him share the home with pets, you’re better off introducing them from an early age. Expect him otherwise to chase the squirrels and neighbor cats which he sees as prey. With children, the same applies, introduce children from an early age and make sure to teach him how to curb his nipping which can be problematic when he’s near the little ones. The nipping may be seen when children run, squeal and engage in boisterous play, almost as if he feels the duty to herd some undisciplined calves. Bite inhibition is paramount in this breed. Providing with sturdy toys can be a good way to redirect his nipping. Never leave a child or dog alone.
With other dogs, this dog may get along… but don’t forget about his predisposition to getting attached to one special person. This can result in squabbles with other dogs over attention. Also, consider he’s used to working for the most part alone.. he’s not your typical pack animal.
This is a very active breed that will need to get rid of pent off energy on a daily basis. Make sure you have the time and will to provide ample of opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation. Fail to do that, and he’ll find his own forms of entertainment , most likely, under the form of chewing, nipping and chasing and it won’t be amusing. Also, keep in mind this breed’s clingy behaviors, if you don’t like to have a dog shadowing every move you make, this breed is not for you. These dogs perceive being away from their favorite owners as a form of punishment. They also seem particularly attuned to your emotions.
This breed needs space and won’t do well in an apartment. Make sure he has space to romp and a securely fenced yard. This breed thrives on a farm with acreage and livestock to herd. While he works silently, he may use his bark to sound the alarm or get attention.intense, He has a distinct, high-pitched bark that many will find annoying. Many Australian cattle dogs enjoy water and swimming.
This breed is a tough cookie. Consider that this breed was bred to handle rough terrain, high temperatures and he had to cover long distances in the large, Australian ranches. He may not show pain or signs of overdoing it when working. You’ll need to be attentive and step in to stop him for his well-being. This breed is prone to the following conditions: Progressive Retinal Atrophy , hip dysplasia, deafness. The deafness is attributed to recessive piebald alleles that produce white in the coat,This breed’s lifespan ranges between lifespan of 12 to 14 years.
This medium-sized, muscular breed stands around 18 to 20 inches tall with weights ranging come 30 to 50 pounds. The coat is double, featuring a nice, dense layer or undercoat and a top coat made of rain-resistant short, straight hairs. When it comes to coat color, you’ll see dogs with blue or red speckles. Interestingly, both blue and red varieties are born white with the red or black hairs growing as the pup ages. The coat colors is the result of the ticking gene. A white “star” may be found on on the forehead, a characteristic known as the “Bentley Mark” Some specimens may have black facial masks over one or both eyes, a white tip on the tail. The tail is natural and kept un-docked in Australia because it’s appreciated for increasing agility allowing heelers to turn quickly. The tail is carried moderately low and at rest, it hangs in a slight curve. This breed shouldn’t be confused with the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.
This is quite a smart dog, but he tends to be stubborn. You’ll need to be patient and invest in positive training techniques to keep him motivated. Consistency is key. He can get bored if you’re not diligent in varying commands and tricks. He likes variety. Socialization must start early so this dog can learn to be a confident, well-rounded dogs that isn’t excessively suspicious of people. This breed does well in agility since he’s used to responding to the owner’s body language given at a distance. Give him 2-3 hours of vigorous exercise a day.
This is a “wash and wear” dog that requires little grooming but brace yourself for a rainfall of hair twice a year when the heeler blows his coat. You’ll find clumps everywhere. Brushing him a few times a month will ensure the oils in his coat get distributed well will do when he’s not shedding. When he sheds though increase the brushing to keep those stray hairs at bay.
Where to find one
Australian Cattle Dog Rescue, Inc.
Australian Cattle Dog Club of America