Other Names: ACD, Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler
Country Of Origin: Australia
Dog Group: Working dog
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Low
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Temperament: Energetic, independent, intelligent, playful
Good For First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes
Good With Strangers: No
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
The Australian Cattle Dog is a breed of herding dog that was used for transporting cattle over long distances in the Australian outback.
Like other working breeds, ACD is very energetic and needs to be kept entertained through frequent exercise and training.
Because of their friendly personality, Australian Cattle Dogs make good family pets, and are good with children.
However, owners should be wary of the dog’s herding instinct coming through, and they can nip children if they become excited.
Color: Red, blue, mottled, or speckled
Height: Males -19-20 inches, females – 17-19 inches
Personality and Temperament
Australian Cattle Dogs are friendly and playful dogs, and thrive on human attention.
That said, they can also be fiercely independent, and stubborn as a result. This can be controlled to a certain extent through training and exercise, although much of it will depend on the individual dog.
ACDs have actually been rated as one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world.
Due to their intelligence, Blue Heelers can pick up obedience training very quickly, and can learn some very complicated commands.
Their role as a herding dog meant they needed to be able to make decisions on their own without any human guidance, and so this has resulted in their independence.
Owners should keep them amused by teaching them complex commands, and training should begin as early as possible.
The breed can be very wary of strangers, particularly when at home. They make incredible guard dogs, but have to be trained for this role to make sure they perform it properly.
They aren’t known to attack potential intruders, but will simply bark to alert their owners to possible problems.
ACDs make good family pets, and can be kept with other animals too. The Australian Cattle Dog is good with children, but will have a much easier time with older children because their behavior is slightly more predictable.
With younger children, Blue Heelers might try and nip them, particularly if they’re running around and making noise. However, this can be controlled with the right obedience training.
The breed is fine to be kept around other animals, both other dogs and smaller pets. Much like with children, owners should be wary of the dog’s herding instinct kicking in, as it might try to play with smaller pets, such as rabbits.
Socializing and interaction from a young age should minimize the risk of this situation though.
Australian Cattle Dogs are known to be very active, as they were bred to cover massive distances as quickly as possible.
This means they’re not a good choice for inactive owners, and need to be taken on at least one long walk a day, but will happily go for more if their owners have the energy.
Walking should be supplemented with playtime at home too, as this will help to provide mental stimulation.
Due to their energy levels, Blue Heelers aren’t suitable for apartment living.
They’re best suited to properties with plenty of land that the dog can roam in, and unlike some other breeds, there’s very little chance of ACDs running off, although they should always be microchipped just to be on the safe side.
ACDs were bred to tolerate climates in the Australian outback, and so are absolutely fine in hot weather.
They would also need to tolerate the cold nights, so can deal with colder climates too, but you might find it necessary to buy them a coat for the winter.
Regardless of a breed’s intended climate, you should always be careful walking them during hot summer months, and should be conscious not to exercise them during the hottest part of the day.
Based on a number of different factors, the Australian Cattle Dog is a good choice for first-time owners.
The breed is generally low maintenance, is easy to train, and is very receptive to human emotion.
This makes them ideal as a breed to get new owners introduced to caring for a dog, however, their energy levels are something that many first-time owners might have difficulty dealing with.
It’s worth using their energetic nature as one of the most important factors because this will dictate how often you need to walk them.
Australian Cattle Dogs actually require very little grooming because their coat is short and easy to maintain.
They have a double-layered coat that is quite good at insulating, but also means that they shed quite a lot. They also shed their full undercoat twice a year in line with seasonal changes.
Brushing should be done on a weekly basis with a slicker brush or short bristle brush. This will help to remove any loose hairs, which means less hair lying around the house.
They don’t need to be bathed very often because their coat regulates itself using natural oils, and is generally free from odor. Bathing should be saved until absolutely necessary, and brushing should be used instead.
As with any other breed, an ACDs teeth should be brushed several times a week using an appropriate canine toothbrush, and you should provide toys that promote good oral hygiene.
You should check their nails and ears regularly, but nail clipping won’t need to be done that often. If they look too long, give them a trim, but regular walking should help keep them at an acceptable length.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
One of the most common conditions in the breed is deafness. Vets believe it’s linked to the piebald gene that gives the breed its coloration, and it can lead to deafness in one or both ears.
This condition will be present from birth, and can only really be tested for by a vet.
Another common condition present in ACDs is progressive retinal atrophy, which is basically the deterioration of the retinas, and leads to blindness.
While this condition can start at any age, it’s most common in later life, and takes a while to lead to complete blindness. Symptoms are much easier to spot because the eyes will look glassy or milky, but again, a vet should test to confirm.
The other most common hereditary conditions associated with the breed are various musculoskeletal conditions and some reproductive conditions, such as infertility.
Although these aren’t very common, most responsible breeders will have puppies tested before sale. Hip and elbow dysplasia aren’t very common either, but are still tested for at a young age.
In the early days of settlement and expansion in Australia, farmers would use commonly found dogs to herd their cattle.
One example is the English Sheepdog, although this breed was very poor at covering long distances.
Thomas Hall, the son of a cattle farmer, decided to create a new breed with the sole purpose of herding cattle across the Australian outback.
Droving dogs (those used to pull carts) were imported from Northumberland, England, and were named Northumberland Blue Merle Drovers Dog, and were eventually crossbred by Hall with a number of dingoes he had tamed.
Over the next 10 years or so, Hall tweaked his breeding stock until he was happy with the resulting dog.
This breed, known as the Halls Heeler, were used exclusively by the Halls because the dogs gave them a massive advantage over other cattle herders in the region.
However, after Thomas Hall’s death in 1870, his land and stock were sold off, and the breed was free to be used by other cattle farmers.
Over the next 20 years, various different dogs were bred that all fell under the Cattle Dog umbrella, but almost all could trace their lineage back to Hall’s dogs.
The breed rose in popularity thanks to its perfect design for the conditions, and was then introduced to the USA in the 1930s. It was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in the 1930s, but wasn’t fully recognized until 1980.
Australian Cattle Dog Facts & Figures
Did You Know?
- One of the longest living dogs in history was an Australian Cattle Dog. Called Bluey, it died in 1939 at the age of 29 years and 5 months.
- In 2009, an ACD was thrown off a boat she was traveling on with her owners. The dog then swam 5 miles to a deserted island, stayed alive by hunting wild goats, and was rescued by a ranger. She was then returned to her family alive and well.
- Due to their empathic nature, Australian Cattle Dogs make excellent therapy pets. They often respond to human emotions without any commands or training.
- Experts believe that their traces of dingo are what give them enough energy and stamina to run for long distances in the hot Australian sun.