Australian Cattle Dog
Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
It’s Wednesday, which means it’s Breed Bio Day! We’ve had some technical difficulties with Arlo’s Daily Tips, but we’re back today with the Australian cattle dog, also known as the blue heeler and the queensland heeler. This is a robust, medium sized herding dog developed in Australia.
The female blue heeler measures 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder and the male, 18 to 20 inches. They weigh between 30 and 60 pounds. This breed has pointed ears on top of the head and an alert expression. They are built solid, and relatively low to the ground, but not excessively so.
Coat and Grooming
Heelers have either blue or red coats interspersed with white and grey. They often have solid patches of black or red (for blue or red heelers, respectively) and often a mask on the face. This is a short-coated breed and requires little grooming. Brushing weekly to remove loose, dead hair and the occasional bath is sufficient.
The Australian cattle dog has a life span comparable to other dogs of similar size, 11 to 13 years on average. The heeler breed has a high incidence of deafness, as do many other breeds whose puppies are born white and develop their color over time. Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which causes blindness late in life, is common in the Australian cattle dog. Hip dysplasia is also common in this breed.
Heelers are extremely intelligent, often ranking in the top ten in breed intelligence rankings. If not provided proper mental stimulation, the Australian cattle dog can become destructive or even aggressive. It is said of heelers that if the owner gives one an inch, he will take a mile. The heeler is not a breed for inexperienced owners and should not be a “first dog.” A heeler owner should be a confident trainer and comfortable in the alpha role. This breed tires easily of repetitive training and one who wishes to own a heeler should be prepared to include as much variety and fun in the training technique as possible. Heelers are weary of strangers and protective of family and thus make excellent guard dogs.
The Australian cattle dog lives to herd and if not given the opportunity to herd cattle, they have been known to herd other animals and even people.
This is an extremely high-energy breed. Heelers must be provided a “job” as a proper release of their energy or, as mentioned previously, they can grow destructive and aggressive. However, one does not need to live on a farm to own a heeler. This breed’s needs can be satisfied with long, daily walks, durable (very durable) interactive toys, and training and play with the owner. Heelers also excel at agility trials, flyball, Frisbee, and other activities that require athleticism and intelligence.
-The Australian cattle dog is known as the “heeler” because he herds cattle by nipping at their heels.
-Many Australian cattle dog trainers start their herding training on ducks.
-An Australian cattle dog appeared in The Road Warrior with Mel Gibson in 1985.
-Allegedly one of the oldest living dogs was a heeler named Bluey, who lived from 1910 to 1939. It is said that he herded cattle for over 20 years before settling into retirement.
-The Australian cattle dog is related to the dingo, an Australian wild dog.
-The expression “three dog night” originated in Australia. It refers to a night so cold one needs three dogs to keep warm.
-Australian cattle dogs are often play dingos in movies and on TV.