Australian Cattle Dog – Everything You Need To Know

Australian Cattle Dogs are loyal and protective dogs bred to herd cattle. The Australian Cattle Dog was bred in the 19th century by the Australian settlers to herd cattle on big ranches. They had their exciting way of herding uncontrollable wild cattle with their nips and bites. Though these are purebred dogs, they result from many breedings and cross-breedings. The ranchers of Australia wanted a hardy dog that would suit the island continent’s harsh conditions and rough climate. Unfortunately, dogs brought from England were not up to the job. Hence, they were bred with Dingo, and after several breedings and cross breedings, it resulted in the cattle dog, which is believed to be the ancestor of the present-day Australian Cattle Dog. Blue-colored dogs were popular among ranchers in Queensland and hence were called Blue heelers and Queensland Heelers or Queensland Blue Heelers. The dog got the name Heeler due to their herding method of nipping the heels of the cattle. The breed was initially called the Australian Heeler and later was called Australian Cattle Dog, which is now the official name in Australia and the rest of the World. 

Australian Cattle Dogs were initially grouped as miscellaneous and later as a working group in September 1980. Later, they were again grouped as the herding group in 1983. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in May 1980.

Australian Cattle Dog Basic Information

  • Name: Australian Cattle Dog
  • Origin: Australia
  • Group: Working dogs, Herding dogs
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 17-20 inches
  • Weight: 30-50 pounds
  • Coat: Short and straight
  • Color: Blue, red, black-blue
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Canine sports, agility, obedience, rally, flyball, flying disc
  • Barking Level: Low
  • Shedding Level: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1-7 puppies
  • Other Names: Blue heelers, Queensland Heelers, Queensland Blue Heelers, Australian Heeler
  • Original Passtime: Canine games
  • Life Span: 12 – 16 years

Types of Australian Cattle Dog Breed 

Red Heeler – The red heeler type has a red tint on its fur.

Blue Heeler – The Blue Heeler type has blue tint on its fur. Apart from the coat color, there is no difference between the two types.

Australian Cattle Dog Overview

The Australian Cattle Dogs were bred for herding cattle, and they are medium-sized, sturdy dogs with weather-resistant double coats. These dogs are loyal, hard-working, and intelligent. They are high-energy dogs and need to be kept mentally and physically engaged. If boredom sets in, they start to entertain themselves by digging, munching whatever their eyes are set at. They love playing puzzle games and retrieving games. Australian Cattle Dogs are unique in bonding. They get attached closely to one person and bond less with the others. This Blue Heeler is also a naughty Heeler called a “velcro dog” because they tend to be attached and bond closely with their owners.

Australian Cattle Dog Pros and Cons

Hard working High exercise need
Curious and intelligentStubborn
Loyal and affectionateSeparation anxiety

Australian Cattle Dog Highlights

  • Australian Cattle Dogs are highly energetic and active, both physically and mentally. 
  • Nipping and Biting are their instincts and their way of herding the cattle. 
  • Australian Cattle Dogs are also called “shadow dogs” because of their close attachment to their owners. 
  • Socializing them with children and other pets is essential at a very young age.

Australian Cattle Dog Personality

Australian Cattle Dogs are medium-sized, sturdy dogs that are hard-working and loyal. They are 17-20 inches tall and weigh around 30-50 pounds. Australian Cattle Dogs are double-coated and weather resistant. The outer coat is short while the under the coat is soft, protecting against extreme weather conditions. The coat colors come in blue, red, and blue-black, and their heads are curved and broad with a short and sharp muzzle. The tails hang behind the hindquarters. They always look curious with oval brown eyes. One distinct feature of their eyes is that they have contrasting color patches in either one or both eyes.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh
Dog-friendlyMedium to high

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow
Good for new ownersLow
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneLow to medium
Cold toleranceMedium to high
Heat toleranceMedium to high

Australian Cattle Dog Physical Features

Head: The head is strong and slightly curved. They have a broad skull. The cheeks and muzzle are muscular with strong teeth, giving a robust appearance.

Neck: The neck is highly muscular and strongly blends with its sturdy body.

Topline: The topline is level with a strong ribbed back. They have a deep and muscular chest.

Body: The body is medium-sized and compact. The length of the body is greater than the height at the withers. 

Tail: The tail hangs loosely in a very slight curve. The tail becomes straight when excited and needs regular brushing.

Forequarters: The shoulders are strong, sloppy, and muscular, and the upper arms have round solid bones. 

Hindquarters: The hindquarters are strong, broad, and muscular. The thighs are long, broad, and well developed. The hind legs are straight and parallel.

Feet: The feet are round with short toes. The toes are strong, arched, and held close together, and the pads are hard and deep. The nails, too, are strong and short.

Coat: They are double-coated and smooth. The undercoat is short and dense, with the outer coat flat, close, and rain resistant. The coat is longer under the body and short on the neck. 

Color: The coat colors come in blue, red, and blue-black. 

Gait: The action is free and tireless with powerful hind legs. The movement of the shoulders and forelegs is in unison. 

Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

Australian Cattle Dogs are active and energetic dogs. They get easily bored without physical and mental activities and tend to destructive behavior. They are closely attached to the owner, are protective, defend their territory, and are wary of strangers. They should be socialized with kids and other pets very early. They have a high prey drive and chase squirrels and cats and are intelligent dogs yet stubborn. Positive training helps in behavior correction. They are playful and love canine games.

Australian Cattle Dog Training

Australian Cattle Dogs are easily trainable and are always eager to please. They herd everything and anything within their territory. They require positive and regular training to understand what is right and wrong with no proper training, like nipping running kids and being harsh with other animals.

Trainability Overview

Easy to trainHigh
Prey driveHigh
Mouthiness tendenciesHigh
Barking and Howling tendenciesLow
Wanderlust tendenciesHigh

Australian Cattle Dog Exercise Needs

Australian Cattle Dogs are highly active, require a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise, and can be engaged in walks and multiple canine games. They love canine sports, agility, obedience, rally, flyball, and flying disc. Thirty minutes of mental stimulation daily will keep the dog happy and healthy. They also love puzzle games and playing with chew and tug toys, which keeps them satisfied and happy.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh

Australian Cattle Dog Grooming

Australian Cattle Dogs are double-coated and weather resistant. They are pretty easy to groom. They are not hypoallergenic and shed averagely. They can be bathed when needed to keep them clean from dirt and debris. It is essential to keep the skin dry thoroughly after a bath to prevent infections from moisture. Check their eyes regularly for irritation, redness, or discharge. The nails need to be trimmed periodically. Brush the teeth without fail daily to prevent dental problems. Ears accumulate dirt and must be washed and cleaned to avoid bacteria and other ear-related issues.

Grooming Overview

Easy to groomHigh 
Drooling tendenciesLow 
Amount of sheddingMedium to high

Australian Cattle Dog Health

Australian Cattle Dogs are healthy and active dogs. Yet, it’s always wise to be aware of the health conditions they are prone to.

Health Overview

General healthHigh
Weight gain tendenciesMedium to high

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is outwardly a painful disease that occurs when the bones of the back legs do not fit properly in the joints. While some dogs will exhibit symptoms, the majority of canines will not. Hip dysplasia is primarily genetic, although other causes such as accidents, excessive weight gain, and inappropriate training can also cause it. Even though this disease is fatal, therapies range from medicine to hip replacement surgery. To avoid this problem, avoid breeding dogs with hip dysplasia parentage and get annual examinations.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A degenerative eye disorder that causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eyes. It can be detected earlier. A very later stage is blindness. Dogs with this condition can survive for several years since they have other senses to compensate.

Ear infections and Deafness: The ears are prone to infections. The best way is to keep the ears clean and dry. Deafness is related to genetic factors. The pattern in the white coat in the pups that are born white causes deafness. 

Australian Cattle Dog  Diet and Nutrition

Australian Cattle Dogs require 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dog food divided into two meals daily. They are active dogs and need the right amount of nourishment. They can be fed dog food, dry kibbles, whole grains, and vegetables. However, every dog’s diet depends on size, age, metabolism, and activity level. They love to eat and are prone to obesity. They can be kept healthy and in shape with the nourishing and right amount of meals.

Australian Cattle Dog Living Condition

Australian Cattle Dogs were herding dogs bred by the ranchers to herd cattle. They are highly energetic dogs that need large spaces to run around and are unsuitable for apartment living. They are highly sensitive and not comfortable with strangers. They have a close bond with their owners and cannot be left alone as they suffer separation anxiety. They are double-coated, which helps them to thrive in extreme weather conditions.

Did You Know?

  • One of the oldest living dogs was an Australian Cattle Dog, and it was named Bluey. It was born in 1903 and herded for 20 years. And lived for 29 years, which is more than 100 years in human age.
  • Australian Cattle dogs are known to celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson and Mike Wolfe of the TV show “American Pickers.” 
  • If such dogs have bobbed tails, they are AKC classified as American Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs.

Australian Cattle Dog Club Recognition

  • AKC-Recognized Breed
  • United Kennel Club

Adding an Australian Cattle Dog to Your Family

Things to remember before adding an Australian Cattle Dog to your family

Getting an Australian Cattle Dog from a reputable breeder is the best to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health and vaccination. It is best to check with the puppy’s parents to cross-check its health and happiness. It is essential to get health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombophilia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA website (

Cost of an Australian Cattle Dog Puppy

The Australian Cattle Dog Puppy ranges in price from $250 to $3000.

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