- Activity Level: high
- Grooming Level: low
- Trainability: high
- Adaptability: moderate
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Medium
- Average Lifespan: 12-16 years
- Prey Drive: high
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca, akc
Blue Heeler – Australian Cattle Dog Breed Profile
Known as the Blue Heeler, or the Australian Cattle Dog, this breed hails from Australia and traces its roots back all the way to the wild dingo. They were bred specifically to drive cattle over long distances and often across rough terrain. They received their “Heeler” nickname due to their common habit of nipping at cattle’s heels to herd them.
They are most well-known in the US by their Blue Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog names, but they are also sometimes called Australian Heeler, Queensland Heeler, and Halls Heeler. The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Australian Cattle Dog in 1980. Since they were bred to be a working dog, they tend to have a lot of energy and need plenty of exercise to be happy. Sometimes called a “velcro” dog, the Blue Heeler gets close to his owner and family quickly, but will bond with one individual much more than any other.
Blue Heelers are exceedingly affectionate with their human families – and other pets for that matter. They are brave, loyal, and friendly to those they know. When it comes to strangers, however, this breed should be watched carefully. They are also generally better-suited to families with older children. Australian Cattle Dogs are very protective of their packs, and they will become defensive. Because of their protective nature, they make excellent protection or guard dogs. This can typically be dealt with early on through training and proper socialization. It’s important to give them a job or purpose in order for them to be happy.
Like most dogs bred for cattle herding, the Blue Heeler doesn’t do well in apartment dwellings and likely isn’t a good fit for first time dog owners. This dog breed needs its space. They do tend to be hardy dogs, however, and are able to thrive in most other environments – regardless of heat or cold.
One of the best aspects of the Blue Heeler is their health. They have very few, if any, specific diseases to the breed outside of issues that all dog breeds face. Deafness from birth is more common in the Blue Heeler than in most breeds. However, it doesn’t affect the pup’s quality of life in most cases.
For owners, Blue Heelers are one of the most loving and attentive breeds out there. Because of their herding dog mentality, they can engage in barking regularly and have a high prey drive. Luckily, they are also one of the easiest breeds to train due to their hard-working nature and tireless efforts, allowing many of these issues to be taken care of if addressed as puppies. They do become easily bored with repetition, so it’s important to keep them learning new things throughout their lives.
An Australian Cattle Dog’s coat is short, smooth, and water-resistant. Their coat colors are red, blue, and blue-speckled. When the coat is red, they are sometimes referred to as a “Red Heeler”. With fairly short fur, the Blue Heeler has an average amount of shedding with a couple of heavier seasonal shedding events. You won’t need to vacuum every day, but some upkeep is required. Their coat is very easy to take care of in general and can be kept clean with regular weekly brushing and the occasional bath.
Blue Heelers have a very high energy level and need to be exercised every day. When they don’t get enough energy out, they tend to get up to mischief; such as digging in unwanted places. This dog breed should be walked, run, or played with each day. Alternately, they should be given plenty of space to do so on their own. They need frequent exercise, so it never hurts to give them some space to run.
Blue Heelers are mid-sized herding dogs. They get to be about 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder. Females tend to range between 17 and 19 inches tall while the males range from 18 to 20 inches. They also tend to range between 30 to 50 pounds. Males tend to average between 35 and 50 pounds while females tend to average between 30 and 35 pounds.
This dog breed has a longer life span of about 12 to 16 years.
Although some working dogs in the United States have docked tails, the Australian Cattle Dog usually has an undocked tail. There is a distinctly separate dog breed that looks similar to the Blue Heeler and is usually born without a long tail. It is called the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog.