Australian Cattle Dog

Recommended for: Families with older children
Maintenance Level: High
Lifespan: 11-12 years
Loyal, active
Health Risk:
This breed has an around average probability of having health issues in its lifetime, hence it is one of the more affordable breeds to insure.
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Breed Overview

Also known as Blue Heelers and Red Heelers, Australian Cattle dogs are sturdy, medium sized dogs that have been used as working dogs on farms and cattle stations across our vast country. While the use of working cattle dogs has somewhat waned over the years, they c0ntinue to be valued for their loyalty and ruggedness.  These dogs have in some ways become a symbol of the Australian outback.

Australian Cattle dogs come in a variety of colours but there are four base colours: black, red, chocolate and blue/grey. Blue Heeler puppies are born white, but you can sometimes the eventual colour of their coat through the pads on their paws. They have a double coat and despite being a short haired breed, they do tend to shed a fair amount of hair.

Heelers love to take part in any kind of exercise including agility, chasing balls and Frisbees, and they make the perfect jogging companion.  If they aren’t given enough exercise, they will become bored, destructive and may be prone to excessive barking due to their temperament. They are not ideal for apartment living because they need plenty of exercise and stimulation.

The male Blue Heeler stands between 43 and 51 cm and females stand between 43 and 48 cm.  Blue Heelers usually weigh around 18 to 22 kg.

The average lifespan of a Blue Heeler is 12 to 15 years.

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Personality and Temperament

Australian Cattle dogs are intelligent dogs who are easy to train.  These dogs were bred to work and that means they can become easily bored if they are not given an outlet for their energy. Their owners will need to commit to regularly exercising the dog through long walks or runs.  They are also ideally suited to agility, flyball and herding trials. Regular exercise, mental stimulation and training will usually result in a well-balanced dog.

Heelers make good family dogs. They have a tendency to be a bit dominant and nippy, but with early training and socialization they will come to know their place in the family. It’s important that they know who the pack leader is in the family so they can take directions accordingly. Sometimes they are unsure around children and may perceive them as threatening, especially if they are unknown to the dog.

While the Heeler makes an excellent watch dog, it may let people on the property but when they turn around to leave, it has a tendency to nip from behind. Heelers will get along with other dogs if they have been raised with them from puppyhood.  The same applies for cats they have been raised with, but they may chase and kill unfamiliar cats and small animals.


Common Australian Cattle Dog Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Hip dysplasia is a common condition in many breeds, particularly larger ones. In this condition, the thighbone and hip socket do not fit together properly, causing a laxity in the joint that can lead to pain and lameness. Arthritis can develop later in life as a result of the condition.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a family of eye conditions which result in the deterioration of the retina at the back of the eye. In the early stages, dogs may lose their sight at night, and then gradually lose their sight during the daytime too. Most dogs, however, adapt to their vision loss very well unless faced with new or changing environments.
  • Von Willebrand’s disease, a condition which impedes the blood’s ability to clot, can lead to excessive blood loss post-surgery, as well as nosebleeds, bleeding gums or blood in the stomach. It is currently incurable, and blood transfusions are the only treatments available. Most dogs suffering this disease can lead normal lives, and there are tests available to determine if your pet has it.
  • Deafness occurs in Blue Heelers and can be detected from as early as four weeks of age. If you believe your Blue Heeler is suffering from a loss of hearing, your vet can perform some tests to determine the severity of the situation.

Not all conditions are covered by Pet Insurance. For details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement.

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The Blue Heeler was originally bred by Australian settlers in the 19th Century to work on cattle farms. Ranchers sought a hardy dog who could handle the harsh climate and working conditions in Australia. Dogs initially brought over from England weren’t up to the job, so they were bred with the native Dingo. Countless breedings by many different ranchers finally resulted in what’s believed to be the ancestors of the present-day Australian Cattle Dog. This breed has worked hard alongside their owners over the years to develop the beef industry in Australia.

The popular blue cattle dogs tended to be called ‘blue heeler’, while the red cattle dogs of the breed were, somewhat unsurprisingly, called ‘red heeler’. In Queensland they were given the names ‘Queensland Heeler’ or ‘Queensland Blue Heeler’.

In 1893, Robert Kaleski began breeding Blue Heelers for show.  He drew up a standard for the breed which was approved by the Kennel Club of NSW in 1903.  While the Australian Heeler was the first accepted name of the breed, it later became known as the Australian Cattle Dog. The Australian Cattle Dog was accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club in 1980.

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Australian Cattle Dog Facts!

  • A Blue Heeler starred with Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2 the Road Warrior.
  • When they are born cattle dog puppies are all white.  It is suggested this may have something to do with Dalmatian in their bloodline.
  • Blue Heelers have a strong herding instinct and they will often herd young children during play.
  • A Blue Heeler named Bluey was a legend of the outback where he worked from 1901 for a period of 20 years.

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More Information:

Australian Cattle Dog Society of NSW:

Australian Cattle Dog & Kelpie Club of Queensland:

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