Blue Heeler – Everything You Could Want to Know!

By Kevin Myers | 2020 Update

The Blue Heeler dog, also known as the Australian Cattle Dog, is one of the most energetic, hardworking, and loyal breeds you can own. It is a suitable pet for people who like adventure. According to the Regional Director of the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, the Blue Heeler is an excellent companion, especially for people with type-A personalities. Your heeler will stay happy as long as you have a job for them to do.

There are many interesting things that you can learn about the Blue Heeler breed. And if you’re considering making this adorable and hardworking hound a part of your family, this article will share important information and some of the most interesting facts.

Let’s get started.


Say Hello to a Blue Heeler – The Australian Cattle Dog

Blue Heeler Dog Breed - The Australian Cattle Dog

Intelligent, loyal, and dedicated – that’s Blue Heeler in a nutshell. Traditionally bred as herding dogs on the farm, today’s Blue Heeler still relishes that role. They are fiercely loyal, which makes them great working dogs. Their hardworking nature and extreme intelligence mean that they love retrieving toys and figuring out puzzles.

The breed is also known as ‘shadow dogs’ for their extreme love and loyalty for their owners. Their dynamic and happy-go-lucky nature makes them a popular choice as a family dog as long as they have an outlet for their intense energy. 

The Blue Heeler is a specific color of the Australian Cattle Dog. Red Heelers are another color variation of the ACD as well. They are also referred to as Queensland Heelers. These unique-looking dogs are popular for their intelligence, gorgeous coat colors, and their energetic nature. They have go-all-day-every-day energy and love to run. And even though they’re working dogs, they are excellent family dogs as long as there is an outlet where these dogs can invest their energy.  

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Training and socialization are essential for Blue Heelers to direct their energy levels into positive behavior. Blue Heelers are mouthy dogs bred to herd with force. It is in their nature to nip cattle, pets, children, cars, and anything that moves. They also have a strong tendency to bite, even if they’re playing, which makes training even more crucial for this breed to avoid dangerous behavior.

Another common instinct of this breed is the strong prey drive. These dogs are fascinated by small animals, including cats and squirrels. ACDs should be socialized with other pets from an early age. Only then can you trust them to coexist peacefully. The breed is reasonably friendly but protective at the same time. They tend to be wary of strangers to protect their home turf and family from potential harm.  

These dogs are fierce and bred to handle high temperatures, long distances, and surviving on rough terrain. All of this is a prerequisite for their job on ranches. It also means that Blue Heelers are intensely focused and highly tolerant of pain. They do not quit even if injured and are not too good at expressing discomfort. Therefore, the owner needs to keep an eye and make sure the dog is in excellent health.

Blue Heeler at a Glance

Before we proceed and learn more about the Australian Cattle Dog, here’s the breed at a glance:

  • Purpose: Originally bred for herding, highly alert and focused, hardworking, pleasant companion dog
  • Weight: Can vary between 30 and 50 pounds
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches
  • Group: Herding
  • Temperament: Loyal, hardworking, highly energetic, independent, and tough
  • Exercise: High intensity
  • Looks: Striking and very attractive
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years
  • Kid and Pet Friendly: Medium
  • Playfulness: High requirements
  • Amount of Shedding: Little shedding

History

Protective and highly territorial, the Blue Heeler dog is an amalgamation of different breeds with the predominant characteristics of a cattle dog, such as bravery, obedience, cautiousness, energized, independence, and smartness. Their genetic makeup includes the genes of a Dingo, the Collie, the Black and Tan Kelpie, and the Dalmatian. The results were, as expected, particularly specific for the Australian Outback.  

The famous Australian Cattle Dog was bred during the 19th century by the Australian settlers to herd cattle on big ranches. The Blue Heeler breed played a vital role in helping the ranchers expand the Australian beef industry by efficiently herding almost wild, uncontrollable cattle with bites and nips.

After several breeding and cross-breeding experiences, ranchers were able to develop a durable canine that could easily take Australia’s extreme climate and even herd for hundreds of miles. Dogs were brought from England to breed with the native Dingo to create the Blue Heeler ancestors.

The breed was initially known just as Blue Heeler but was later standardized as the Australian Cattle Dog, which was also the name that got officially accepted throughout Australia and other countries. However, people still commonly call them Blue Heelers or Queensland Heelers. These dogs gained their official recognition in 1980 by American Kennel Club. They have also set specific standards to distinguish this breed from the rest. These characteristics also help you understand your Blue Heeler dog better. We will learn all about these characteristics in this article.  

Blue Heeler Puppies – 5 Things You NEED to Know

Blue Heeler Puppies | 5 Things You NEED to Know

Blue Heeler Size and Appearance

Blue Heelers have unique characteristics. These also help with recognizing these dogs. Here’s more information about Blue Heeler’s size and appearance.

Size and Appearance

A healthy Blue Heeler can grow up to 20 inches tall in adulthood and can anywhere between 30 and 50 pounds. Females are slightly smaller than their male counterparts.

Blue Heelers also resemble the Australian Dingo as they have features like upright ears, a balanced physique, short fur, and an athletic body. However, Blue Heelers have a more muscular build, making them different and unique. It is important to note that the Australian Cattle Dog may have floppy ears when they are puppies but tend to perk up and stand upright within 24 months.

Coat

Their coatis probably their most distinct feature. Blue Heelers have a short, straight coat and can display a variety of different colors. Their undercoat is sometimes even shorter. They do have straight fur but can be a little rough to touch. The coat is what protects them against extreme weather conditions like excessive heat or rain.

Photo by Allison christine on Unsplash

Colors

Blue Heelers come in two basic shades – blue and red. If the Blue Heeler has a redder shade, they are referred to as Red Heeler.

As far as the patterns and marking are concerned, these depend on the fur of the individual dog. The color range and texture are so unique that their coat seems to display a variety of mixed shades. Some dogs may even have darker fur around the eyes, making it look like they have a mask on.  


Blue Heeler Temperament

A dog’s temperament tells a lot about their personality. It reveals the natural instincts of the individual breed, their cooperation level, independence, tendencies to chase or guard, aggression, and their potential of becoming a good pet.

As far as a Blue Heeler’s temperament is concerned, they are a tough breed – both physically and mentally. According to a study published in 2007, Blue Heelers and other cattle dogs can stay engaged in herding sessions lasting four hours in extreme temperatures up to 40 degrees C. They have the energy and capability of covering an average distance of 20 miles in one session.

They have a strong sense of herding, a testament to their intelligence. However, this instinct can encourage the ACDto nip and bite other pets in the house or even children if they find them moving or running around, which is why it is essential to socialize and train your Blue Heeler. They need to get used to a variety of animals and people from puppyhood to prevent this behavior.

It is important to mention that their temperament is affected by several factors, including heredity and training. Puppies can be playful and curious. To understand your pup’s temperament, consider meeting at least one of the parents to ensure they have a personality you like.

If you bring home a grown-up rescue who’s used to herding and mustering sessions, it can be difficult for such dogs to adapt to their new indoor life, especially with kids and other pets around. Early socialization is the only way to expose your pup to different people, experiences, sounds, and sights. Training and socialization from puppyhood is the best way to ensure well-rounded, trained Australian Cattle Dogs.


Blue Heeler with Kids and Other Pets

The Australian Cattle Dog can be a wonderful family pet if trained well. Your dog would do best if raised with children and other pets around them. Early acceptance and familiarity are essential in a Blue Heeler’s case. If they’re brought up exposed to a variety of humans and animals since puppyhood, they can become very playful and protective.

Since they are mouthy dogs, it can be problematic if you’re bringing home a new guy. They can nip and bite as they do with the herd to keep them under control. If kids try to hold them or play with them, there’s a chance of sharp nipping and biting.

You cannot expect these dogs to know how to treat children and other smaller pets. Unless you buy them as a puppy and invest in their socialization, they can become too rough. This breed is also very suspicious of kids and the way they move. The Australian Cattle Dog may consider their behavior as a threat and react accordingly. The same is the case with other animals in the house.

All of these problems, however, can be solved with proper socialization of the Australian Cattle Dog. At the same time, it is also important to teach your kids how to approach and handle this breed. If you’re bringing a new hound home, it is vital to supervise all interactions between young children and these dogs to prevent any tail or ear pulling or biting on the part of both the parties.

It is possible to raise a dog-friendly Blue Heeler. You just need to introduce them right from the start so they can become comfortable with each other. However, these dogs are loyal and often devoted to one person the most. ACDs can become jealous if their person tries to cuddle with the other animals. It is best to prioritize these dogs and only cater to the others in the absence of Blue Heelers.

Cats and other small animals in the household my be looked upon as prey by the Blue Heelers. The only way to ensure he considers them a part of the family is if they’re raised together. Introducing a new adult Blue Heeler in a household with other animals isn’t such a good idea. In such a case, he’s likely to chase, fight, and even kill other smaller animals.


Personality Traits

The Australian Cattle Dogs are very active and hardworking dogs who require constant physical and mental activities to be content. If he’s lonely or bored, it is easy for them to become destructive. They can naturally chew, bite, and tear up items around. If you are choosing this breed as a family dog, make sure you have a lot of time, games, toys, and activities planned for him every single day to keep him busy and engaged. If he gets an outlet to vent out his energy, he is less likely to get in trouble.

Australian Cattle Dogs are also very devoted to their owner. Even as a family dog, they tend to get close to one person in particular, often the person with which they spend the most time. The Blue Heelers consider that person to be “theirs” and will defend them no matter what. Even though Blue Heelers are friendly dogs and make excellent pets if trained and socialized well, they do tend to stay a little reserved with strangers. Once these dogs bond, it’s a lifetime commitment. Physical separation from their owner is considered as a punishment for Blue Heelers.

Photo by Allison christine on Unsplash

This smart breed is sometimes considered stubborn and willful. Positive, consistent training is the key to controlling the independent streak that comes naturally. Plenty of early socialization can also help managethe wariness they develop towards strangers but won’t dispel completely. So there are chances that your Blue Heeler would always be cautious and awkward around strangers.  


Blue Heeler Diet and Nutrition

Since Blue Heelers are active, they need plenty of nutrients to nurture their bodies and overall health. They require high-quality sources for essential nutrients, including vitamins, protein, and healthy fats, to supplement their active lifestyle and an intelligent mind. Opt for a complete and balanced diet for your Australian Cattle Dogs.  

It is equally important to choose dog food based on their specific life stages. The nutrient requirement of a puppy would be different from that of an adult dog.

As a general approach, it is best to get dry kibble for growing dogs that need something crunchy for their dental health. Even at a younger age, they have a strong digestive system that can easily ground down food with hard and rough textures. For older dogs, you can consider switching to a canned food diet or add it as a topper for more flavor and improved texture.

As far as the quantity is concerned, you must feed your dog based on his or her size. As a general rule, you will be feeding about 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of food to your Blue Heeler in a day. The individual food requirements will vary depending on your dog’s age, activity level, and body weight. The amount will fluctuate too depending on the calorie content of the food that you pick. It is best to check the instructions on the package and divide that quantity into multiple daily meals.

Active dogs like Australian Cattle Dogs require a lot of protein. Beef, chicken, and salmon are some great sources of protein. Vegetables and whole grains are also important and should be listed next on the label to ensure you’re picking a high-quality, complete, and balanced diet for your pup’s nutritional requirement.

You can also consider supplements for Blue Heelers. Most dog food options available in the market contain additional supplements to help your dog stay healthy and develop well. In case you can’t find food with added supplements, consider getting them separately in liquid or pill form and add them to your dog’s diet. Glucosamine is an excellent supplement that promotes healthy bones and joints.

Make sure clean, fresh water is always available for your dog.  


Training and Exercising Requirements

Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to raise a Blue Heeler puppy to become a loving and friendly family pet. Here are some training techniques to help you get started:

Make Them Familiar to People and Other Animals

As soon as you bring a Blue Heeler puppy home, socialize them with people and other animals right away. Socializing them is not only a part of training them, but it also makes them happier. These dogs require time to adjust to people and other animals outside the family. With the right training, they will learn to behave well around strangers and animals.

The key is to allow them to spend time outdoors. These energized dogs also require a lot of exercise to stay happy, so taking them out for a walk where they get to see more people and interact with other animals is a great way to introduce your dog to the world. Teach your dog to socialize right from the beginning, so they learn how to behave around people and other animals as they grow up.

Be Consistent

Consistency is the key to training dogs, especially Blue Heelers. These are smart dogs, so you need to be very patient and consistent with your approach. If you let them get away with bad behavior or breaking a rule, they will do it again.

Set Boundaries

It is crucial to introduce boundaries to a Blue Heeler. These dogs are verycurious and love to explore. They are highly energetic too, so if you don’t set boundaries, they are likely to break a lot of rules. Training your dog to heel and stay can help you deal with this problem.

Be the Boss

These intelligent dogs don’t miss an opportunity of taking matters into their own hands, especially when it comes to their behavior around people. So be the boss. Just because you let that adorable puppy have his way during puppyhood, you will end up with an adult dog that might boss you around. You need to show who the real boss is, or the behavior issues might get worse in little time.

Be Kind

Positive reinforcement does not have to be forceful. Disciplining a Blue Heeler is important, but it is equally imperative to train positively and with kindness. Having a firm approach is crucial. Don’t forget to reward your adorable hound for all the good behavior and training. Dogs respond best to kindness and positivity, and if they feel appreciated, they would love to make you happy again.

Lots of Exercise

As far as the exercise requirements are concerned, Blue Heelersarea suitable dog for someone who can keep up with their energy levels and provide them with an outlet that keeps them worked, happy, and engaged. If you can’t encourage lots of exercise for this dog, its better you look for a dog that requires less exercise and human interaction. These dogs love to play and run. Fetch could be their favorite game outdoors because it involves running and has a purpose-driven goal of finding the ball and bringing it back.

The highly energized dog is not well suited to live in small spaces for the same reason. They need a lot of space to move around and to stay active – just the way they like it.


Common Health Problems of Australian Cattle Dogs

Unfortunately, like most purebred dogs, Blue Heelers are prone to various health problems, especially inherited eye problems. Here are some common health issues of Australian Cattle Dogs to beware of:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a slow and painless process in which the dog gradually loses sight until blind in both eyes. The speed of the progress can vary anywhere between several months to several years.

It is now possible to find out if the dog is carrying the PRA gene, which helps the reputable breeders to screen their breeding stock, which reduces the risk of passing along this common disease. The best way to ensure it doesn’t happen to your dog is to find a reliable breeder.

Lens Luxation

Lens Luxation is another eye disease in dogs in which the lens of the eye separates either entirely or partially. This disease can be treated at different stages. It is best to see a vet if you suspect lens luxation.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

In this condition, the hip joints grind together as the dog moves. This condition affectsmany dog breeds, including the Blue Heelers. Depending on the severity of the disease, the dog may require physiotherapy or surgery.

Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis Dissecans is another bone-related disease to which Australian Cattle Dogs are prone. This condition causes the dog to have deficient bone due to excess cartilage, which is not replaced by bone during fetal development.

The condition is with medicines, treatment, and in worst cases, with corrective surgery. OCD is very stressful for this breed because it hinders the exercise that they require to stay fit and happy.

Elbow Dysplasia

This condition is similar to hip dysplasia but in the elbows.

Deafness

Blue Heelers can also suffer from Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness (CHSD). A study published in 2012 suggested that 10% of ACDs experienced some degree of deafness. 3% of those were deaf in both ears.

An association between deafness and coat color has been highlighted among several dog breeds. But the mechanism and pattern of inheritance differ. In Blue Heelers, females and dogs with mask-like-fur around their eyes are considered at a higher risk for deafness.

Since these dogs are extremely intelligent, they can be trained to communicate using signs.

Portosystemic Shunt

Another common health problem in Blue Heelers is Portosystemic Shunt, a condition that creates abnormalities of blood flow in the liver. The organ plays a vital role in filtering and expelling toxins from the blood. Having a portosystemic shunt means that the flow is shunted back into the bloodstream instead of passing through the liver for cleansing. The liver is unable to remove the toxins, which also affects the organ. Surgery can successfully correct this condition.


Blue Heeler Care Guide

The breed is ideally suited to an environment where they get lots of mental and physical stimulation. Lack of training can encourage destructive behavior. It is also a bad idea to keep them in small, crowded spaces, especially with their strong desire to chew. Make sure you have a yard that is securely fenced.

If you are considering keeping an Australian Cattle Dog as a family pet, it is essential to give him enough time and lots of activities as an outlet to stay active, exercise enough, and be happy. Since ACDs were bred to run and chase, you can expect them to do just that if they are not trained to do otherwise.

The breed also requires care in terms of coat grooming. Even though they have a weather-resistant, short and straight coat, it is dense and needs grooming consistently.

And even though they do not need a lot of primping, a little grooming is essential to keep them healthy and clean. Brush him once every week to remove dirt and distribute natural oil. During the shedding season, brush more frequently to remove dead hair. Bathe your Blue Heeler as needed – basically if he smells bad or is really dirty.

Check your Blue Heeler’s ears weekly for bad odor or redness, which is an indication of an infection. As you groom, look for rashes, sores, inflammation, or tenderness. These are signs of infection and need medical assistance.

Don’t forget to take care of their dental health by brushing their teeth at least 2-3 times a week to remove bacteria and the buildup of tartar. Trim the nails if you hear them clicking on the ground. Keep them neat and clean. You can always seek assistance from a vet or groomer to do all these services for you.


Top Interesting Facts about Blue Heelers

Let’s do a quick recap of this interesting dog breed:

  • They’re developed in Australia and recognized as a breed in the 1980s.
  • Blue Heelers are a combination of various dog breeds including Australian Dingo, Dalmatians, Kelpies, and Collies.
  • Their coat has many colors, including streaks of black, shades of blue, and red.
  • They were bred for herding but are exceptional watchdogs too.
  • Adult Blue Heelers adopted as pets require professional and aggressive training to adjust to their new environment.
  • The current oldest Blue Heeler dog lived twenty-nine years and five days.
  • Blue Heelers can be seen in famous movies like Brokeback Mountain and Mad Max.

Blue Heeler vs German Shepherd

Blue Heeler vs German Shepherd

FAQs

1. How long do Blue Heelers live?

Blue Heelers can live between 12 and 16 years.

2. What’s the price of a Blue Heeler?

Australian dogs are generally expensive dogs, and the price of a Blue Heeler can be as high as $2000.

3. Can I still get a Blue Heeler if I have other dogs or pets?

Experts recommend introducing this breed to cats or other pets during puppyhood. New animals need to be introduced with extreme caution, preferably using a protective fence. It is, however, unlikely for adult Blue Heelers to live with other pets around the house.

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