Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Australian Cattle Dogs are a herding breed that would love to become your outdoor adventure buddy. They're a medium-sized, muscular breed that was bred to herd cattle in Australia. Because of this, they have a lot of energy and love to have a task to focus on. This is because of their deep intelligence and it makes training them lots of fun.
Despite their tough Cattle Rancher job, they can also be a fun pet who just wants to spend time with their family. Whether herding animals outside or playing fetch with kids, they are energetic dogs that are excited to be around people.
Also Known As...
ACD. Cattle Dogs. Red Heeler. Blue Heeler. Queensland Heeler. Dingo’s cousin. "The perdiest dogs you ever did see."
Australian Cattle Dogs were first bred in Australia through a cross of native wild Australian dogs called Dingoes and other Australian breeds. This new breed was bred with Dalmatians, which brought the classic speckled look to ACDs and allowed them to become more comfortable around people. To bring some strong working ability to the breed crossed with Dalmatians, their offspring were bred with black and tan Kelpies. Modern Australian Cattle Dogs are descendants of this new breed.
A lot of mixing happened to create this breed, but today they are strong and friendly dogs. A man named Robert Kaleski began showing this breed in 1897, creating a breed standard in 1902 in Australia. The breed was not recognized by the AKC until much later, in 1980.
Male ACDs are between 18 to 20 inches and female ACDs are between 17 to 19 inches on average.
Australian Cattle Dogs are usually between 35 to 50 pounds.
Australian Cattle Dogs have a personality to match that of Australian ranchers. They are strong and persistent dogs who know how to get a job done. This persistence can sometimes turn into stubbornness in the wrong context, but this is also why many people love this breed. It gives them a determined and special personality. With high energy and high intelligence, they need mental stimulation throughout the day to stay happy.
This breed becomes immensely loyal their family, it’s often even with just one person within the family. Whoever your dog chooses, they will want to be around them often.
Intelligence / Trainability
These Heelers are one of the most intelligent dog breeds. They are good at problem solving and happy to be involved in training sessions with their owner. They are eager to please and their intelligence can make them great in obedience, herding, and agility training. Though ACDs may have some behaviors that are difficult to work with, they can succeed with early and consistent training.
Best Training Techniques For Australian Cattle Dogs
Because Australian Cattle Dogs are so intelligent, they sometimes may have an independent streak and be stubborn in training. However, they are loyal to their owners and want to please them, so positive reinforcement for positive behaviors is very important in the training process. You can reward your ACD for what you want them to be doing and they will want to continue to please in the future.
Be firm in the training sessions so that your dog knows what you want. Make sure the training sessions take advantage of their intelligence and mentally stimulate them, or their boredom may lead to undesired results.
Australian Cattle Dogs have some natural behaviors that may be undesirable, such as barking, chewing, nipping, digging, and chasing, so early training is important to make sure they can live happily with the rest of their family. This breed responds well to training, so with some time and effort, your Australian Cattle Dog can be taught positive behaviors.
Australian Cattle Dogs will thrive in a home where they can get plenty of physical activity. They aren’t very well-suited to living in an apartment and would do better in a place with a yard to run around in. Most Australian Cattle Dogs can handle various weather, but some may not tolerate the cold as well. Regardless of the climate, Heelers want to live in a place where they get enough time outside and enough room to play.
Good For Families And Kids?
Australian Cattle Dogs are very loyal, so they love being a part of a family. Children can be great playmates to help get rid of some of their extra energy. However, be sure to supervise when your ACD is playing with children, as some herding instincts may be present when they’re around very young kids. With the right socialization, they can be an affectionate family member that can double as a watchdog.
On average, Australian Cattle Dogs live between 12 and 16 years.
Australian Cattle Dogs are pretty healthy dogs, but there are some health conditions to look out for, including ear, eye, and joint problems. It is thought that genes for the white color in these dogs are linked to deafness. Because of this, deafness is inherited in some ACDS, but should be tested for early in the dog’s life.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is another possible disease in ACDs, which causes loss of sight. In addition, hip dysplasia, which causes hip pain, can occur, but is not very common. Testing for these conditions is recommended in order to make sure your dog is staying healthy.
Bred to herd cattle over long distances, Australian Cattle Dogs have a very high energy level and need lots of exercise in order to be happy. They need more than just a daily walk. Instead, Australian Cattle Dogs need a job, so that they can stay busy. They also would love to join their owner on daily runs and outdoor activities.
Another good option is to have your dog participate in dog sports, such as obedience and agility training. This gives your ACD a task to focus on and can help them get their energy out in a fun and rewarding way.
Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
If Australian Cattle Dogs are raised with other dogs, they can get along with them very well. However, if they see dogs that they don’t know, they may be protective of their family, and may even be dominant toward dog strangers.
Because of this breed’s loyalty to their people, they can be a little wary around human strangers, too. Early socialization to people outside the family is important for your dog to not become too possessive of you.
Though some Australian Cattle Dogs can do well around cats, they have a strong drive to chase other animals. With early socialization, ACDs can live alongside other pets, but small animals outside the home will probably be treated as prey.
Coat & Grooming
Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to be working outdoors, so they have a double-layer coat that protects them from many types of weather. They have pretty low grooming needs, only requiring regular brushing and occasional baths. Grooming your ACD will take a bit more work during shedding season, which occurs twice a year when their undercoat is shed. During this time, they will need to be brushed more often in order to remove the dead hair.
They have a fun, speckled coat that usually classified in two colors. If they have black hair distributed over a white coat, they are referred to as “blue” and if they have brown hair distributed over a white coat, they are referred to as “red.”
These dogs have a very unique coat that makes them look speckled, which isn’t seen in most dog breeds! The mix of brown and white fur or black and white fur creates this quirky speckled look.
Toys Australian Cattle Dogs Would Like Best
This breed is very energetic and intelligent so a variety of fun toys is necessary for their wellbeing. Puzzle Toys can help keep your smart pup busy for some time as they search for hidden food. Because Australian Cattle Dogs enjoy having a task to focus on, this can be a great way to help them solve something and succeed.
This breed also likes to chew, so durable Super Chewer Toys can help prevent them from chewing on your furniture or shoes! Finally, toys that you can play fetch with is a great option for ACDs. They will love running around and chasing the toys you throw for them to catch.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Australian Cattle Dogs are muscular, athletic dogs, so make sure they are getting the proper nutrition for all of their exercise.
Supplements might be helpful for joint/hip pain or anxiety, but as always, consult your vet before administering them.
These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Cattle Dog with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
Australian Cattle Dogs are highly energetic and want to spend their day working hard. That means they need a comfy place to rest their athletic bodies. An orthopedic dog bed can make sure your dog is comfortable, even if they have started to develop joint pain.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your buddy. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Australian Cattle Dog Of Your Dreams
- Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association (ACDRA)
- Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Inc.
- Heeling Heelers Hearts
- Adoptable Australian Cattle Dogs on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Australian Cattle Dogs
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Featured image via CowDogJess/Instagram