Australian Cattle Dog: Top Breed Facts & Care Guide

Australian Cattle Dog: Top Breed Facts & Care Guide
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The Australian Cattle Dog has one of the most unique looks of any dog breed in the world. They have striking spotted fur that's a stunning shade of blue. This has earned them the nickname Blue Heelers. The other half of this nickname is from their history as a cattle herding breed.


The Australian Cattle Dog is a popular family dog due to its intelligence, courage, energy, and loving nature. This is the perfect companion for an active family who wants to spend a lot of time with their dogs, especially outside. If you want a breed of dog that loves to kayak, swim, skate, and hike with, this is the dog for you!



Australian Cattle Dog Characteristics [Physical]

The Australian Cattle Dog has a strong, compact body made for working. They have a distinctive blue coat and friendly face that sets them apart from all other breeds.


Australian Cattle Dog Breed Size

The Australian Cattle Dog is considered a medium-sized breed. Female dogs are 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder, while males are 18 to 20 inches. They reach up to 35 pounds.



The head is strong and broad, according to American Kennel Club standards. Their jaws are muscular, and they have a powerful muzzle. The Australian Cattle Dog has almond-shaped eyes that should appear alert and intelligent. Their ears are a moderate size and set wide apart on the top of their skull. When alert, their ears are pricked.



This breed has a proportionate, compact, and muscular body. The neck is "extremely strong and muscular, while the shoulders are strong, blending into a level backline. The breed's ribs are well-sprung, and their chest is deep. The Australian Cattle Dog's flanks are deep.



smiling grey dog in owners lap




The Australian Cattle Dog has strong forelegs with a lot of flexibility. Their hindquarters are broad and muscular with straight legs, allowing for free and tireless movement. The dog's paws are round with short nails.



This breed has a distinctly low-hung tail. It hangs at a slight curve, and the tail should "carry a good brush," meaning it's fluffy yet compact, giving it a thick appearance.



Australian Cattle Dog Personality

The Australian Cattle Dog is a working dog through and through. But this breed has become a very popular pet due to its high-energy personality and fierce loyalty. The Australian Cattle is the perfect dog for a very active family that loves outdoor activities. It is the ideal companion for hikes, biking, and even kayaking. This breed has a lot of stamina and loves any activity that gets them moving.


As you have probably guessed, this isn't a dog you can coop up in the house all day. This won't only lead to destructive behavior due to pent-up energy and frustration. This intelligent dog can often figure out how to open doors and drawers. So a Blue Heeler left to its own devices all day may get into a lot of trouble. Australian Cattle Dogs need a lot of quality time, as they are very loving and loyal dogs that bond closely with family members. This could just be running errands or lounging around after work. Either way, the Australian Cattle will enjoy being a part of your everyday life and activities.


This breed makes an excellent watchdog. Australian Cattle Dogs are a bit protective of their home and family and are often wary of strangers as well. It's important to socialize them as puppies, as it will help your Australian Cattle feel confident and friendly.



Australian Cattle Dog Breed Exercise

A walk around the neighborhood isn't enough exercise for this energetic canine. This is a breed that needs a lot of exercise throughout the day.


Daily Walk

Daily walks are an essential exercise. High energy breeds require a daily walk to release pent-up energy and stimulate their mind. The minimum should be 45 minutes to 60 minutes a day, either one long walk or split into two shorter walks. Try to schedule the dog walk at the same time every day. Dogs love schedules, and this will give them something to look forward to. However, you can switch up the walk from brisk city walks, steep hikes, and running around the park.


If your dog is extra athletic, try adding a weighted vest or dog backpack! This will help tire out your dog and also strengthen your muscles.


Fun Activities

Since Australian Cattle Dogs are so full of energy, it can help to include high-intensity games and activities for them. Purposeful activities to stimulate and strengthen your dog include toys and different training.


  • Herding balls: This is a fun and safe way to satisfy your dog's strong urges to herd. Herding games will reduce your dog's desire to herd people and animals.
  • Moving dog toys: Dog toys that shake, roll, and move on their own will keep your dog entertained even when you're busy.
  • Flirt pole: Like a fishing pole-type toy for a cat, this has a long handle and an elastic rope with a toy at the end. This helps your dog burn energy and teaches them to listen to your commands.
  • Playing fetch: This is a classic that quickly burns up your dog's energy and allows you to bond with your pet. Consider an automatic ball launcher if your dog wants to play for long periods. Switch to a frisbee if your dog likes to jump.
  • Agility training: Set up an obstacle course in your backyard. The Australian Cattle Dog is a quick learner who easily catches onto the weaving, hurdles, and tunnels.
  • Running and biking: To really get your dog moving, have them jog along with you.
  • Tug of war: This muscle-building exercise is a lot of fun for dogs. You can also consider a spring pole, allowing your dog to play tug of war with themselves if you are busy.
  • Sports: Dog sports like agility and fly ball, or joining a club that has competitions, can excite your pup.
  • Swimming: The Australian Cattle loves swimming. And it's a low-impact activity that's easy on their joints and tendons.


Mental Stimulation

An important aspect of exercise for Australian Cattles is mental stimulation for dogs. This is just as important as physical activity. It can help reduce excessive barking, digging, escape attempts, and other destructive behavior.


  • Puzzle toys: Test your dog's mind with a puzzle toy that takes problem-solving skills. You might want to pick challenging ones since the Australian Cattle Dog is quite smart.
  • Sniffing games: Challenge your dog's mind with a game that requires them to sniff something out. The most obvious one would probably be hiding something and having them find it!
  • Chew toys: Chew toys will keep your dog occupied. It's also great for their teeth.
  • Learning tricks: Teaching your dog some fun tricks, like doggy dancing or accomplishing complex tasks, will significantly enrich your dog's life. Dogs can even learn hundreds of words.



cattle dog hunting in the grass



Australian Cattle Dog Training

It's important to train your Australian Cattle Dog puppy early on. Enrolling them in obedience courses will allow Australian Cattle puppies to socialize and learn the basics. You'll also be able to take home some tools to continue training your puppy consistently. You need to establish your role as a leader early on. The Australian Cattle is eager to please once they respect you. You can accomplish this in various ways, including feeding yourself first and walking through doors before your dog.


You also need to be consistent with your dog. For example, if you don't want your dog to jump on people, don't ignore them one moment and then encourage it the next time they do it, as this will leave your pup confused. Use plenty of positive reinforcement and treats. The Australian Cattle Dog doesn't respond well to punishment.


It's very important to discourage herding immediately. Due to their background, this breed is known to "herd" small children and animals, sometimes nipping at their heels or barking to get their way. This behavior shouldn't be tolerated.



Australian Cattle Dog Breed History

The Australian Cattle Dog is a pretty new breed, considering that some dogs have been around for 10,000 years. In the early 1800s, cattle were often raised in vast land areas throughout Australia, but the cattle were often very wild and hard to control. Not even traditional European herding dogs of the time could keep them in line. A new dog breed was needed that had a lot of stamina and could withstand heat and rough terrain as they herd cattle.


A dog breeder looked into this dilemma and started breeding Highland Collies with Dingos in 1840. This created a dog known as Hall's Heelers. One of those dogs, named Bentley's Dog, is now credited with starting the Australian Cattle we all know today. Hall's Heelers were bred with the Bull Terrier, Dalmatian, and a sheepherding breed called the Kelpie. This resulted in a rugged dog with a lot of endurance (and a unique coat).


This new dog breed was called the Queensland Blue Heeler, later called the Australian Cattle Dog. A standard was created in 1897. The dog was slow to catch on in America, but eventually, the breed proved themselves, not only as herders but great family dogs. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1980.



Common Health Problems Found in the Australian Cattle Dog

While Australian Cattle Dogs are overall hardy dogs, they still have some hereditary conditions to be aware of. When you adopt a purebred puppy, always make sure it's from a reputable breeder registered with the American Kennel Club. They can offer health guarantees and proof that their breeding dogs have been tested for diseases and conditions. Some of the most common health concerns for Australian Cattles are:


  • Hereditary deafness: Similar to Dalmatians, deafness is common in Australian Cattles. One study showed that a little over 11% of Australian Cattle Dogs have complete deafness.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: This degenerative joint condition is quite common in working dogs. It causes mobility issues in the affected limbs and immense discomfort. Without treatment, your dog may lose the ability to walk.
  • Patellar luxation: Patellar luxation is a fancy word for a slipped kneecap. This is similar to dysplasia, where the joints stop functioning how they should be, causing pain and mobility problems.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: This hereditary eye condition slowly takes your dog's eyesight if not treated.



How to Care for an Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is not a low-maintenance dog. This is an intelligent and high-energy dog that needs an active and present family. The Australian Cattle thrives in a family that can spend a lot of time bonding with their dog each day. You can't leave them alone for eight hours or more a day. They also need hours of exercise, including walks, games, and other forms of movement.

When you're not around, Australian Cattles should have plenty of toys to keep them occupied as this will reduce their destructive behavior. Think puzzles, chew toys, and toys that move on their own. The Australian Cattle Dog isn't recommended for apartment living. They thrive in larger homes with backyards. Make sure your yard is fenced in very securely. The Australian Cattle is known to chase other animals, which could lead to them getting lost if they escape.


Brush your dog's teeth daily to avoid dental complications and check their ears for dirt and wax buildup. Remove anything you see by gently dabbing with a lightly wetted ball of cotton. Trim their nails when you hear them clicking on the floor.



Nutrition and Feeding for an Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is very active, and they need high-quality food to stay healthy and happy. Look for food with a trusted protein source (like beef or chicken), avoiding food that starts with a meal instead. Australian Cattles also need fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.


The recommended daily amount for an adult Australian Cattle Dog is 1.5 to 2.5 cups. It depends on your dog's specific weight, activity level, and health, so talk to a veterinarian to figure out the exact amount if you're unsure. Make sure to divide your dog's daily intake into two separate meals. This is usually breakfast and dinner, around the same time every day. You know, the schedule stuff dogs love! A regular feeding schedule will reduce the possibility of overeating and help with your dog's digestion.



dog standing in field



Coat Color And Grooming

The Australian Cattle has a smooth double coat that's coarse, straight, and lies flat — this makes them rain resistant! But the Australian Cattle Dog is known for its brilliant color. Their coat is a unique shade of blue. They have black and tan markings on the head, halfway up their front legs, and inside their thighs.


The Australian Cattle doesn't require a lot of grooming. Their coat is short and functional. But to keep it sleek and healthy, it can help to brush them weekly with a short-bristled brush. This will also remove excess fur. Bathe your Australian Cattle once a month. Keep in mind that double-coated dogs shed excessively twice a year in the spring and fall. This is known as "blowing their coats." Brush your Australian Cattle Dog twice a week to remove the loose, dead hair during these times.



Children And Other Pets

Australian Cattles are loving and social, becoming close with each member of the household. This includes children and other pets but requires proper socialization when the Australian Cattle Dog is a puppy. The Australian Cattle Dog is a great playmate for children since they are energetic and love games. Kids will love playing fetch with the Australian Cattle or teaching them tricks, obstacle courses, or dog sports. Australian Cattles also get along well with other pets, including dogs and cats.


However, the Australian Cattle Dog is known for "herding" kids and small animals. They can sometimes feel the need to keep others in line, barking and nipping to keep them under control. This behavior needs to be addressed immediately.



Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Groups

Australian Cattles can be a handful. They need a lot of exercise, training, and attention. For some families, this can be more than they expected. There also may be events out of their control that force them to give up their beloved family pet. Luckily there are rescues out there that specialize in cattle dog breeds, including the Australian Cattle Dog. They are full of volunteers who specialize in this type of dog and their needs.


The Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association was formed in 2002 by two breed clubs. It's a non-profit organized to facilitate the rescue and adoption of Australian Cattle Dogs in need. Said their mission statement: "Our goal is to eliminate the stray, abandoned, and unwanted ACDs through spay/neuter, adoptions, and education. Through our network of members and foster homes, we rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome Australian Cattles and ACD mixes from animal control groups, shelters, and owner surrenders." Rocket Dog Rescue in Northern California and Central Coast Border Collie and Herding Dog Rescue in Central California are other organizations focused on rescuing the energetic and social Australian Cattle Dog.



two australian cattle dogs



Australian Cattle Dog Breed Organizations

Every dog breed, including the Australian Cattle Dog, has clubs throughout the world dedicated to sharing information about the dog and organizing events for owners. The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America has annual events for the breed, including agility tournaments, training sessions, and dog shows. They also share information about the Australian Cattle Dog breed standard. They even have a Juniors Program for youth who want to get involved with showing and training their Australian Cattle Dog!


Fun Facts

Like other dog breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog has a few other names that Cattle Dog owners will often use, such as:


  • Blue Heelers
  • Red Heelers
  • Queensland Heeler,
  • Australian Heeler


No matter what you call them, the Australian Cattle has a distinct look thanks to their dense, blue coat. But did you know this dog is born white? Thanks to their Dalmatian heritage, Australian Cattles start with an all-white coat. They get their pattern and color around six weeks.



More About the Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog isn't just good looks, however. This dog is also one of the smartest breeds around. One Australian Heeler named Skidboot showed off his intelligence on Animal Planet's Pet Star, winning $25,000. He learned an abundance of tricks, including even leading a horse on a rope.


The Australian Cattle's intelligence and perseverance have made it a popular dog breed. They are currently the 54th most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. If you have a lot of time and energy, this is the breed for you!

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