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Australian Cattle Dog -This Months Best Dog Breed

Jun 12, 2008
The Australian Cattle Dog, or Blue Heeler, is also known as the Australian Heeler, Hall's Heeler, Queensland Heeler, or Red Heeler. The term "heeler" refers to the breed's instinct to snap and bite at the heels of the animals they are herding.

They have alert and happy facial expressions, pointed ears, and although they appear small, they are muscular and agile. They come in a mixture of colors--mostly blue with tan and black, or mostly red speckled.

They were bred as a combination of Scottish collies and Australian dingoes and blended with some Australian Kelpie, Dalmatian, and Bull Terrier to be an extremely hardy breed that can withstand long hours and harsh weather conditions with ease.

ACD's are more 'work-minded' than other herding breeds and as a rule, are not as good as pets because of the aggressive characteristics specifically bred into them. But, as with every breed, there are often exceptions to the rule.

Here's the breakdown:

Temperament 2 out of 5

The Australian Cattle Dog is an excellent companion and is always awaiting the next command from its master. But ACD's need a lot of exercise or they will become highly destructive.

About two hours a day is ideal. They need to be with their pack (that means you!) most of the day or else they develop behavioral problems. These can include severe aggression, depression, or anxiety. This is not a breed to leave at home for hours on end, nor tied up in the back yard. If an ACD must be left alone, they will do best with one or two other dogs for companionship. They are bred to be highly sensitive guard dogs, so as a rule they do not like strangers coming onto their property.

ACD's should be socialized regularly if you want them to be friendly toward other animals and guests. ACD's do not distinguish a difference between wild animals or your small pets, so they are not recommended around cats, rabbits, mice, or smaller dogs. Most of the time, a well-socialized ACD will do well with children, but they are not recommended. They often herd children, so keep an eye on them--you don't want them to snap at your child's heels. Even a highly socialized dog can be aggressive, depending on the child it interacts with.

Training 5 out of 5

ACD's have what I like to call, "extreme intelligence." Like Border Collies, they can be trained to do just about anything. The downside of a highly sophisticated breed, though, is that they become bored easily so you always need to have a job for them. The sky is the limit on what you can teach them.

ACD's can be very independent and stubborn due to their intelligence, so firm training is a must. This breed responds well to consistent training and discipline, although they catch on quick and hate to disappoint their masters.

Grooming 4 out of 5

The ACD's short coat is weather resistant but they are average shedders so brush often with a firm bristle. You only need to bathe when necessary. They never need shaving or haircuts--their coat has been developed to endure all kinds of weather. Never dock their tail--they need it for work! Even the AKC recognizes a full tail, so there's never a need to dock.

Overall Score 3.5 out of 5

ACD's weigh about 30-55 pounds and live about 12 to 15 years. They do best on the farm with animals to herd, but if you don't raise cattle or sheep, a large yard will do, along with plenty of exercise.

ACD's are great candidates for competitions such as agility trials, flyball, frisbee, and of course, herding. I recommend ACD's for owners who wish to work with their dog, compete with them, or give them a job on the farm. They are not suited for suburban or city life.

They tend to be very vocal so its best not to have neighbors too close by. If you're buying your ACD puppy from a breeder, consider purchasing two or three from the same litter. They'll be happier pets in the long run having their brothers and sisters with them. Adopting an ACD is tricky if you have existing pets, so make sure you talk with the organization you're adopting from--they'll know if that particular ACD would do well with other animals.
About the Author
For more information on the Australian Cattle Dog or a full list of dog breeds take a look at this Dog Training website.
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