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The Australian Cattle Dog - Otherwise Known as the Heeler

Aug 17, 2007
The Australian Cattle Dog may not be a name immediately recognized by some people who are actually familiar with this breed. Many people know the Australian Cattle Dog as the Heeler. There are Red Heelers and Blue Heelers, and may also be known as Australian Heeler, Queensland Heeler or Hall's Heeler. No matter how you spell it or what name you use, this is an intelligent breed that loves to work.

This is truly an example of a dog bred to meet the needs of their humans. The large Australian ranches were not very easy places to live. The cattlemen who went to Australian to take on the elements thought they went prepared. They took herding dogs with them, but these dogs were largely unable to withstand the rigors of the vast range. The obvious solution was to create a breed that could handle the elements, had the stamina to travel the long distances, and the intelligence to do the herding jobs required of them. The Australian Cattle Dog is the result of that selective breeding.

The word "heeler" describes this dog's tendency to run behind the animals being herded, snapping at their heels in an effort to send them in a desired direction. The instinct to herd is strong in these dogs, making them ideal for farms. However, these dogs will try to herd almost anything. They may not do well with fowl since chickens and ducks are more likely to be killed or maimed by the snapping Australian Cattle Dog. Some owners report that their Australian Cattle Dog will resort to herding people if there are no animals handy!

The breed has been used in Australia for herding for more than a century, but was only recognized by the American Kennel Club about 25 years ago. Since then, the superior trainability has created a demand for these dogs in many shows and trials.

The selective breeding produced a dog with a heavy double coat. The coat provides insulation against both hot and cold conditions. Shedding isn't typically a huge problem, especially with regular brushing. If the Australian Shepherd is red, a uniform mottling in preferred though both red and blue dogs may have solid spots on their heads.

One point to keep in mind is that these aren't dogs that can be ignored for long periods of time. Socialization is vital to this dog. Australian Cattle Dogs that are left alone may become withdrawn and seem downright sad. These dogs desire to be in the middle of any and all activities. They aren't the best choice if they're going to be penned or chained without direct contact with their people on a regular basis.

The Australian Cattle Dog may also bond more extensively with one person - typically the person who works with (or plays with) him the most. When this happens, the Australian Cattle Dog may refuse commands from others and may even be reluctant to interact with others. If the dog is to be part of the family, it's important for the entire family to spend time with the dog.
About the Author
For more information on Cattle Dogs and other Popular, and not-so-popular breeds of dogs, visit The Herding Dog Directory
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