The Australian cattle dog is a pastoral dog known for saving Australia’s beef industry as it was the only dog breed that could herd wild cattle in difficult terrains. The Australian cattle dog is also known as the Australian Heeler, Queensland Heeler, Blue Heeler, and Hall’s Heeler in some parts of Australia.
The Australian cattle dog is an obedient and tireless herding dog eager to please his owner. This medium-sized breed can be extremely energetic and intense. As a herding dog, the Australian cattle dog needs plenty of physical activities and mental stimulation. Owners must be able to provide him with the right amount of exercise.
The short-haired Australian cattle dog has a weather-resistant coat that requires minimal grooming. The Australian cattle dog sheds one or twice a year so grooming is relatively easy and manageable.
The Australian cattle dog was bred by Australian immigrants in the late 1800s as cattle-herding dogs. This breed is actually credited to saving the beef industry as it had a precise way of quietly but forcefully herding intense wild cattle by nipping and biting their heels. This is the reason why it was nicknamed 'the heeler.' At that time, people had difficulty herding the wild cows in dangerous and big terrains. It was not possible to bring in herd dogs from cooler areas in their dry weather. People experimented with different breed combinations, incorporating the native dingo as it adapted really well to the Australian desert.
A man named Thomas S. Hall crossed it with two imported blue merle highland collies. He called the offspring Hall’s heelers or blue heelers. The first documented breed standard was written by Robert Kaleski in 1903. The ACD’s main job was to herd up cows from unfriendly locations and bring them in. In 1979, the breed arrived in the UK through the efforts of John and Mary Holmes and was registered with the Kennel Club in the same year.
Appearance and Grooming
The Australian cattle dog is a medium dog that stands at 43–51 centimetres at the withers and weighs 33–50 pounds. It has a hefty and compact body, yet demonstrates quickness and strength. It has a broad skull and moderately long head with terrier characteristics. It has expressive dark eyes and small prick ears.
The ACD has a straight, short, and weather-resistant outer coat and a thick undercoat. Grooming is generally easy and is known to have a wash-and-wear coat. Bathing can be done when necessary, like when it is really filthy and smelly. Shedding happens in certain times of the year, so the occasional brushing of the short hair would become more frequent. This breed comes in all shades of blue or tan, whilst black streaks are only acceptable for very young puppies.
Apart from maintaining its coat, make sure that other aspects of dog grooming are taken care of. This includes weekly tooth brushing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and skin inspection for fleas and irritations. Keep grooming a positive experience and start a routine whilst your ACD is a puppy.
Temperament and Intelligence
The Australian cattle dogs is alert, playful, and affectionate. It is devoted to its owner and, more often than not, becomes clingy. It experiences separation anxiety when its master leaves. Developed as a pastoral dog, it is protective of its family and distant toward strangers. It does not think twice when it feels like it needs to protect its 'herd.' It generally gets along with children especially those it grew up with.
The breed used to nip the cattle it herded and has retained this potentially dangerous habit. It still has a tendency to herd people, especially young kids who run and scream, and nip their feet. To lessen nipping and biting, proper training and supervision are required. In order for training to be effective for this energetic pooch, it should be in the form of games. Training will help adopt a routine different from its herding ancestors.
Dog breeds do have certain predisposed characteristics. However, other factors like environment, training, and socialisation help build its overall personality, intelligence, behaviour.
Nutrition and Feeding
A typical serving for an adult Australian cattle dog is 1.5–2.5 cups of excellent-quality dry dog food per day. Feeding must be divided into two meals a day to ensure a trim body size. Like in every breed, the amount of food depends on its age, size, build, activity level, and metabolism.
Typical calorie needs of an adult Australian cattle dog per day:
- Senior and less active: up to 1,100 calories daily
- Typical adult: up to 1,130 calories daily
- Physically active/working dog: up to 1,400 calories daily
The ACD should be fed premium dog food formulated for medium breeds. It should contain human-grade animal protein from beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey. It should also contain complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potato, and barley. Supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin will be beneficial as it is prone to hip dysplasia. Always consult a trusted vet to know the most suitable food and supplements for your dog.
Health and Exercise
The average lifespan of the Australian cattle dog is eleven to thirteen years. It is generally healthy but prone to deafness, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and hip dysplasia.
The ACD has been bred to work, so it is in no way a couch potato. It is extremely physically and mentally active, which is why you need to keep it busy through vigorous exercise and jobs. An hour’s worth of jogging or running, supplemented with playtime at a fenced yard, is ideal. When it is exhausted, it is less likely to be destructive or troublesome.
Cost of Ownership
An important consideration on whether you will buy or adopt a dog is your financial capability. Can you afford to own one? Apart from feeding your Australian cattle dog high-quality food (up to £50 a month), you also have to buy basic equipment and supplies for it to live comfortably (initial cost of up to £200).
Preventive care (as much as £1,000 annually) is an aspect of pet ownership that should not be overlooked. Your dog needs to have veterinary routine check-ups, vaccinations, and flea/worm treatments. Another important expense is pet insurance (basic coverage ranging from £20 to £40) to have a safety net when your ACD becomes ill.
Australian Cattle Dog Breed Highlights
- The Australian cattle dog is a medium dog that is a great companion.
- It is great for families with an active lifestyle as it needs plenty of exercise.
- It has a wash-and-wear coat.
- The ACD gets along with kids, but has a tendency to nip. Through proper training and supervision, this behaviour can be curbed.
- It is a great protector of the family.
Are you sure the Australian Cattle Dog is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.
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