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Herding breeds: Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog photo     The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) was originally bred in the mid-19th century to work cattle in the rough inland terrain of Australia. Today this sturdy, alert and watchful dog is a valuable asset to farmers and ranchers around the world. The Australian Cattle Dog is also referred to as the Blue Heeler, Queensland Heeler, Queensland Blue Heeler, and was originally known as the Australian Heeler.

General description

  • Height: 17-20 inches
  • Weight: 40-45 pounds
  • Color:
        Blue: The color should be blue or blue-mottled with or without other markings. The permissible markings are black, blue or tan markings on the head. The forelegs, tan midway up the legs and extending up the front to the breast and throat, with tan on jaws; the hindquarters, tan on inside of hind legs and inside of thighs, showing down from the front of the stifles and broadening out to the outside of the hind legs from hock to toes.
        Red Speckle: The color should be a good even red speckle all over including the undercoat (not white or cream) with or without darker red markings on the head.

    Grooming requirements
        The coat is easy to care for; a good bathing and brushing will keep the coat clean and healthy. In the show ring, they are called the "wash and wear" dog.

    Health considerations
        This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and deafness.

    Breed characteristics and personality
        The most important thing to know about an ACD is that you will be the center of his universe. ACDs bond so closely with their humans that it can be scary. Some pick one person in the household who is their special person and virtually attach themselves at the hip while some bond closely to everyone in the household. Either way, the attachment is intense. This is definitely not a dog who can live in the back yard and get occasional attention. They need to have your presence on a regular basis.
        ACDs have been bred to herd and to do so with force, i.e. biting. This can range from cute to annoying to outright dangerous. Biting at the ankle or hind leg is instinctive and this will come out whenever they chase or herd something else. While this is sometimes cute, it also means they have a strong tendency to bite people, even just in play. This has to be strongly curtailed from day one or you will end up with a problem dog. You need to find acceptable outlets for this herding behavior to keep your dog out of serious trouble.
        While many ACDs are friendly with everyone they meet, most are also protective of their house and family. An absolute must is careful and early socialization.
        ACDs are high energy, intently focused dogs. Most will want to be active and busy most, if not all, of the time. When young they have two modes, 90 miles per hour and comatose. This energy has to be directed somewhere or you will quickly end up with problems. A bored ACD will find ways to entertain himself, usually doing something you won't like, such as redecorating your house, rearranging your yard, etc. Thus, the cattle dog requires daily exercise.
        A fenced in yard is also highly recommended. This dog has intense herding instincts and will chase and herd kids on bikes, runners, cars, basically anything that moves.

        The ACD was originally used for herding cattle and still is today. The ACD needs a job to do and will excel in agility, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, and tracking.

    Web links

  • AKC Australian Cattle Dog page
  • Australian Cattle Dog Club of America

  • Gold Coast Australian Cattle Dog Club
  • Texas Australian Cattle Dog Club

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