Australian Cattle Dog aka ‘Blue Heeler’ Dog Breed

You’re forgiven if you see an Australian Cattle Dog and think it’s a mutt … not that there is anything wrong with being a mixed breed or mutt. Truth is, you’d not be entirely wrong. According to Dogster, cattlemen in the mid-1800s created the Australian cattle dog, also known as the blue heeler dog breed, by mixing dingoes with other pure breeds. They sought a dog that could be independent and protect and herd livestock.

The short-legged Australian cattle dog is fast on its feet and it loves to run, so they do well in fenced-in yards. You’d also be wise to leash-walk this dog as it’s prone to dash off and might not respond to recall commands.

Australian Cattle Dog vs Blue Heeler

There is no difference between the Australian cattle dog breed and the blue heeler dog breed. They are one and the same. Their breed history is interesting: English cattle dogs didn’t do well in the Australian climate, so ranchers bred blue merle highland collies from Scotland with dingos to create Hall’s heelers. The Hall’s heelers breed was then bred with Dalmatians, who reputedly loved horses — and their masters. The ideal breed was born: A short-legged, fast, loyal, intelligent and independent Australian cattle dog, also known as the blue heeler.

dingo is an ancestor of blue heeler
The dingo is an ancestor of the Australian cattle dog.

Do Blue Heelers Bark a Lot?

Australian cattle dogs are very loyal to their owners; therefore they are protective and make good watchdogs. That said, they have a low tendency to bark for the sake of barking. A blue heeler is more likely to alarm bark, which isn’t a bad thing.

If Australian cattle dog barking becomes a problem, first figure out what’s triggering the bark. Remember, this breed barks for a reason. Once you figure out the reason for the dog’s barking, you can train them to stop barking on command. Heelers tend to be independent thinkers, so they’ll test your resolve. Don’t yell as that has the opposite effect on any barking dog; they might think you’re joining the cacophony rather than issuing a “quiet” command.

Follow the guide to using The BarxBuddy to train your blue heeler to stop barking.

Facts About Blue Heelers

Many blue heelers are born with whitish coats that turn colors as they get older. The coat has a patchwork look with bluish grays and even some reds. They have a distinctive spotted pattern and many have a characteristic solid dark patch over one eye.

Fun fact about the “heeler” name: It doesn’t refer to the ACD’s obedience or willingness to “heel” to its owners’ commands. Rather, it refers to the way it herds livestock by nipping at the animals’ heels.

australian cattle dog closeup and winking

  • Size: Male Australian cattle dogs stand 18 to 20 inches tall, while females are 17 to 19 inches tall. They weigh 35 to 50 pounds.
  • Life expectancy: Australian cattle dogs live to be 12 to 16 years old.  
  • Coat: They have a smooth coat with mostly short hair. Blue heelers are seasonal shedders. 
  • AKC group: Herding group

Are Blue Heelers Easy to Train? Are Blue Heelers Good Dogs?

The jury is out on whether an Australian cattle dog is easy or not to train. It depends on who you ask. Some say they are easy to train because of their herding group background, while others say training blue heelers can be a challenge because of their independent nature.

As with all intelligent, working breeds, follow a positive reinforcement approach of train, treat, repeat.

The Australian cattle dog is a working dog, so unless you live on a farm where your heeler can get lots of exercise while on the job, plan several exercise sessions every day. The blue heeler needs a lot of exercise and probably would not do well in an apartment or home with no yard.

Heelers can be harder to train, but as with most dog breeds, the earlier you start and the more consistent you are with your training, the better the ACD does. Many dogs in the herding group have the same high-energy temperament. They need to work. An idle blue heeler is prone to mischief and destruction, so schedule a good morning walk or play session before you head into work in the morning.

We also recommend scent games and nose work exercises for this intelligent, driven breed. It’s just as important to exercise a blue heeler’s brain as it is its body.

Because of their training as herders, Australian cattle dogs are better in single-dog households. If you plan to have more than one dog or plan to socialize your heeler, do it from a young age and regularly.

Do Blue Heelers Need Grooming?

The Australian cattle dog / blue heeler dog breed has a double short-to-medium-length coat that does well with a weekly brushing and occasional or as-needed bath. During shedding season, plan to at least double up on brushing sessions.

Trim their nails regularly, especially if your cattle dog spends more time indoors or on soft surfaces. They do well with nail grinding, especially because the blue heelers’ nails can be multicolored and camouflage the tender quick.

Do Blue Heelers Shed?

Blue heelers are seasonal shedders, so you will need to increase your brushing to two or three times a week during those times unless you don’t mind vacuuming your home every day!

Use a pin or needle-type dog brush to remove the dead hair. The brush we have in The BarxBuddy store pulls away dead hair and gathers it between bristles; then, you simply hold the brush over a trash bin and push the button to release the hair and clean the brush.

What If My Breed Is a Blue Heeler Mix?

Common health problems among the Australian cattle dog breed include vision loss, deafness, and hip dysplasia, which is common among working dogs. If you are buying a blue heeler from a cross-breeder, ask about the parents’ health and whether they know about vision or hearing losses.

Here are some blue heeler mixes:

*How did the Texas heeler get its name? If like us, you asked, “How do two Australians equal a Texan,” here’s what we found: The Texas heeler is so named because it’s where they originate from, the Lonestar State.

Resource Links for More Blue Heeler Dog Breed Info