Characteristics of Blue Australian Cattle Dogs

Characteristics of Blue Australian Cattle Dogs

Blue Australian Cattle dogs are loyal and protective of both their family and property, possibly becoming aggressive if they think they are defending their "pack." Learn more about this breed here.

Blue Australian Cattle Dogs are defined by the color of their coats, but their official breed name is simply the Australian Cattle Dog. Often times the breed is informally called a Heeler, Blue Heeler or Red Heeler. This compact, rugged breed was developed by Australian ranchers in the 19th century to meet the need for a high-endurance cattle driver. Bred to be active working animals, Australian Cattle Dogs don't fit into every household. Their high energy levels, herding tendencies and other behavior characteristics can be hard for owners to handle, particularly first-time dog owners.


Australian Cattle Dogs are devoted to their family, wanting to be involved in human lives. Many quickly become one-person dogs, buddies that don't want to stray far from that person's side. This attachment requires a corresponding commitment from the dog's owners. They are sometimes called "velcro dogs" because of that trait. Bred to protect cattlemen and their herds, Australian Cattle Dogs are generally alert, watchful and wary. They are loyal and protective of both their family and property, possibly becoming aggressive if they think they are defending their "pack." Most Australian Cattle Dogs are naturally suspicious of strangers.

Sociability with People

Because Australian Cattle Dogs have a natural tendency to be reserved around strangers, it's essential to start socializing these dogs very early in life to accustom them to being around a variety of people. Consider taking your dog to puppy training classes, to parks, and into stores that welcome pets, to get the dog used to behaving well around strangers. Australian Cattle Dogs have strong herding instincts, and under certain circumstances will even try to round up small children. This behavior can be terrifying to young children, while older children can learn how to deal with it. It is important to take steps to prevent herding behavior, such as teaching basic obedience commands and giving your dog plenty of exercise to release extra energy.

Sociability with Other Animals

Members of this breed can be bossy and pushy with other dogs, especially when trying to establish a rank order. Australian Cattle Dogs typically get along well with family cats that they've been raised with since puppyhood, but their natural herding instinct means that any cats not from their household will be fair game. Australian Cattle Dogs will also chase and often kill small animals such as rabbits, ferrets and members of the rodent family, so it's not a great idea to have those animals for household pets if you have an Australian Cattle Dog.

Energy Levels

Australian Cattle Dogs require constant physical and mental activity. These dogs need vigorous daily exercise, such as running the agility course, taking obedience lessons, competing in flying disc competitions or running alongside their owner's bicycle. Without sufficient activity, an Australian Cattle Dog tends to become bored and destructive. Because of this, Australian Cattle Dogs aren't well-suited to small houses or apartments, and many end up in rescues when their owners conclude they can't meet the dogs' needs. Australian Cattle Dogs do best when they can work off excess energy in a large yard.


Australian Cattle Dogs are smart and clever, but also possess an independent streak and like to think for themselves. You must be a firm, consistent leader and provide your dog with a lot of positive feedback. Make your training sessions challenging and fun to keep your Australian Cattle Dog interested and motivated. These dogs have a natural toughness, and will keep training or competing even when injured. Be mindful of their health and keep a close eye on your Australian Cattle Dog so you can notice any injuries and stop the activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What two breeds make an Australian Cattle Dog?

The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue Heeler or Red Heeler, is a breed that was developed in Australia in the 1800s for herding cattle in harsh outback conditions. The breed was created through the crossbreeding of a blue merle Scottish Highland Collie and a Dingo, resulting in a dog with the strength and resilience of the Dingo and the herding instinct and trainability of the Scottish Highland Collie. Although the Red Heeler has a reddish tint on its coat and the Blue Heeler has a blue coat, the two colors can coexist in the same litter and are not recognized as distinct varieties of the breed. Australian Cattle Dogs are renowned for their intelligence, loyalty, and high levels of activity, and they are still widely used as working dogs and companion animals today.

How smart are Australian Cattle Dogs?

The Australian Cattle Dog is widely regarded as a highly intelligent breed and has been ranked as the 10th smartest dog breed for obedience and working intelligence by Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and a renowned expert on dog intelligence. Dr. Coren's ranking system is based on a survey of dog obedience trial judges who were asked to rank breeds according to their working and obedience intelligence. The Australian Cattle Dog's high ranking is due to its natural intelligence, trainability, and eagerness to please its owner. These traits make them quick learners and highly responsive to commands, which makes them well-suited for a variety of working roles, such as herding, search and rescue, and law enforcement. However, because of their high intelligence, they also need a lot of mental exercises and stimulation to be engaged and avoid harmful behavior. As a result, owners should provide their Australian Cattle Dogs with lots of opportunities for mental and physical stimulation, such as obedience and agility training and interactive play.

Is an Australian Cattle Dog a good family dog?

Australian Cattle Dogs can make excellent family dogs, but they may not be the right choice for every family. These dogs are highly intelligent, loyal, and affectionate with their owners, and they can form strong bonds with all members of the family. They might not be the ideal choice for families that can't provide them enough exercise and attention because of their high level of activity and desire for mental and physical stimulation. Australian Cattle Dogs can be too energetic and active for very young children, and if they are not properly socialized, they might develop quite aggressive behavior. Families thinking about getting an Australian Cattle Dog should be ready to provide them with lots of opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation, as well as training and socialization to make sure they behave appropriately among all members of the family and other pets. However, with proper training and socialization, an Australian Cattle Dog can be a loving and loyal companion for a family that is committed to meeting its needs for exercise and stimulation.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs bark a lot?

No, Australian Cattle Dogs are not typically known for excessive barking. Although they have a tendency to be vocal dogs, they rarely bark excessively or without cause. Australian Cattle Dogs were trained to be attentive and receptive to their handler's directions, which included barking on cue to move livestock, as they were bred originally to herd cattle. However, owners can teach their Australian Cattle Dogs when barking is suitable and when it is not with proper training and socialization, which can help minimize excessive barking. Additionally, due to the breed's intelligence and trainability, owners may teach their dogs acceptable behavior and lessen any possible excessive barking by taking advantage of their quick learning abilities and great responsiveness to commands. Overall, Australian Cattle Dogs are not typically known for barking for barking’s sake, but like any breed, individual dogs may have their own tendencies that can be managed with proper training and socialization.

What are the disadvantages of Blue Australian Cattle Dog?

Like any breed of dog, there are some potential disadvantages to owning a Blue Australian Cattle Dog. One of the most seen disadvantages is their high energy level and need for constant physical and mental stimulation. They might become destructive or develop behavioral problems like excessive barking, digging, or chewing if they don't get enough exercise and mental stimulation. This suggests that they might not be the greatest option for families who are unable to give them enough stimulation and care. In addition, the breed may be predisposed to certain health problems, like deafness and hip dysplasia, which can be expensive to cure. They could also have a strong desire to hunt and a propensity to chase other animals, which can be problematic for households with other pets. Australian Cattle Dogs are also very independent and can be stubborn at times, which can make training a challenge. Finally, their protective nature means that they may be wary of strangers and can become a bit aggressive if they are not socialized properly, which can be a concern for families with young children or frequent visitors.

References & Resources
The Howell Book of Dogs: The Definitive Reference to 300 Breeds and Varieties; Liz Palika
Australian National Kennel Council, LTD: Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association: Living With an ACD

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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