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What Makes the Australian Cattle Dog Unique?

Sara Ochoa

By Dr. Sara Ochoa

Looking for an active pup to add some excitement to your life?

Take a look at the Australian Cattle Dog, also referred to as ACD.

Originating in, you guessed it, the land down under, Australia!

The Australian Cattle Dog is also called the Blue, Red, or Queensland Heeler.


Originally bred to be cattle herders, the heelers are very responsible, loyal, and temperamental.

The name heeler came from the dog’s tendency to nip at the cattle’s heels when rounding up the herds!

Australian Cattle Dogs are related to Australia’s wild dog the Dingo.

No worries if you don’t have cattle, this doggo will be happy with some family time!


This article is here to help answer any questions you may have about the heelers.

Appearance, grooming, health, family life, and everything in between will be discussed.

Even topics like their favorite games and activities, their fascinating history, and many others will be covered in this article.

After reading up on this wonderful breed, I’m sure you will want your own Australian Cattle Dog to be your companion!

Are you ready?

Let’s go!



Australian Cattle Dog Appearance

Ranging anywhere from 17 to 20 inches tall and 35 to 50 pounds, the heelers are not a large but sturdy breed!

Their life expectancy is around 12 to 16 years.

Australian Cattle Dogs are born all white!

Over time their coat turns either blue-gray or red.

Either coat color may feature distinctive mottling or speckling patterns.

Bred to be outdoors, heelers have a smooth, two-layered coat that acts as a shield from the elements.


Inherited from the Dingo, ACDs have a strong head and a slightly curved, broad skull.

Cheeks are muscular, inserting power on the muzzle and jaws.

Heelers’ ears are medium-sized but pricked straight up at attention.

They exhibit a muscular, appearingly stocky neck and a deep chest and shoulders.

Australian Cattle Dog’s strong build suited their herding lifestyle.

Their stocky build doesn’t stop these pups from being fast-paced and very agile.

Despite their intimidating look, the ACDs are a very kind and loyal breed!



Australian Cattle Dog Personality

Even though these dogs may look stern, they are very friendly and caring!

Heelers are very intelligent, easily able to outsmart their owners.

Being watchful, alert, and tenacious is in their DNA.

Bred to be resilient herders, ACDs require a demanding lifestyle. They are used to having tasks to accomplish.

Heelers are given the nickname velcro for their tendency to choose a certain family member and stick with them!

They love to be with others but given the choice, he chooses to stay with the one he feels most comfortable with.


Exceedingly loyal to their owners but wary of strangers, ACDs make wonderful companions!

Their intense protectiveness makes them great watchdogs, although they aren’t very vocal.

Tending to assert dominance and strength over children, the heeler isn’t an ideal playmate.

ACDs love a challenge and if life gets too boring he tends to get unsatisfied and creates their own mischief.


Herding instincts return when the opportunity presents itself. ACDs have an immense work drive and excel at controlling herds, making them the perfect farm dog.

Being the people-pleasers that they are, these dogs will do almost anything to make their owner happy. 

Whether that’s adapting to new surroundings or new people, most heelers are happy to adjust for their owners



Australian Cattle Dog Exercise

Given their background, these herders need at least 40 minutes of daily exercise.

Being the high-energy breed that they are, heelers like to be moving almost constantly.

Running, jumping, playing, and everything in between!

Because of this reason, these dogs are not suited for an apartment lifestyle. They need some yard space to be able to run free and be happy!


ACDs are problem-solving, decision-making, and concentration oriented.

Because of this, heelers aren’t quite satisfied with just a short walk.

They require brain exercise as well as physical exercise. They need a challenge, something that helps them to work off energy while showing off their intelligence.

It is recommended that heelers participate with their owners in some kind of work, sport, or regular exercise to keep them mentally and physically fit.

If you enjoy running these doggos make excellent running partners!


Their exercise needs may seem overwhelming, but keep in mind physical fitness isn’t the only goal.

Spending time playing and training your heeler is a wonderful way to connect and create a special bond between you and your pup!

ACDs tend to get attached easily to their owners.

Quality time is definitely one of their love languages!



Australian Cattle Dog Grooming

The heeler’s grooming process is simple.

Covered in a smooth double-layered coat to protect him from the elements, the ACD was bred to work outdoors.

His coat does not possess an odor or any oily residue, therefore a weekly brushing and occasional bath are sufficient to keep his fur nice and clean!

Don’t forget that the ACD sheds his undercoat twice a year.

During shedding season, his coat will need a thorough brushing every few days. Nothing that a short-bristle brush can’t handle!

There is no special care for this breed even if entered into the show ring, only a bath is necessary.

Heelers fur takes care of itself!


Nails should be trimmed once a month to ensure your pup is able to walk and run properly.

Teeth should be brushed regularly and ears cleaned to promote their general well-being.

ACDs aren’t generally drooly or smelly.

Overall a fairly mess-free breed!



Australian Cattle Dog Training

Training in the early stages is a must for the Australian Cattle Dog.

Habits form quickly with this breed, so if they aren’t taught from the beginning, they won’t be the kind of habits appreciated by their owner.

Heelers are very intelligent and energetic and are happiest when on the job.

Used to being the ones in charge, heelers sometimes require harsh training to get through to them.


Continuous training and participation in activities are necessary for this breed and it also fosters a bond between dog and owner.

These pups often excel at canine events such as agility, flyball, herding competitions, or obedience trials.

Because of their aptitude for learning, it is recommended to enter your dog in such canine events.

Given their herding nature, ACDs have a tendency to round up anything that moves, including other dogs and children.

This is why training and differentiation between yes and no is so important for any new pup.

Some heelers tend to be very independent-minded, doing whatever they want to stay entertained.

This can mean unwanted and careless ‘accidents’.

Training at a young age is very important for this very reason.


ACDs are used to a commanding and demanding lifestyle. However, remember to be sensitive to your new pup.

Above all patience and love are key when training and housebreaking any dog!



Australian Cattle Dog Health

Heelers are energetic and powerful dogs.

As so, their bones and ligaments are prone to some wear and tear.

Hip dysplasia isn’t uncommon for this breed. Obvious signs of this are trouble walking, limping, and ‘bunny hopping’.

Progressive retinal atrophy is another condition to look out for. If you notice a difficulty in your pup’s night vision or frequently enlarged pupils then it should be checked out immediately.

While this condition is painless it could lead to complete blindness.


Any responsible breeder will screen their breeds for health conditions, but it’s up to their owner to see they are taken care of.

Regular vet checkups are a must for any doggo.


Since ACDs are such active dogs it is important to make sure that they’re getting enough calories in to keep up with their busy lifestyle.

As the dogs age you may want to consider switching to canned food or soaking their kibble to suit dogs with fewer teeth.

To promote healthy joints, look for foods with glucosamine and chondroitin added, or consider adding a joint supplement.

Make sure your dog knows you love them by making sure they are healthy!



Australian Cattle Dog History

The history of the Australian Cattle Dog is a fascinating story spanning over many decades.

This is a very summarized version, should you want to learn more about their fascinating history, feel free to give it a Google search!

A need for a suitable cattle dog arose in the 1800s, when settlers from Sydney began spreading westward to the vast, empty pastureland.

English cattle dogs were used at the time, but the rough terrain and high temperatures were too much to handle.


Much trial and error followed. 

A man named Thomas Hall then discovered blue merle highland collies, imported all the way from Scotland.

These collies were crossed with the wild Dingo dog to produce a breed known as Hall’s Heelers.

It was not until after Thomas Hall’s death in 1870 that these dogs were sold outside of the family.

It has been said that Heelers were crossbred with Dalmations to help instill the love of horses.

However, there is no physical evidence to prove it.

Sheepdogs were next used to create what is now known as Australian Cattle Dogs.


The AKC officially adopted the breed in 1980.

As you can tell it takes too much creativity and determination to make the fun and loving dog breed  known today!


Where Can I Find Australian Cattle Dogs?

Where Can I Find Australian Cattle Dog

There are many ways to go about puppy finding, but there are a few very important things to know.

Reliable breeders are the most important aspect when looking for a dog.

Ways to spot a trustworthy breeder is if they are willing to answer any relevant questions you may have. 

They should be well-versed in information about their puppies. Information such as medical documentation, breeding practices, and possible risks with this specific breed.


Remember to take your time when searching for your furry companion. Every puppy has different needs and wants so make sure to get to know your pup.

Spend time with your doggo before you decide to take them home with you!


Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what the breeders are for!

Make sure your breeder is someone you can trust!

Finally, if you are in pursuit of a heeler, your quest can come to an end. This breed can be adopted right here at VIP puppies!



Q: What is the difference between a blue heeler and a red heeler?

A: There are no differences except for a coloring variation. Puppies in this breed are all brown, and white, with a few spots that can turn either reddish-brown or black as the pup matures. The dog with black hair mixing in with white is called a blue heeler and the pup with reddish-brown coloring is called a red heeler.


Q: Are blue heelers good apartment dogs?

A: No. Blue heelers need plenty of space both inside and outside in which to run around. An apartment will feel too confining to such an energetic breed. These dogs thrive with lots of daily exercise and attention.


Q: Are blue heelers aggressive?

A: If a blue heeler is not properly socialized, it can show some aggression towards suspicious strangers, but that is rare. Otherwise, blue heelers are faithful friends and great family dogs. Most get along well with other dogs and dog-friendly cats as long as they are well-socialized while still young.


In Closing

Australian Cattle Dog In Closing

What do you think?

Could this bundle of energy be the perfect fit for you and your family?

From its tenacious, protective nature to its kind, caring attitude this doggo is such a fun pet!

They have plenty of love to share!

Once shown some attention these adorable pups will never leave your side!


If you’re looking for a loyal companion and adventure buddy then this Aussie might be the fit for you!

Take some time to get to know these lovable dogs! They may be just what you’re looking for!



American Kennel Club. (2022).Australian Cattle Dog Breed. Retrieved from the American Kennel Club:

Hills Pet. (2023).Australian Cattle Dog Breed. Retrieved from Hills Pet:https://www.hillspet/dog-breeds/australian-cattle-dog/

The Spruce Pets. (2022).Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog). Retrieved from The Spruce Pets:

Wikipedia. (2023). Australian Cattle Dog. Retrieved from Wikipedia:




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