Australian cattle dog
(aka: Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler, Australian Heeler)
The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.
They have a broad skull that flattens to a definite stop between the eyes, with muscular cheeks and a medium-length, deep, powerful muzzle. The ears are pricked, small to medium in size and set wide apart, with a covering of hair on the inside. The eyes are oval and dark, with an alert, keen expression. The neck and shoulders are strong and muscular; the forelegs are straight and parallel; and the feet round and strongly arched, with small toes and strong nails.
They should have well-conditioned muscles, even when bred for companion or show purposes. Ideally, their appearance is symmetrical and balanced, with no individual part of the dog being exaggerated. They should not look either delicate or cumbersome, as either characteristic limits the agility and endurance that is necessary for a working dog
Australian Cattle Dog Temperament
ACDs are usually reserved with strangers and fiercely protective if they perceive their property and/or people are being threatened. Hard headed and stubborn, once an ACD has taken a shine to you, they are your friend for life. Make no mistake about it though this friendship must be earned. ACDs are also affectionately referred to as Velcro or shadow dogs because they are stuck to you like glue. Anywhere you go they are dogging your footsteps.
These dogs are very loyal, protective and alert and make excellent guard dogs. They are also brave and trustworthy. They can make some serious points in the obedience ring and in herding and agility.
The ACD needs to be handled firmly yet fairly, and it is totally loyal and obedient to its master, and it's a one-person dog. They can suspicious of people and dogs they don't know and can be very dog aggressive, because they are very dominant.
This is not a good dog with children unless it has known the children since puppyhood. Many tend to nip at people's heels in an attempt to herd them. Avoid strictly working lines if you are looking for just a pet, as these dogs are too active and intense for home life.
Australian Cattle Dogs are very easy to train due to their high level of intelligence. The puppies are born white (inherited from Dalmatian crosses), but adult colors are seen in the paw pads.
The short-haired, weather-resistant coat needs little care and is very easy to groom. Just comb and brush with a firm bristle brush, and bathe only when necessary. This breed tends to shed their coats once or twice per year (depending on sex status and region).
This breed was developed in the 1800's in Australia because stockmen needed a dog with the stamina to handle the harsh conditions in their country.
Dogs that came to Australia with the settlers were from Europe and were called Smithfield and the old Smooth Collie. They could not handle the long distances and the harsh weather. That's when breed experimentation started.
Some of the breeds used to develop the ACD were: the Dingo, Smooth Haired Scotch Merle Collies, the Dalmatian, the Bull Terrier and the Australian Kelpie. The end result was an outstanding herding dog with superior stamina that could work stock quietly yet with enough insistence to get the job done well. One who was willing and quite able to drive cattle across vast distances in the worst weather conditions.
Robert Kaleski drafted the standard for the breed in 1893, which was finally approved in Australia in 1903. The Australian Cattle Dog was fully recognized by the AKC in 1980.
Due to their intelligence, the ACD is easy to train, however they are hard-headed and stubborn. Meaning, they would be less compliant than some other breeds. To have a well trained ACD you need to have the dog's respect, and vice versa.
Keep things interesting while you are training your ACD. While this breed learns fast it can get easily bored with repetition. Firm but fair training methods are best. You must be the pack leader or Alpha dog. At home, you are the dog's pack and if you don't set yourself up to be the leader your ACD will take the role over, and usually with some disastrous results. Being a pack leader isn't about being big and mean and scary. It is an attitude, an air of authority. Your dog must learn you have the power to handle him, and that handling will not lead to any harm. Your dog must trust you completely.
Your ACD won't learn if he isn't paying attention. Make sure any stimulus is strong enough to get him to give you eye contact. Working with signals only is a good way to teach your dog to keep one eye on you at all times.
Use positive, not negative reinforcement to train. Positive reinforcement is something your dog perceives as a good result. Negative reinforcement is any result that doesn't please him. Remember any inappropriate behaviors cannot be eliminated overnight. Good behaviors take time to develop.
Though not common, hip dysplasia occurs enough that responsible breeders test their breeding stock. Ask for OFA certification. The breed does have problems with progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which can lead to eye deterioration and blindness later in life. Also, merle colored Australian Cattle Dogs may suffer from hereditary deafness.