The Australian Cattle Dog ranks 55th of 193 American Kennel Club dog breeds. One of the most intelligent and energetic breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue Heeler, is a relative of the dingo, the wild dog native to Australia. The Australian Cattle Dog has played a significant role in the meat production industry in Australia, herding livestock for well over a century before earning recognition in the U.S. with admittance into the American Kennel Club in 1980. Today, the Australian Cattle Dog continues to embrace its role as a working dog that loves to herd and is beloved by dog owners all over the world.
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Australian Cattle Dog Appearance
A consistently muscular and compact build has equipped the Australian Cattle Dog for its work, giving it the qualities of both strength and speed. A wide skull with pricked ears, a black nose, and a powerful jaw are all in proportion with the rest of the Australian Cattle Dog. Measuring 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder and weighing 35 to 50 pounds, the Australian Cattle Dog falls into the category of the American Kennel Club’s medium-sized working group.
An interesting trait of Australian Cattle Dogs is that they are all born white, later developing colors and markings in their coat. The Australian Cattle Dog is easily identified by its unique coat, which is often mottled or speckled in some combination of blue and red. Markings of tan, red, or black & tan are standard in the breed. The Australian Cattle Dog has a double coat that is short, measuring up to 1.5 inches in length.
Australian Cattle Dogs have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. The Australian Cattle Dog has boundless quantities of energy and needs constant physical activity to keep it stimulated. Highly alert and curious, the Australian Cattle Dog is renowned for its incredible intelligence. The Australian Cattle Dog is a fairly high-maintenance dog and can often cause trouble if its energies and intelligence are not properly channeled. If left alone, it should come as no surprise if an Australian Cattle Dog is caught opening doors and cabinets in search of something to do. Its herding roots and sharp intuition also mean that barking and nipping, particularly in situations it feels are becoming unruly, can be quite common.
The Australian Cattle Dog loves to play and is a loving family pet who is great around children. Nevertheless, the Australian Cattle Dog is highly territorial and protective, and will serve as a courageous watchdog over its family. While the breed tends to grow quite close to all its family members, including other animals, it is likely to be reserved around strangers. The Australian Cattle Dog is also a natural leader and will thrive when given purpose, positive reinforcement, and an active lifestyle.
Caring for an Australian Cattle Dog
Intelligent, athletic, energetic and playful, an Australian Cattle Dog can be a great working dog and family pet. It’s important to address the Australian Cattle Dog’s needs and how best to care for this special breed.
Providing a diet rich in nutrients is important for the healthy upkeep of the Australian Cattle Dog, particularly given its highly active lifestyle. Depending on the age of an Australian Cattle Dog, care should be taken to provide age-appropriate food, such as a senior dog food. This breed has a very quick metabolism and should be fed a high-protein diet, which can be found in a variety of grain free dog food options. In addition, the Australian Cattle Dog should be given fruits and vegetables to provide vitamins and minerals to round out a healthy diet.
The Australian Cattle Dog is not the dog for anyone who isn’t willing to accommodate its constant need for exercise. Owning one of the most active dog breeds in the world comes with a great deal of responsibility, and Australian Cattle Dogs will be quite happy when given farm work and herding livestock. For non-working Australian Cattle Dogs, owners should make sure to engage with their dogs in regular exercise such as running, canine sports, and long walks. The Australian Cattle Dog is also adventurous and makes a great companion for just about any outdoor activities.
Given the Australian Cattle Dog’s intelligence, training this breed is an absolute imperative. Honing the Australian Cattle Dog’s intelligence through giving it work, obedience and agility training, and other challenging activities will help these dogs connect and bond with their owners, and respect authority. While the Australian Cattle Dog can show stubbornness and its intelligence can get it into trouble, it is far less likely to do so when trained from a young age and given the proper exercise it requires to keep it busy. Interactive dog toys and puzzle toys for dogs can also help the Australian Cattle Dog’s development.
The Australian Cattle Dog can find itself at risk for several health concerns, most of which are genetic. Therefore, it can be very beneficial to order a dog DNA test to determine disease risk for these dogs.
Like many other breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog should be monitored for hip and elbow dysplasia. Australian Cattle Dogs are also at risk for deafness, as well as progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause loss of vision and eventual blindness.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a disease that results in abnormal cartilage development, painful inflammation, and the loss of mobility in the legs. OCD can be a problem in Australian Cattle Dogs, and providing a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in calcium can help to reduce the risks of this condition. Owners should consult an experienced veterinarian familiar with the breed to be made aware of this and other conditions that can occur in Australian Cattle Dogs, and some preventive measures that can be taken.
Other conditions that can occasionally affect Australian Cattle dogs include the inherited bleeding disorder known as Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD), Persistent pupillary membrane (PPM), cataracts, and lens luxation. Owners of Australian Cattle Dogs should keep an eye out for any signs of pain or abnormal behavior in the breed, and should have regular checkups conducted to monitor the dog’s eyes, ears, hips, elbows, and legs.