The term: "Australian Cattle Dog" (ACD) is the official (American Kennel Club) breed name for a dog also called: "Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, and Queensland Heeler".
The breed was developed in the mid-to-late 1800's in Australia with the sole purpose and intention to herd cattle. While debate abounds over precisely what breeds were used in the making of this unique dog, it is widely accepted that the ACD is a distant relative of the wild, native, Australian dog, the Dingo.
The breed varies in size with the average ACD weighing between 30 to 50 pounds and standing 17-20 inches. They are muscular and robust, powerful, agile, and lightning fast. Overall ACDs are a healthy and hardy breed with an average lifespan of 12-15 years.
Undisputedly one of the most intelligent breed of dogs in existence, ACDs are not for everyone.
They are an active and agile working breed and thus it is essential for their health and sanity, as well as that of their owners, that they have the chance to expend large amounts of physical energy daily. This dog needs to run, and this dog needs a job to do to feel productive. Unless you plan to work your dog on a cattle ranch, enroll it in agility training or dog show obedience competitions, or are an extremely active athlete yourself who will take your dog along on long runs, bike rides, or long rounds of "catch the frisbee or tennis ball", the sheer physical needs of this dog may overwhelm you. This dog will not lie quietly at your feet all day while you sit at your desk or relax on the couch. This dog thrives on interaction and interactive play.
Because they are bred to nip and bite the hooves of horses or cows while herding them, people often find that one of the first things they need to train their "Heeler" to suppress is the urge to bite the heels and ankles of humans or to try to herd small children and other family pets, especially those of the feline persuasion who don't take kindly to herding games at all. It is imperative to provide your puppy with access to small children from the very beginning (especially if you have none in your inner circle) so that they learn to be gentle with the little humans. These encounters must be closely supervised, for even if your ACD is the most gentle of dogs, small children may not be accustomed to the actions of such a forceful, strong and assertive dog and may run away or resist, only challenging and intriguing this herding dog further.
Attention and care must likewise be taken with cats and other small, furry, house pets. Nothing is as exciting to an ACD as chasing a squirrel, rabbit, bird, or deer, so again the need for mandatory early socializing and strong training with the frequent use of a very forceful "NO!" command can not be overemphasized.
ACDs also need to be mentally exercised and "worked" daily. They derive a sense of "self-worth" from tasks and jobs, and a bored ACD is a potentially destructive and depressed ACD. Their high intelligence couple with boundless energy and an amazing ability to single-mindedly focus intensely on the task at hand makes them a challenging, and possibly tiring, house and family pet breed of dog. This intensity of focus can be easily channeled into a rawhide chew toy. The ACD will tear into its bone with a fierceness and laser-like focus sustainable for hours. Great care should be taken in choosing toys for this breed as they are blessed with amazing "chew and destroy" strength. They can pull the stuffing out of a stuffed animal and strew it throughout the house and yard before you can finish taking it out of the bag for them.
The Australian Cattle Dog personality is highly protective and loyal and this can often be displayed in a ferocity when they perceive that their pack of humans or their property is being threatened by a stranger. Some ACDs bond primarily with one human but it is also very possible to train them to take commands from others if they are enrolled in puppy obedience classes as early as 10 weeks. Training can and will transfer if the puppy is worked with consistently, firmly, and lovingly, with tons of positive praise and reinforcement.
This is a very social breed of dog that loves nothing more than to be with its people. Many are "shadow dogs", unable to allow the owner to leave the room without following, even if the dog had been enjoying the deepest of sleeps before the owner walked by. Many ACDs value the positive reinforcement and approval of their humans far above other rewards like food treats. Praise and the company of their family is reward enough for many, and likewise, to be ignored or isolated in a yard or kept from its pack is the worst form of punishment for this dog. Lack of socialization and training contribute to many an ACD being turned into animal shelters for inappropriate nipping or personality problems that make them unacceptable family and house dogs. It does not have to be this way.
All of the potentially challenging personality characteristics and attributes of the ACD breed also offer the exact remedies for averting problems with early intervention and preventative measures. These dogs must be trained and socialized as soon as they are weaned and placed with their human families. They mature rapidly and are very quick to learn since they are incredibly eager to please their owners and basically brilliant. If given the attention and discipline they inherently crave and require, an ACD can develop into a loyal and most amusing and rewarding canine companion for the entire family.
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