Height: 17-20 in
Weight: 30-62 lbs
Life Span: 12-15 yrs
Coloring: Blue, Blue mottled, Blue speckled
Area of Origin: New South Wales, Australia
Similar Breeds: Australian Shepherd, Australian Kelpie, Border Collie, Texas Heeler
History and Origin:
Bred to herd and drive cattle over long distances on rough, Australian terrain, the Blue Heeler is a color designation of the Australian Cattle Dog. When the cattle industry was opening up in the nineteenth century in Australia, farmers – most notably Thomas Hall, realized that a different sort of herding dog was needed from the large, stocky sheepdog types imported from Britain. By crossing the British sheepdogs with dingoes, a medium sized, agile, and tireless dog was produced. It wasn’t until Halls death in 1870 that farmers outside of the family gained access to the Australian Cattle Dog, and a breed standard was drawn up for New South Wales Department of Agriculture a mere thirty years later. While some dogs had been imported to North America and Europe over the next decades, it wasn’t until World War II, when American soldiers stationed in Australia took their Cattle Dogs home, that the breed became established outside of its native home.
Personality and Temperament:
Brave, energetic, and hard-working, the Blue Heeler is extremely intelligent and loyal. It is protective and obedient to its owner, and makes a fantastic guard dog. A naturally dominant dog, the Blue Heeler will try to become alpha dog at home if it is not properly socialized as a puppy, and can be wary of strangers and of other dogs. The dogs primary instinct is to herd, and it will attempt to do so at all opportunities. It can be fantastic with children, however, and is a rewarding and devoted family pet if raised with care. It is rumored that the Blue Heeler has a more agreeable temperament than the Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dogs with red coats), as the red coated dog share more aggressive and feral traits with its dingo ancestor.
Exercise & Training:
As an extremely high-energy dog, the Blue Heeler needs extensive daily physical and mental exercise to keep it healthy and happy. A lack of stimulation will lead to extensive behavior problems, which can be challenging to deal with for an inexperienced owner. The Heeler excels at agility and herding trials, and can be trained to the highest levels of obedience. It needs a firm hand and strong leadership to develop as a well-adjusted family pet, and requires early and consistent socialization to learn proper interaction with both humans and other animals. The Blue Heeler is not recommended as a dog for first-time owners, and requires a home with a yard and a job.
The Blue Heelers coat is short and weather-resistant, and requires little care. Occasional brushing and bathing will control stray hairs and dirt; the coat sheds out significantly only twice per year, depending on climate.
Fellow Australian farm dogs such as the Australian Shepherd and Australian Kelpie share some ancestry and characteristics with the Australian Cattle Dog. The Scottish Border Collie is the northern equivalent to the Heeler; it is similarly smaller and more energetic than the English sheepdog types. The Texas Heeler is a mixed breed found most frequently in Texas, resulting from the cross of the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd or Border Collie.
Interesting Facts about the Blue Heeler:
1. Before the Heeler became accessible to the Australian public, it was known as the Halls Heeler, referring to the man who developed the dog. Other names include the Queensland Heeler, which was given to those dogs living in Queensland instead of New South Wales.
2. Successful in a wide variety of dog sports, the Heeler is most suited to activities in which it works with its owner; cani cross, bikejoring and skijoring are popular with Heelers.
3. The Australian Cattle Dog was not recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club until 1980.
4. The term ”heeler” refers to the way in which the dog herds cattle; it bites and snaps at a cows heels as encouragement.