The Australian cattle dog is a medium-sized dog with the energy and drive of several dogs all melded into one compact, yet super-strong and agile body. Ranchers developed this alert, highly trainable breed for herding livestock across thousands of miles of unfenced Australian terrain. It’s natural working abilities made it the quintessential herding breed. Without them, historians say the outback’s cattle industry would not be what it is today. For people seeking an intelligent, independent, active companion that will provide undying loyalty, protection, and devotion, the Australian cattle dog is an excellent choice.
Males and females weigh between 35 and 50 pounds in adulthood and grow to a height of 17 to 20 inches. They have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. When you see an Australian cattle dog for the first time, you may be surprised at the dog’s compact, muscular build, and sturdy demeanor. Because they are always alert and ready to move, they seem to have a cautious yet eeager expression that can seem intense to those outside of the family.
Once you’ve taught your canine friend not to try and control your children through nipping, you’ll find that these dogs are great companions for them. They will enthusiastically protect, watch over, and play with younger humans. When raised with other pets, including cats, they’ll accept them as part of their family. However, these dogs have a strong prey instinct. Expect your Australian cattle dog to chase after furry critters who’ve wandered into their territory.
Independent dogs who have the innate capacity for critical thinking and figuring things out aren’t usually the most cuddly canines. Working dogs have a number-one priority: doing their job. They may lay next to you when you sleep, but they’ll also make rounds to ensure all is well in the home. The Australian cattle dog is leery of strangers and unfamiliar animals. They aren’t big barkers, so if they do get noisy, take heed.
Australian cattle dogs have a white coat when they are born. With age, it changes to a mottled or speckled coloring. A mottle is a bi-colored pattern with dark, round blotches on a lighter background. Speckle is when there are small areas of hair that are a different color than the dog’s base hair, such as dark spots on white fur.
Australian cattle dogs require extensive daily exercise. They have tons of energy, and a daily stroll in the park just doesn’t provide the level of physical activity they need. This breed is ideal for active owners who enjoy hiking, extended walks, or jogs. Because they are so easy to train, they excel at just about any activity. including obedience, agility, and swimming. Owners who enjoy horseback riding often train their Australian cattle dogs to accompany them on rides.
If you live in a rural area and are seeking a pet that will adapt to country life, this is the breed for you. However, they are also highly adaptable and can thrive in the city as well. Australian cattle dogs are just as happy running around a cow pasture as they are in a fenced backyard. They love to play games like fetch and frisbee. Some owners say their Australian cattle dogs pick up their toys and put them away after playing with them.
Deafness is one of the inheritable conditions prevalent in this breed. One study found that out of 899 Australian cattle dogs, researchers identified the condition in about 10% of them. They are also susceptible to kidney stones. Other possible issues include primary lens luxation, a condition that leads to a displaced eye, and myotonia congenita, a muscle disorder.
Some people also call the Australian cattle dog a blue heeler, a red heeler, a Queensland heeler, or an Australian heeler. Instinctively, heelers force cattle to move by nipping at their feet, a direct genetic tie to their dingo roots. Families may notice their Australian cattle dog “herding” their children or other pets, even nipping at those who get out of line. Although it is an intrinsic behavior for the breed, owners must train their pets from an early age never to bite humans or other animals in the home.
Like several other working breeds, the Australian cattle dog has a double-layer coat with a dense undercoat that sheds once or twice a year. Their outer coat is hard but smooth, with no oily residue. It’s both rain and dirt-resistant with no strong “doggy” odor. Occasional baths and weekly brushings with more frequent comb-outs during shedding season are the extent of the breed’s grooming needs.
Although there is some disagreement as to who bred the first Australian cattle dog, there are two things most dog historians agree on. First, that the breed has roots in Queensland. Second, the development of the Australian cattle dog started with crossing a Scottish smooth-coated collie or a Smithfield herding dog and a native dingo.
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