Breed Profile: Australian Cattle Dog
Ah yes, the breed known for bullying cows 20x its size into submission. The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as blue or red heeler depending on its coat color, is one of the toughest dogs to exist on this planet.
Built like a linebacker, Australian Cattle Dogs originate from Australia ( surprise! ) where they were bred to drive cattle across long distances and rough terrain. Ranchers imported cow dogs from Europe at the time but they couldn’t handle working the heat and rough terrain.
They needed a tough, compact dog with endless energy that could survive the harsh environments they were working in. So, as any reasonable person would think to do... they crossed the native wild Dingo and voila, a badass creature that could survive the Outback ( still more wild animal than dog..I own one so I can say that ).
They also crossed other breeds to get the dog you see today, but the heeler contributed largely to the growth of the beef industry in Australia. They later made their way to the United States where they can commonly be seen on ranches, doing what they were bred to.
The herding breeds all have their own style when it comes to how they herd. While the end result may be the same, some breeds match better with certain stock. For example, a border collie crouches low like a stalking cat and uses its intense eye stare, while an Australian shepherd often barks at its stock from an upright stance to get it to go where its master wants.
Cattle dogs tend to be a bit more pushy, allowing for them to be used more commonly on stubborn cows than easily persuaded sheep in most cases. Like I said, they tend to be bullies and will literally bully bulls into going where they want. They dip in behind the cows and nip their heels, often dodging powerful kicks that could send them to the next state over.
Their stocky builds allow them to move quickly and powerfully, striking like a precision weapon and getting out of the 'danger zone' before they get a hoof to the face. They are often kicked and their thick ( stubborn ) skulls can normally shake it off. Like I said, one of the toughest dogs I've ever seen.
Besides the fact they are an extremely utilitarian breed, truly bred to work, they are fiercely loyal companions. This dogs loyalty will not be bought, at least not in my experience compared to my other dogs I've had that will toss me aside in a second for a piece of meat. They are amazing home protectors and vigilant watch dogs.
Like any breed with protection instincts, it is important to socialize them early and often because this breed is bred to nip and you don't want it biting a stranger or little child out in public. They are naturally wary of strangers so making sure they can tell friend from foe is key.
This is a breed I would not recommend to unexperienced dog owners and if you are considering one, please take into account the things written above.
This is a working breed, bred to have a job. If you do not have livestock to herd there are other outlets to keep them happy, but I have never seen my heeler happier than when he is herding. This breed has endless energy, I mean endless. We will get back from a 6 mile run and he still wants to play fetch. Don't say I didn't warn you.
They are extremely trainable and obedient. Hands down the smartest dog I've ever had. That being said I have trained a lot of dogs and it is still a daily struggle to keep that training relevant in his mind. This breed will walk all over you if you let them. They are bullies but if you establish as their leader they will respect you tremendously.
Heeler's also tend to be one person dogs. My heeler listens to me and only me. We pass other people on the trail and he is off leash and he could care less about saying hello.
I know some of my comments may seem like I am deterring you from the breed, and frankly I have come to respect this breed so much that perhaps I am. I just want to be as real as possible and for you to know what you are getting into and decide if its right for you.
I don't know your situation, and every individual dog is different, but overall this is not an apartment or even small yard dog. Sure some individual dogs may be actually quite lazy and friendly towards everyone, but I wouldn't take a 15 year commitment betting on it if you aren't prepared for the highly probable alternative.
Yes, they live a long time too, did I mention that?
This dog would be happiest with land where it can get muddy, run free, and do outdoor things with its pack ( YOU! ). They are extremely loyal and are stuck to your side at all times. A true velcro dog. They do not want to be left outside alone. Sure, they might prefer the whole family come outside with them, but my heeler sleeps on my feet while I am working at home ( if he's not nudging me with his ball to play fetch ).
With the proper training and enough daily exercise, this is a tremendous breed. It is amazing how fast they can learn and their physical endurance is always a blast to watch.
I hope this helped give you a general profile on the Australian Cattle Dog. Cheers...