Blue Heelers (American Cattle Dogs) are solid, sturdy and compact dogs with an alert, ready-to-work stance. Slightly longer than tall with curved, hanging tails, they have muscular legs and strong necks and broad, somewhat rounded heads with pointy ears. Their dense, weather-resistant coats come blue, blue mottled, blue speckled or red speckled—both with possible dark or tan markings. The name Blue Heeler refers to the Australian Cattle Dog with the blue coat, while the red-coated Australian Cattle Dog is sometimes referred to as the Red Heeler.
These are high-energy, clever and active dogs. Not content with sitting around the house for hours on end, Blue Heelers will encourage you to take them outside for exercise, play and work.
Blue Heelers, like most herders, can be one-person dogs. They also have a unique independence, not requiring much in the way of cuddling or affection. Though tough and resolute, they will definitely appreciate positive feedback and good treatment. Sometimes their herding instincts can suddenly come into play. They may “herd” family members or nip lightly at heels if they want something.
They don’t bark too much, but they are still very protective of the home. Blue Heelers can be cautious and wary—qualities that make them excellent watchdogs. They are also friendly and loving companions.
Blue Heelers need activities, tasks and lots of room to run; therefore, they are probably not suited for apartment living. Without open spaces and jobs to do, they can get into mischief and destructiveness. Easily trained, they need a firm hand controlling them so that they don’t bond with another dominant dog in the neighborhood.
Some may have the urge to nip. A toy can solve this problem. Just be sure it’s a tough one: Blue Heelers can tear a typical dog toy to shreds in one sitting. Also remember: Keep your Blue Heeler on a leash. They are very curious and love to run and roam. Also, they can have issues with dogs they don’t know very well.
A healthy Blue Heeler can live as long as 15 years. Common health issues can include eye problems, hip dysplasia and deafness.
Mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs, Australian George Elliott developed the Australian Cattle Dog (the Blue Heeler) in 1840. Australian cattlemen and ranchers loved the breed’s toughness and work ethic, and the dogs quickly became popular as cattle herders. The American Kennel Club officially recognizes the breed name as the Australian Cattle Dog. The blue coat version is the one called Blue Heeler, which is more of a nick name than an official name. Australian Cattle Dogs are also called Australian Heelers or Queensland Heelers.
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