The compact but muscular Australian Cattle Dog, also called Blue or Red Heeler or Queensland Heeler, is related to Australia’s famous wild dog, the Dingo. These resilient herders are intelligent enough to routinely outsmart their owners. Standing between 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder, the Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, hard-muscled herder of strength and agility. The ACD is born with a white coat that turns either blue-gray or red. Both coat colors may feature distinctive mottling or speckling patterns. ACDs have immense work drive and excel at controlling and, of course, moving livestock. Their boundless energy and supple gait make them excellent running partners. ACDs are true-blue loyal, famously smart, tenacious, ever alert, and may be wary of strangers. If an ACD isn’t challenged, it easily becomes bored and may get into mischief. It is recommended that ACD owners participate with these versatile dogs in some work, sport, or regular exercise to keep them mentally and physically fit.
Standing between 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder, the Australian Cattle Dog is a sturdy, hard-muscled herder of strength and agility. The ACD is born with a white coat that turns blue-gray or red. Both coat varieties feature distinctive mottling or specking patterns. ACDs have immense work drive and excel at hunting, chasing, and, of course, moving livestock. Their boundless energy and supple gait make them excellent running partners. ACDs are true-blue loyal, famously smart, ever alert, and wary of strangers. If an ACD isn’t challenged, he easily becomes bored and gets into mischief. It is recommended that ACD owners participate with their dog in some work, sport, or regular exercise to keep him mentally and physically fit.
The Australian Cattle Dog made vital contributions to the growth of the continent’s beef industry and important component of the Australian economy.
The long, complex, and sometimes troubling history of Britain’s settlement of the Australian continent is beyond the scope of our story. We can pick it up in the early 1800s, when Anglo-Australians began their migrations from the original coastal settlements to the vast grasslands of the western inland. This was prime territory for the raising of beef cattle. Good herding dogs were essential in re-creating these wild areas as cattle ranches.
Australia’s first cattle dogs were British imports of a breed known as the Smithfield, unsuited to the high temperature, rough terrain, and vast distances to market of their new home. Thus, stockmen began a long process of trial and to breed a herding dog that could meet the challenges of the Australian interior. Smithfields were crossed with Dingoes (a feral breed brought to the continent by its earliest human inhabitants) and such other breeds as the Scottish Highland Collie, as breeders worked toward the hardworking and durable herders they desired.
A key contributor to the effort was George Elliot, of Queensland, who bred Dingoes with Collies and sold the puppies to farmers. The result was a dog who was close to being the quintessential Aussie herder. True perfection came later when two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, bred Dalmatians with some of Elliott’s ACDs. The Dalmatian’s faithfulness, protectiveness, and ease with horses, mixed with the original breed’s working ability (which was also reinforced by the addition of a sheepdog known as the Black and Tan Kelpie into the line) was just the right combination to produce the ACD we know today.
The Australian Cattle Dog was admitted to the AKC in 1980 and became a charter member of the AKC Herding Group upon founding the group in 1983.
Temperament: Loyal / Intelligent / Tenacious
Height: 17-20 inches
Weight: 35 to 50 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-16 years
A responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as deafness; progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, which causes vision loss; and hip dysplasia. An ACD’s ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and his teeth should be brushed regularly.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- PRA Optigen DNA Test
- BAER Testing
- Primary Lens Luxation(PLL)
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The Australian Cattle Dog was bred to work outdoors and has a smooth, double-layer coat that protects him from the elements. This coat has no odor or oily residue, so an Australian Cattle Dog generally needs a quick brush once a week and an occasional bath. Remember, though, that the ACD sheds his undercoat twice a year. During shedding season, every few days he will need a thorough brushing-out to remove the dead hair, using a short-bristle brush and possibly a comb as well. As with all breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog’s nails should be trimmed regularly.
A very active, high-energy dog, the Australian Cattle Dog needs more than just a quick walk and playtime in the yard. ACDs really need a job in order to remain happy and healthy. On a working farm, this may not be an issue, especially if there are animals to herd. In other living situations, going with his owner on runs every day, or nearly every day, is a good outlet for his energy. An ideal choice is participation in dog sports, where the Australian Cattle Dog and owner take part in canine activities such as obedience or agility that channel the breed’s drive and abundant energy in a fun way.
Early socialization and obedience training are a must for the Australian Cattle Dog. The ACD is a highly intelligent, energetic breed that is only really happy when on the job. Therefore, continuing training and participation in activities such as obedience, herding, or agility is highly recommended. This can represent a large time commitment on the part of the owner, but participation together fosters a bond between you and your dog, and it’s fun for both of you. Remember, an intelligent, energetic dog who is not kept occupied will become bored, and a bored, energetic dog can be destructive.
The Australian Cattle Dog should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Australian Cattle Dogs are very athletic, active canines, so be mindful that your dog is getting good nutrition to meet his needs. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.