Australian Cattle Dog Breed

Blue Australian Cattle Dog
  • Other names:
  • Australian Heeler
  • Blue Heeler
  • Australian Cattledog
  • Australischer Treibhund
  • Cattle Dog
  • Red Heeler
  • Queensland Heeler
  • Hall's Heeler
  • View all 8...

The Australian cattle dog is a workaholic by nature. The breed thrives with work to do and prefers doing tasks rather than sitting at your feet. Australian Cattle Dogs were originally bred to herd by mouthing the feet and legs of farm animals. This trait makes the breed a mouthy dog and it's not uncommon for Australian cattle dogs to bite or nip at people, children, other animals, etc.

Australian Cattle Dogs are a high energy dog breed as well as very intelligent. This combined with their strong desire to complete tasks can make them a challenge for first time dog owners. The breed excels with families that are very active and display leadership qualities which keeps the breed exercised and under control.

Australian Cattle Dog Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred12-14 yrs.17-20 in.30-50 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are the characteristics and traits of the Australian cattle dog breed.Australian Cattle Dogs were produced to fulfill the need of driving massive herds of unruly cattle through harsh, open ranges. They are not for first-time dog owners, and even fairly experienced dog people might find them difficult to control. Blue Heeler behavior problems tend to be not so much with the dog but not having proper authority to oversee them. They can be good companions so long as they are exercised at length on a daily basis. They won't do for apartment lifestyles, and they are not recommended for households with cats, very young kids, and sometimes even other dogs. Learning as much Australian cattle dog information as possible is key to managing these dogs properly.

Here are some Blue Heeler facts that are good to know:


  • Sturdy
  • Very loyal
  • Bonds strongly
  • Highly intelligent
  • Loves agility tasks
  • Exceedingly active
  • Superior herding dog
  • Great at canine sports
  • Protective of family members


  • Can be jealous
  • May bark a lot
  • Might nip at kids
  • Wary of outsiders
  • Tendency to roam
  • Separation anxiety
  • Rigorous exercise needs

Australian Cattle Dog Breed Description

On average, the Australian cattle dog stands 18 inches tall (from ground to shoulder) and weighs 40 pounds. As a medium sized dog breed, the Australian Cattle Dog may seem a bit small to be able to cattle animals weighing 50 times their weight, but what the breed lacks in size they make up for in intelligence and agility.

Australian cattle dogs are a very intelligent dog breed. It is important that owners meet the breed's intellectual needs, otherwise the dog may develop unwanted habits for mental stimulation. The breed is devoted to their family, but isn't necessarily the best choice for younger children or other pets. It is common for Australian Cattle Dogs to become attached to a single person in the household and the introduction of new pets can make the breed jealous. If properly socialized, the breed does well with children, but since they have a strong urge to nip and bite there is a risk that the Australian Cattle Dog may be too mouthy for smaller kids.

Australian Cattle Dogs require a bit more maintenance than other breeds. Their coat is easy to care for, as it is weather resistant, but the breed blows their coat twice per year and will need frequent brushing during these times. Australian Cattle Dogs have a lot of energy and will need an environment where they can meet their exercise needs. They do not do well in apartments or condos and besides needed a large area to run and play they also need adequate mental stimulation. A lack of mental and physical exercise often leads to destructive behavior and stubbornness which can make the dog unmanageable for inexperienced owners.

Australian Cattle Dog Breed History

Australian Cattle Dog history was developed carefully over several decades in the 19th century and proved to be as harsh as the outback for which the dogs were conceived. Sheepdogs called Smithfields, exported from Britain, didn't work out. They were crossed with Dingoes, but the hybrids proved to be unreliable. Then a rancher named George Hall saw to crossing Dingoes with Blue Heelers.

For about 30 years, Hall worked to perfect a quiet, nonbiting, energetic, resilient and tireless dog. By 1840, his dogs became known locally as Halls Heelers. They worked very well, but as they were a proprietary thing that helped his business, only he had them. It was not until after he died in 1870 that they became widely available.

In the 1890s, the Cattle Dog Club of Sydney took an interest in the breed and re-named them the Australian Cattle Dog. Around 1897, a man named Robert Kaleski drafted a standard that was accepted in 1903 by the Kennel Club of New South Wales. The breed's name had been shortened to Australian Heeler, but the Club later went back to Australian Cattle Dog. Still, most people called them Queensland Heelers or Blue Heelers, which is why you might hear about Blue Heeler origins being the same as Aussie Cattle Dogs.

During WW2, an American soldier and California cattle rancher named Greg Lougher met a Sydney veterinarian named Alan McNiven who had further crossed a number of other breeds into Cattle Dog blood. The Royal Agricultural Society Kennel Club (RASKC) had refused to recognize those hybrids, and some controversy ensued when McNiven tried to "paper-walk" his way around the Club's refusal. Lougher exported several of the dogs to the United States where efforts continued to formally recognize the dog.

A few decades later, after the establishment of the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America and further possible controversy, the AKC took over the club and formally recognized the breed in 1980.

Australian Cattle Dog Appearance

The Australian Cattle Dog is medium in size but highly athletic and built for speed. They aren't stocky or muscly, however, nor are they tall and thin for just racing. Overall, they are extremely sturdy.

The head of the Heeler is broad but tapers to a pointed muzzle where the teeth are in a scissor bite. The triangular ears are small and set on the sides of the head. The dog's oval eyes are medium to darkly colored, and they have an alert face. Although this breed's eyes are brown, there are instances where some puppies have blue eyes. (Likewise, there are some blue-nose Heelers to be found too.) The muscular neck leads down to a solid body. The forelegs are straight and strong, and the rear legs are extremely strong for running, leaping and holding their own against unruly cattle that react badly to being nipped back into the herd. The paws are small and compact yet sturdy and long. The Australian Cattle Dog tail should be of medium length and broad.

The typical Red or Blue Heeler coat is short-haired with two layers. The inner coat is dense, and the outer coat is stiff, harsh and water-resistant.

Australian Cattle Dog Coloring

Depending on whom you talk to, the Australian Cattle Dog may be said to come in two colors, four colors or even five.

Those who say that Heelers come in just two colors call the dogs by their coat colors: Red Heelers and Blue Heelers. While the base color is red or blue, they are not solidly colored dogs. The blue coat may have black or tan markings in it and both the red and the blue is either speckled or mottled.

Then there are people who say there are four colors and that they are identified by the base: black, blue (or gray), chocolate, and red.

The American Kennel Club goes further even as it rejects some color names. The AKC identifies the Aussie Cattle Dog coat colors as blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red mottled, and red speckled.

All Queensland Heelers are born white with black spots that will remain their entire life. The white will soon give way to whichever color they will be: blue or red (mottled, merle, speckled or what have you), brindle, black and tan, brown, black and white, etc.

Australian Cattle Dog Size

The Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized canine breed whose large, muscular torso may make the dogs seem larger or perhaps a bit obese. This muscle and fat, however, allows them the strength and resilience to keep up with cattle even as they are occasionally kicked by the very animals they seek to protect. The best way to know if your Blue Heeler is the proper size is to get a height and weight chart.

The average weight of a Red Heeler (aka Aussie Cattle Dog) is 35 to 45 pounds although they can get upwards of 60 pounds. Fully grown males typically stand from 17 to 20 inches tall, and females may be slightly shorter at 17 to 19 inches.

Average Adult Height

17-20 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

30-50 lbs

Australian Cattle Dog Variations

There are no formal varieties of Australian Cattle Dogs save for the coat colors. There are breeders who claim to have miniature, teacup or toy Heelers, and there are also people who claim that such dogs don't exist and that these very small dogs are either runts, crossbreeds or happenstance. There are also emergent hybrids (such as the Texas Heeler) but as they are not purebred dogs nor recognized by the big kennel clubs (AKC, etc.), they are not formally considered variations.

While there may be different types of Queensland Heelers due to the two periods of cross-breeding (one in the early 1800s and another in the mid-20th century), they aren't so much varieties as perhaps bloodlines. If you are looking for a long-haired Australian Cattle Dog, those may not exist. As for short-haired Heelers, the standard Heeler (no matter which name it is known by) has short hair. There may be the occasional big Blue Heeler, however, but as these cattle dogs work best by being able to move about underneath cattle, the bigger dogs are not desired.

Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

Australian Cattle Dogs have a great attitude so long as they are properly trained and socialized by someone who is as alert and careful as these dogs. The typical Blue Heeler personality is one that will take command in the absence of authority. This behavior can appear as willful or even stubborn to those who lack that ability to control these dogs.

Most of the traits common among Queensland Heelers are based on the dog's work: they are territorial, highly suspicious and able to assess a threat as well as how to respond to it, and they often have to do this alone. This requires intelligence, and these dogs have it in droves.

The basic breed personality is one that, once they bond, they never break — and they demand the same. They won't want to be alone, bored or inactive for very long, and to be so will quickly end in them being anxious, destructive and to start nipping.

Australian Cattle Dog and Children

Are Blue Heelers good family dogs? With the right family, they can be. They are working dogs who are accustomed to no-nonsense field duties that can last for days on end. They tend to be strongly devoted to just one family member, but they will not hesitate to protect all in the family when it's called for.

As for how an Australian Cattle Dog and kids will get along, this depends on if the children behave around the dog. It also requires that the dog has been socialized with them as well as properly trained so they know to be friendly. Aussie Cattle Dogs are well-known for chasing and nipping at the heels of noisy, rambunctious kids — which is why these dogs are called Heelers. When things are out of order, they respond in this manner to get things back in place and moving along.

Australian Cattle Dog and Other Pets

When it comes to Blue Heelers and cats, this is not recommended. Although there is a fair enough chance that if the two are raised together they will get along later in life, there is no telling what may happen when they are alone together. This can be even more so with other small, furry pets. Australian Cattle Dogs have a very strong prey drive for a variety of reasons. Attempting to buck their inborn behavior can require a great amount of work yet still result in unhappy incidents.

More likely yet still potentially troublesome is an Australian cattle dog with other dogs. They may get along with them, but they may be jealous due to the Heeler's preference for one family member over another. This can lead to them being aggressive with other dogs. There is also the possibility of conflict between Blue Heelers or other breeds of dogs of the same sex.

Australian Cattle Dog Photos

Below are pictures of the Australian Cattle Dog dog breed.

Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog
Red Speckled Australian Cattle Dog
Red Mottled Australian Cattle Dog
Blue Mottled Australian Cattle Dog
Blue Australian Cattle Dog
Blue Australian Cattle Dog
Blue Australian Cattle Dog
Blue Australian Cattle Dog

Living Requirements

There's much to be understood from either name of this dog: Blue Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog. They need wide open spaces, they are not good for apartment living and they are all about using their teeth to keep things moving or put them back in place. They easily get separation anxiety when at home. They also might bark whenever something moves or someone approaches from afar. They must be trained to not nip kids, cars, and bicycles.

These are not dogs meant for apartment living, and even small houses with little (or no) yard space will quickly prove troublesome. Australian Cattle Dogs are best meant for homes where they can work and not just be pets. If upset, they will bark, destroy things by chewing and biting and try to escape.

These dogs are not hypoallergenic. Owning a Blue Heeler means two annual coat blowouts, which create great masses of shedding and mess.

Australian Cattle Dog Health

Australian Cattle Dogs have fewer health concerns than most dog breeds. As they are dogs that were relatively recently conceived, and there was a lot of hybridization early on and again just a century ago, this has helped their health profile. Still, they are susceptible to some problems, and if you are going to adopt a Red Heeler, be sure to get all the health tests. You should make sure those tests are verified too. These dogs may have been exported, or they may have been bred with feral animals.

Some of the health issues of which you should be aware in Aussie Cattle Dogs are:

  • Cataracts
  • Deafness
  • Work injuries
  • Lens luxation
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • von Willebrand's Disease
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

The average life span f Blue Heelers is 12 to 14 years.

  • Deafness
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Australian Cattle Dog Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Australian Cattle Dog as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 14...