Australian Cattle Dog Walking in Water

Australian Cattle Dog Care

The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue Heeler (the two names, in fact, are interchangeable), is an active, hardy, medium-sized herding dog that's beloved by owners everywhere. Though these dogs will need a good bit of exercise, overall Blue Heeler care is not too time-consuming. The info below contains plenty of details on raising a Blue Heeler: puppy care and development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. For answers to all your questions about raising an Australian Cattle Dog, keep reading!

Australian Cattle Dog Exercise Needs

From decades spent tirelessly herding cattle on the Australian plains, Australian Cattle Dog exercise needs are pretty extensive. Dogs of this breed need exercises that stimulate them mentally as well as physically--and since they form deep bonds with their handlers, ACDs are more likely to perform activities if their human owners participate alongside them.

And just how much exercise does an Australian Cattle Dog need each day? An adult ACD, depending on its age and overall activity level, should get an hour at the very least of daily exercise. You can start exercising your ACD puppy at three months of age by taking it on short (10- to 15-minute) leashed walks, then increasing the walks' duration as the puppy grows.

Some things to consider when exercising your ACD: first, puppies younger than nine months old shouldn't participate in activities that include a lot of jumping and running, as doing so can injure their still-developing bones and joints. Once mature, these dogs have incredibly strong herding instincts and high prey drives, so they may be difficult to control while out in public: they may try to herd moving objects (possibly by nipping or biting at them), and they might chase every interesting-looking creature they see--so they'll need to be leashed when you're out and about together. And "together" is how your ACD will prefer you--all the time, if possible! These dogs are known as a "Velcro breed," in that they typically attach themselves both physically and emotionally to one member of the family (usually the one who trains the dog as a puppy). So it's recommended that you accompany your ACD on exercise outings; simply putting the dog out in the backyard for an hour, in other words, just won't do.

Precautions aside, it's extremely important to exercise your ACD every single day. These dogs are active and task-oriented, and a bored or restless will likely create its own "task": chewing furniture, digging in the flower bed, or barking for hours on end. Consistent activity, then, is good for your Australian Cattle Dog--and for you. Some exercise ideas:

  • Walking/Jogging: Two 30-minute walks (or 20-minute jogs) per day is a good target
  • Fetch: Your ACD will chase a ball or stick for hours
  • Hide-and-Seek: Great indoor activity; give the dog a treat when it finds you
  • Canine Sports: ACDs excel in obedience or agility trials, flyball, and other competitions
  • Hiking: Great bonding activity; your ACD can even carry a small backpack

When indoors, it's highly recommended that you give your ACD access to one or more chew-toys that will allow the dog to expel pent-up energy; these dogs are quite "mouthy," meaning they frequently chew and bite things, so having chew-toys is an excellent idea--butter a toy than your favorite pair of shoes! Another suggestion is to establish a consistent daily exercise schedule for your ACD, such as walks or jogs after breakfast and dinner and a play period in the afternoon.

Australian Cattle Dog Maintenance

Care for these dogs in terms of shedding and drooling is low to moderate. Australian Cattle Dog shedding is minimal for most of the year, but heavy during shedding season; drooling isn't an issue at all.

"How much do these Blue Heelers shed?" is an oft-asked question. The answer: for 11 months of the year, very little. ACDs have short, double-layered coats with undercoats that normally don't lose much hair--but during the spring (and often the fall as well for those in warmer climates), these dogs "blow" their coats and hair falls out in clumps. Owners say they brush their ACDs about once a week for most of the year, and daily during shedding season, to minimize the shedding. A warm bath or two during the 2-3 week shedding season, the owners say, will help as well.

ACDs might drool a bit in anticipation of food, but very little otherwise. If your Australian Cattle Dog is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case a veterinarian's care is needed.

Australian Cattle Dog Diet

As an extremely active breed, the Australian Cattle Dog diet is important in keeping these dogs healthy and fit. Blue Heeler dog food will need to have plenty of animal proteins and carbohydrates to give them energy; the food will also need to have some omega fatty acids to keep their coats and skin healthy. This means that the most sensible choice for this breed is premium dry food. High-quality foods contain the above-listed nutrients that provide your ACD with the proper daily nutrition it needs--nutrients that cheap, generic, or "store-brand" dog food simply doesn't have. Some breeders believe feeding a Blue Heeler a diet of only raw/fresh foods like lean meats, fresh vegetables, eggs, fish, and other natural foods is best--and while those breeders may technically be correct, many people find such a diet for their dogs to be too expensive and inconvenient, and choose premium dry food instead.

And specifically how much Australian Cattle Dog food should you give your dog? Adult ACDs, depending on their age, size, and activity levels, need about three cups of premium dry food per day, divided into two meals. Blue Heeler puppy food portions, again depending on age, are a bit less: about two cups per day, divided into three meals (not two) until six months of age. It's a good idea to feed a young ACD puppy food until nine months old; it's also recommended that you establish a consistent daily feeding schedule for your Blue Heeler so the dog gets used to eating at the same time every day. For more details on ACD feeding from puppyhood through maturity, see this chart:

Australian Cattle Dog Feeding Chart
Dog AgeDog WeightFood TypeAmountFrequency2 Months8 lbsDry (Puppy formula)0.3 cups3x/day3 Months12 lbsDry0.4 cups3x/day6 Months25 lbsDry0.7 cups3x/day9 Months35 lbsDry* (Puppy/Adult)1.25 cups2x/day12 Months+40 lbsDry (Adult formula)1.5 cups2x/day

*--Around this time, transition to adult food by first mixing in just a little adult formula with the puppy formula; over the course of a week, with each meal add a bit more adult food to the mix until the dog is eating it entirely.

It's good to try and stick to the above-listed portions; though your Blue Heeler could probably eat a lot more, these amounts are ample enough. While these dogs don't have a very high tendency for obesity, they certainly can become overweight if overfed--and a fat Blue Heeler will have joint, breathing, and digestive issues, not to mention a shortened lifespan. You can control your ACD's weight in several ways: by establishing consistent feeding and exercise schedules; by not feeding the dog table scraps; and by not leaving food in your ACD's bowl all the time, allowing it to eat anytime it wants. It's better to put the dog's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 15-20 minutes after the dog begins eating.

If you're worried your Blue Heeler is overweight, give the dog this simple test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Decrease the dog's daily food consumption by one-fourth, and add an extra walk, jog, or play period to its daily exercise schedule.

Living Environment

Technically speaking, the Australian Cattle Dog is both an inside and an outside breed. While these dogs both need and enjoy lots of outdoor activities, they typically become very attached to their human family members, and will prefer living and sleeping inside with their human "pack." For the Australian Cattle dog, apartment living is not a good idea, as the breed is simply too active for such a confined space.

In terms of climate, these hardy dogs are equally comfortable in both hot and cold temperatures.

Australian Cattle Dog Grooming

Read the grooming requirements for Australian Cattle Dogs including coat care and other maintenance.

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:February 14, 2018