The Australian Cattle Dog
Queensland Heeler, Red Heeler, Blue Heeler, Dingo, Australian Heeler, Hall’s Heeler, a rose by any other name. Except for the Dingo, they are all the Australian Cattle Dog.
They come in two basic colors, blue or red with a wide variety of shades in between. There is no such thing as a “blue merle” or “red merle” coat coloration in Cattle Dogs. The colors can be classified as either “blue” or “red” or “blue or red speckle” or “blue or red mottle”. Cattle Dog puppies are born all white with the exception of any major body spots (black in coloration) that they will have always. They gradually change from white to blue or red as they mature.
A weekly brushing will maintain their short, dense topcoat and a thick, soft undercoat. They have an average weight of 35 to 50 lbs with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years.
Yes, they are supposed to have tails!! They are born with a beautiful tail that is very important in their maneuvering techniques during herding and chasing. Many “breeders” (usually backyard breeders) have made many excuses for docking the tail at birth. This is wrong; a true Cattle Dog should have its tail.
It is most important to know that you will be the center of their universe. They bond so closely with their humans that it can be unnerving. People describe them as “Velcro dogs,” and “Furry tumors with adoring eyes.” Keeping them away from you is just about the harshest punishment you can inflict. They are not a breed for the shy or weak, you must be as stubborn, intelligent and strong as they are.
Most will want to be active and busy most, if not all, of the time. When young they have two modes, 90 miles per hour and comatose. This energy has to be directed somewhere or you will quickly end up with problems. When bored they will find something to do, usually something you won’t like such as redecorating your house or rearranging your yard. Without a job, most will assign themselves one, such as herding your cats, toys, kids, neighbors, the lawn mower, vacuum cleaner, etc. This can range from cute to outright dangerous. Biting at the ankle or hind leg is instinctive and this will come out whenever they chase or herd. It means they have a strong tendency to bite PEOPLE, even just in play. This has to be strongly curtailed from day one or you will end up with a problem dog. You need to encourage them to herd things of your choice and give them a job you choose.
Whatever they are doing they take very seriously. They think everything they do is immensely important and they always do it to the best of their ability. If they’re doing good things, this is wonderful but if they’re doing something bad, count on it being horrid. One of the basic prerequisites for children and puppies to have a good relationship is to teach the child, as well as the puppy, what is allowed. Babies and toddlers should not be left unattended with your dog, no matter what breed. A child should learn not to handle the dog roughly or tease him. The parent, not the child, should be responsible for correcting the puppy if he gets too rough. Puppies and dogs have a tendency to look at children as “siblings” in the social order of the family, and the dog should never be allowed to get the upper position over the child.
They can get along with children, cats and other dogs as long as they are properly socialized with them, but because their herding instinct is so strong, it is sometimes hard to find one that won’t chase kitties. The round ’em up mentality is often par for the course with small children around. One of the basic prerequisites for your children and your puppy to have a good relationship is to teach the child, as well as the puppy, what is allowed. Babies and toddlers should not be left unattended with your dog, no matter what breed. A child should learn not to handle the dog roughly or tease him. The parent, not the child, should be responsible for correcting the puppy if he gets too rough. Puppies and dogs have a tendency to look at children as “siblings” in the social order of the family, and the dog should never be allowed to get the upper position over the child. Something that sometimes occurs with puppies of herding breeds and kids is that, in play, the puppy may chase and nip at the heels of the child. This is because the dog is bred to herd and he is trying to “herd” the child because it is natural to herd something moving. In this situation, it is a good idea to have the child stop running and tell the dog “no bite.” This should not be confused with actually trying to harm the child, but the game should not be encouraged.
While many are friendly with everyone they meet, most are protective of their house and family. Some are suspicious of everyone new, especially on their home turf. The best solution is careful socialization while a puppy. Introduce your puppy to as many new things and people as possible while he is still very young. Teach him that new people are a positive thing. Teach him that YOU decide who is safe and who is not.
They have a high pain tolerance and unswerving faith in their own indestructibility. They are likely to injure themselves fairly frequently. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they will just bang themselves up. They are almost as tough as they think they are and they heal frighteningly well. Just be prepared so you don’t turn into a nervous wreck.
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