Harper Jefcoat
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Australian Cattle Dog - Breed Profile, Temperament, and Care

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14 min read

Australian Cattle Dog

On This Page

  • History and Origins - How did the Breed come into Being?
  • Size and Appearance - What is the Breed Standard of Australian Cattle Dog?
  • Australian Cattle Dog vs. Australian Shepherd Dog - How do They Differ?
  • Personality and Temperament of the Australian cattle Dog
  • Australian Cattle Dog Health Issues - How Long do they Live?
  • Feeding - How much should You Feed your Australian Cattle Dog?
  • Care and Grooming - How to Care for an Australian Cattle Dog?

An Australian Cattle Dog is a purebred, intelligent, active, and sturdy dog that was bred to handle and manage cattle and livestock on farms. Given their famous blue-colored coat, they are also known as ‘Blue Heeler’ among many ranchers and drovers. They were developed by the settlers of Australia to herd and manage the cattle on the vast ranches.

They are still used as ranch dogs in many places and help the herders and shepherds in herding their cattle. Due to their dextrous nature and breeding, they are the happiest when they have something to do for a job.

These dogs are very protective of their families and they make excellent home pets and are one of the best guard dogs that you can bring home. They do not like strangers and are quite territorial. Apart from the herding work, these canines do quite well in other areas also. These include both dog sports and training.

However, these dogs need ample physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Due to this, these dogs make excellent pets and emotional support animals for the houses having ample space or a fenced yard.

Know more about this agile breed in the blog.

History and Origins - How did the Breed come into Being?

The Australian Cattle Dog was bred in the 19th century and by the Australian settlers. Originally, they were bred to herd cattle and livestock on vast and expansive ranches. These dogs have played an instrumental role in the development and increase of the country’s beef industry.

They helped in herding and controlling the large and sometimes controllable cattle. They used nips and bites to keep them in line, which proved to be quite useful also.

In the early 1800s, the tremendous lands of Australia were used to graze cattle. Unfortunately, those cattle became quite wild and difficult to handle. The traditional dog breeds that proved to be successful in herding tamed cattle did not work with these bull-headed cattle.

The herders needed a dog that has the right qualities to control and herd such cattle without barking and has the stamina to travel long distances. In 1840, a man named Hall bred blue merle Highland Collies with Dingos.

The result was a litter known as Hall’s Heelers. The dog’s signature white blaze on its head is credited to a dog named Bentley’s Dog.

Other breeders had bred their Hall’s Heelers dogs to other breeds like Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, and black and tan Kelpie. This helped in instilling the desired qualities and traits in the breed and the resulting dog has the shepherding qualities of the shepherd dog. The ones bred with Dalmatians had the dog’s horse-like sense and protectiveness.

They also inherit Dingo’s quiet nature as these dogs are not known for their bark. All the dogs developed different patterns and they played a vital role in supporting the cattle industry. In Queensland, they got their name ‘Queensland Blue Heeler’. Later, they were known by other names also including Australian Heeler and Australian Cattle Dog.

The American Kennel Club, AKC, recognized the breed in 1980, and later, these working dogs were added into the Herding Group in 1983. Besides, different breed clubs and Australian Cattle Dog rescue groups in the US are formed to support the breed.

Size and Appearance - What is the Breed Standard of Australian Cattle Dog?

Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized dog and the males stand about 18 to 20 inches tall and the females are around 17 to 19 inches in height. They weigh between 30 to 50 pounds.

They have beautiful oval eyes and raised tapered ears that make it difficult to ignore them. They have a curious expression and their stature is elan, muscular and agile. They exhibit a perfect balance and combination of muscles, substance, power, and agility.

Below is AKC’s official breed standard.

Head - the head is muscular and strong. It should be naturally balanced and in a correct proportion with the body.

Skull - broad and a bit curved and set between the ears. It has a defined stop and it is slightly flattened. The cheeks have ample muscles and they are neither rough nor very pronounced, and with well-defined and strong under jaw.

The forehead is wide and fills the underside of the eyes. The muzzle is deep and powerfully set and it is parallel to the skull.

The nose is black and the lips are tightly structured and clean.

Eyes - oval in shape and medium in size. It must not be overly sunken or protruding and should have an alert, curious and intelligent expression. Eyes are dark brown in color and have a suspicious glint when confronted by strangers.

Ears - the ears are moderate in size and should be smaller. They are broad at the base, moderately pricked, and muscular. They are set wide apart on top of the skull, inclined outwards, and have a thick outer coat. The insides of the ears are well-furnished with hair.

Mouth - the teeth are strong, evenly spaced, and have a scissor-like bite. The lower incisors are situated in the close behind.

Neck - the neck is well-muscled, sloping, well-angled, and extremely strong. It is medium in length and it broadens to blend in with the length of the body.

Forequarters - the shoulders are strong, muscular, well-angled, and sloping. They are set closer to the withers. The forelegs are strong and they have a rounded bone and are straight and parallel when watched from the front.

The pasterns are flexible and are set at a slight angle. Though the shoulders are well-muscled and strong, overly muscled shoulders will negatively affect the movement.

Body - the body is in a straight line with the buttocks and the body is more in height than the height of the withers. The top side of the body is flat, leveled, and strong with well-developed ribs. The chest is deep-set, moderate in depth, and well-muscled. The flanks are deep, strong, and muscular.

Hindquarters - the hindquarters are strong, well-muscled, and broad. The croup is long and set in a sloping position, with long, well-muscled, and strong thighs. The stifles are strong with muscular hocks. From behind, the hind legs appear straight and parallel to the feet.

Feet - the feet should be rounded with short, strong, well-angled, and closely-held toes. The pads of the feet are hard and nails should be short and strong.

Tail - the tail is set at a moderately low level and is in line with the slope of the croup. The length of the tail reaches the length of the hocks. The tail is bushy and must have ample bush.

Gait - the gait and movements are free, effortless, and well-balanced. The movement of the shoulders and forelegs is in harmony with the movement of the hindquarters. The feet should stay close to each other when trotting and when standing, the dog should stand foursquare.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a high-energy, agile, and hardworking dog that likes to be busy all the time. To avoid destructive behavior and boredom, his energy should be directed towards training and other activities.

They are highly devoted and they make excellent house pets and ESAs.

Australian Cattle Dog vs. Australian Shepherd Dog - How do They Differ?

Due to their names, many people think that both of these are the same dogs. Both of them are different breeds that are used for herding and controlling livestock. But they have different qualities. Here is the breed comparison of both of the breeds.

Australian Cattle Dog vs. Australian Shepherd Dog
Australian Cattle DogAustralian Shepherd Dog
AustraliaUnited States
AKC Recognition
Herding DogsHerding Dogs
Other Names
Queensland Heeler, Blue Heeler, Hall39;s Heeler, ACD, Cattle Dog, Red HeelerAussie, Little Blue Dog
Aggressive, energetic, loyal, alert, intelligent, and protectiveActive, friendly, intelligent. Loving, affectionate, good-natured, and protective
Easy to trainVery easy to train
Highly playfulHighly playful
Average affection levelHighly affectionate dogs
Life Expectancy
12-15 years12-15 years

These dogs make great pets and ESAs and you can check other dog breeds also to see which one would make an ideal fit for your household.

Personality and Temperament of the Australian cattle Dog

‘What is the personality of an Australian Cattle Dog?’

These dogs are very energetic and due to this, they need ample and regular exercise to spend all the energy. They are not the kind of dogs that could be left alone for long, they need constant mental and physical stimulation to stay away from destructive behavior.

They are very territorial also, thanks to their herding instinct. Due to this, they are wary of strangers but he will not harm them if they do not provoke him. He is very devoted to his human owner and family and once he gets in the house, he would like to be a part of everything you do.

These canines are very smart also and this trait also means that sometimes, they could be stubborn and difficult to handle. However, this could be managed with early and proper training and socialization.

The temperament and behavior of your dog could be a product of a lot of factors like heredity, socialization, and training. Ideally, the puppies should be playful, curious, and comfortable around people. When choosing one for your house, choose the one who has a merry and happy personality rather than the one having a too aggressive or too shy personality.

If possible, meet the mother or any other sibling to understand the personality of your puppy in a better way.

Because these dogs could be stubborn and bull-headed, they need early and ample training and socialization to develop into well-rounded dogs. Introduce him to different people, sights, experiences, and sounds to acquaint him better. Take him to pet supermarkets, parks, and dog indoor parks to help him socialize.

Australian Cattle Dog Health Issues - How Long do they Live?

These dogs have a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years. Australian cattle dogs are one of the healthiest dog breeds, but still they could have multiple health concerns. To minimize the chances of getting a faulty puppy, find a reputed and ethical breeder to get your puppy.

The breeder must be able to provide health clearance certificates from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Auburn University, and from Canine Eye Registry.

Below are some common health concerns of the Australian Cattle Dog.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - a family of eye diseases that damages the retina of the dog’s eyes. Early, the dog becomes night-blind and as the disease increases, the dog becomes completely blind.

Hip Dysplasia - it is an inherited disease that affects and hinders the movements of the dog. In it, the thighbone does not fit properly in the hip joint and this causes discomfort, inflammation, and pain. Some dogs may show some signs while others could have the condition without any outward signs.

Dogs having this condition must not be bred.

Deafness - this is a common health condition in Australian Cattle Dogs and dogs having this condition must not be bred. It is an inherited disease and it is more commonly found in dogs that are either born completely white or have white hair in their coat.

Brainstem auditory evoked response, BAER, is used to diagnose and identify the disease.

Despite all this, these dogs tend to be healthy and will make good house animals for any household.

Feeding - How much should You Feed your Australian Cattle Dog?

1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality and nutritious dry food is the recommended amount of food per day. The food should be divided into two meals per day.

The amount of food also depends on the size and activity level of your dog. An active dog will eat more than a couch potato. However, do not leave the food out all the time and measure your dog’s food every time. This will help in keeping him on a healthy weight and away from obesity.

‘What is the best food for an Australian Cattle Dog?’

Below are the best food choices for an Australian Cattle Dog.

  • Ollie Fresh Pet Food
  • Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream
  • American Journey Salmon & Brown Rice Protein
  • Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate
  • Natural Balance L.I.D. Sweet Potato & Fish Formula
  • True Acre Foods Chicken & Vegetable Recipe
  • Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe
  • Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Chicken
  • Merrick Grain-Free Real Texas Beef & Sweet Potato
  • Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken & Oatmeal

Apart from these, you can find other nutritious and best dog food options for your dog.

Care and Grooming - How to Care for an Australian Cattle Dog?

The Australian Cattle Dog has a short and weather-resistant double coat and a dense undercoat. It is a hardworking dog that does well on farms and ranches, where they get ample physical and mental health.

He may not be suitable for an apartment and confined living where they do not get enough room for exercise.

When bringing one of these specimens home, make sure that you provide a proper outlet to them to exhaust their energy. They were bred to chase and herd the livestock and they do really well in their job. To become a well-rounded dog, they will need socialization and early training.

Since they are the herders, they have mouthiness and potential for chewing, nipping, and biting. This behavior must be ignored and, instead, get good quality dog chew dogs to help his jaws.

These canines do not shed year-round but they ‘blow’ their coat once or twice a year. The coat may have blue and red speckles and the blue and blue-mottled coat have blue, black, and tan markings on the head. Moreover, they may also have partial tan markings on the forelegs, chest, throat, jaw, and hind legs.

These dogs do not need much grooming and only a weekly session will keep them healthy and clean. Brush him at least four times a month. This will help in distributing oils and removing dirt and dead hair and skin. Bathe him when he seems dirty.

Use a good quality ‘canine-brush’ to brush your dog’s teeth per week to remove plaque and tartar. Brushing daily will be even better in preventing gum disease, bad breath, and tooth decay.

Check the nails and trim them once a month to prevent any difficulties in walking. Use good quality dog nail clippers for the purpose and cut the nails carefully.

Check the ears for any build-up, bad smell, redness, or infections. In case of any such thing, take him to the vet immediately. When grooming, check the skin for any sores, redness, dry and sensitive patches, and other skin infections.

The eyes should be clear and curious and without any redness or cloudiness. A thorough and detailed weekly examination will help in diagnosing the early signs of any disease or health issue.

Australian Cattle Dogs make a great dog for many purposes. They make great farm and ranch dogs, emotional support animals, and pets. However, to get one as your ESA, you will need a valid and genuine ESA letter.

Liked the Australian Cattle Dog? Check other dog breeds also.

Black Mouth Cur Dog

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Australian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dog

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the price of an Australian Cattle Dog?

FAQ Icon

About $800 to $1,200 per puppy. Adopting a puppy will cost less than what you will have to pay to buy one. These are purebred dogs but, unfortunately, many of them end up in rescue homes and dog shelters. Check with your local dog shelters and homes to see if they have these dogs.

2. What is the difference between an Australian Cattle Dog and a Blue Heeler?

FAQ Icon

There is no difference except the color of the coat. The blue-colored Australian Cattle Dogs are referred to as Blue Heelers while others are called Australian Cattle Dogs only.

3. Are these dogs easy to train?

FAQ Icon

Yes, these dogs are quite easy to train. Because of the way these dogs are bred, they have unique temperament and qualities, which makes them easy to train. They are very alert and this makes them good guard dogs also.

4. How to calm down an Australian Cattle Dog?

FAQ Icon

These canines are one of the most energetic and active dog breeds. Due to their excitement and abundant energy, they could be difficult to handle and manage. However, lots of exercise and playtime will keep him happy and calm.

5. Why do Australian Cattle Dogs lick so much?

FAQ Icon

This is how they show their love for you. These dogs are notorious for licking and though they look somewhat standoffish, they get so much attached to their owner that they could develop separation anxiety if away from them.

6. Do these dogs bite?

FAQ Icon

These dogs have developed a taste for biting and we cannot blame them. They were bred to control wild cattle and to do their job, they used nips and bites to keep them in line. However, when bringing one home, discourage this behavior and properly socialize him to minimize this behavior.

7. Do Australian Cattle Dogs like to cuddle?

FAQ Icon

Unfortunately no, these dogs do not like to cuddle as many other breeds. It is mainly because these dogs are independent and are one-person dogs, they are not the kinds who would cuddle you on the couch and watch Friends with you. They love you in their own way.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and esteemed author at RealESALetter.com. With a profound passion for animals, Harper combines extensive knowledge and personal experience to provide insightful and informative content. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he strives to empower pet owners with the tools and understanding they need to nurture and care for their furry friends effectively. Harper’s writings reflect his commitment to enhancing the lives of pets and their owners, making him a trusted voice in the pet community.

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