Without peer as a cattle herder, the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) is ready and willing to work all day. Their agility, strength and courageousness allow them to easily control and move cattle in both open and confined spaces. Stubborn cows don’t discourage this dog – they just become more determined to get the job done! The breed can be blue or red (can be in mottled or speckled pattern), with or without black, blue or tan markings.
Energy Level: Very Active; These high-energy dogs need a job to remain happy
Good with Children: Better with Older Children
Good with other Dogs: With Supervision
Height: 18-20 inches (male), 17-19 inches (female)
Weight: 35-50 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-16 years
Barking Level: Barks When Necessary
Australians owe a great debt to all the persons involved in the development of the Australian Cattle Dog, for without it the beef industry of Australia would undoubtedly have had great difficulty in developing into the important industry that it has become.
In 1840, George Elliott, in Queensland, was experimenting with Dingo-blue merle Collie crosses. Elliott’s dogs produced some excellent workers. Cattle men were impressed with the working ability of these dogs, and purchased pups from them as they became available. Two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust, of Canterbury in Sydney, purchased some of these dogs and set about improving on them. Their first step was to cross a bitch with a fine imported Dalmatian dog. This cross changed the merle to red or blue speckle.
The Bagusts’ purpose in this cross was to instill the love of horses and faithfulness to master into their dogs. These characteristics were obtained and made these Bagust dogs useful for minding the drover’s horse and gear, but some of the working ability was lost. Admiring the working ability of the Black and Tan Kelpie, which is a sheepdog, the Bagusts experimented in crossing them with their speckle dogs. The result was a compact active dog, identical in type and build to the Dingo, only thicker set and with peculiar markings found on no other dog in the world.
Only the pups closest to the ideal were kept, and these became the forebears of the present-day Australian Cattle Dog. The working ability of the Bagusts’ dogs was outstanding, retaining the quiet heeling ability and stamina of the Dingo with the faithful protectiveness of the Dalmatian. As the word spread of the ability of these dogs to work cattle, they became keenly sought after by property owners and drovers.The blue-colored dogs proved to be more popular, and became known as Blue Heelers. These cattle dogs became indispensable to the owners of the huge cattle runs in Queensland, where they were given the name tag of Queensland Heelers or Queensland Blue Heelers.
The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.
Often kept to work on farms, ACDs are hardworking herding dogs that excel at hunting and chasing, whether on a ranch, during a run or hike with their owners, or in the agility ring. They’re faithful to their owners and are extremely intelligent. But like a child studying in a class too easy for him, if an ACD isn’t challenged, he easily becomes bored and gets into mischief. That’s why it’s recommended that ACD owners participate in dog sports or make their ACD a running companion so that he stays mentally and physically satisfied.
Their all-weather coat has no odor or oily residue. The double coat is smooth, with a short dense undercoat that sheds twice a year. Care of the coat requires only occasional baths and weekly brushing. A slicker brush will help keep their coats in good condition. Their nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth and cracking. Their prick ears, which are fairly well furnished with hair inside, should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be checked and brushed regularly.
There are some health concerns that owners and breeders should be aware of. Breeding stock should have their hips and elbows x-rayed to rule out dysplasia. Blindness can be a problem in ACDs. A DNA test can detect progressive retinal atrophy (prcd-PRA) before dogs are bred so that no affected puppies need be produced. A veterinary ophthalmologist exam can also detect other inherited eye diseases.
There is genetic deafness in the breed. Puppies and adults can be tested (BAER) to determine whether they can hear in each ear. Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own an Australian Cattle Dog can gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.
Depending on the size of your dog as an adult you are going to want to feed them a formula that will cater to their unique digestive needs through the various phases of their life. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and giant breeds. The Australian Cattle Dog is a medium breed and has a lifespan of 12 to 16 years.
What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.