Australian Working Dogs

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Australian Cattle Dogs

photofairy photofairy 18 posts

(NOTE: All information presented here is for entertainment purposes only. We have endeavored to collect only the facts from reliable sources, such as “The Complete Book of Australian Dogs” by Angela Sanderson, but this is in no way meant as a definitive guide. All images used are sourced from free domain.
For all up to date information on these dogs, please consult your veterinary specialist.)

History
This breed was originally developed from crossing a British Smithfield with a native Australian dingo (a wild dog domesticated by Australian Aborigines).

Early settlers needed a dog to help them with moving large quantities of cattle over very large areas, so they needed a sturdy and strong dog with lots of stamina, who was also able to bark and nip/bite. As the Smithfield wasn’t used to the heat, but was otherwise an excellent herding dog, it was crossed with a dingo. This gave rise to a new breed that eventually gave rise to Stumpy-tailed Cattle Dog.

As time went on, some smooth-haired Scottish Collies were crossed with a Dingo because Collies displayed undesirable levels of barking and heading. The new Collie x Dingo pups were either red or merle in colour and they seemed to inherit a very useful dingo trait – creeping silently from behind, and biting or “heeling”. As the dog would nip, it would immediately flatten itself against the ground to avoid being kicked, which was a very useful skill indeed! These pups were also perfectly adept at travelling vast distances while needing very little food and water, they thrived in heat and were able to handle wild cattle.
These dogs became the famous Hall’s Heelers.

As the experimental breeding continued, Hall’s Heelers were crossed with a Dalmatian, which resulted in unique speckled coats, love of horses and protectiveness towards the master.

In the process of experimentation, Hall’s Heelers were crossed with White Bull Terriers also, probably to increase the sturdiness and fearlessness which were much needed in working with large amounts of large cattle.

Eventually, these speckled dogs were crossed with Black and Tan Kelpies, due to their desirable herding traits, and the outcome was the contemporary Australian Red and Blue Heeler – a highly intelligent and controllable working dog of unique appearance.

Temperament
ACD is highly intelligent and watchful, very interested in their environment and very well behaved towards their owners and children. Also, they are extremely interactive, so they easily become a full member of a family, and have a great sense of humour.
They are, however, highly protective and territorial, so you’l notice them bark at the door or at anyone on the other side of the fence. But other than that, they are a rather quiet breed, highly trainable and intuitive as they really want to please.
In my experience, ACD, when properly socialised (ie. taken to the park and allowed to mixed with other dogs from a very early age) loves other dogs and thrives on having another dog (or a few) as company in the house, we had a chihuahua and a greyhound come to live with us and our ACD not only accepted them but trained them all by herself! Talk about a working dog :))
But they will be the ones in charge, and if adopting another dog, always take your ACD to meet a new dog to see if they will get along well.

ACD has a strong prey instinct so unless it grows up with a cat, it will tend to chase them. Also, due to a strong herding instinct as well as temperamental adolescence, when young, ACD tends to want to “herd” people so sometimes they will creep up behind whoever happens to leave the group and nip at the back of shoes and slippers. In the park, they might attempt to herd bicycles and joggers, and even cars, which is why they should never be off the lead close to the road. All this is accompanied by a bit of “teenage rebellion” so reassurance and consistent discipline, combined with enough exercise and affection will result in a stable and well trained dog, and as soon as your ACD bonds to you and starts listening to you, it will not be disobedient and will alway be just a few yards away, waiting for a command on where to go next.
In fact it is very common for ACD to be the best behaved dog in the park.

They are very good in a car, easy to transport and not bothered by the movement.

Appearance
Coat colour varies but is usually speckled and predominantly red or marl in colour.

This is a sturdy, compact and muscly dog with low centre of gravity. They are extremely agile, with a powerful drive from hindquarters, making them capable of quick and sudden actions.
They have intense, watchful eyes, and facial expression, when relaxed, can look like they are smiling.

Females are usually smaller, between 43 and 48 cm height, and males between 46 and 51 cm. When they are fit and working, they usually weigh between 18 and 21 kg, but can be a bit heavier (up to 25 kg).

Health
Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) is genetically very healthy and have a very low susceptibility to illness. Naturally, it is always desirable to be able to know a bit about dog’s parents and their health status, but crossbreeds are generally very healthy, as are pure breeds.
The only health problem which is not entirely uncommon is eczema (usually mild and transient) and rarely, these dogs may be deaf.
As with most dogs, ACD will need anal glands squeezed occasionally, (usually once a year or less) it is something a vet will show you how to do and if not, they’ll be more than happy to do it.

Lifespan
ACD has a healthy lifespan of approximately 14 years, but it is not unusual for them to live to 16 or 17.
The oldest recorded ACD was a male who lived until he was 23, and worked full time on the farm until he was 16.

Grooming
ACD needs very little grooming. They have a short coat and an undercoat, are exceptionally clean dogs and if desexed and they do not smell at all. However, they do need a bath once every few months if they live in the house, and will need brushing, usually around springtime, as they will be shedding their winter coat so that will need brushing out. Amount of shedding, however, is moderate and seasonal only.

Exercise
When young, ACD needs a lot of exercise, usually 2 hours per day of free running. I had mine as a student in the middle of the city, and even though she was as good as gold in a flat, we would go out every day and she’d run free in a park for hours on end. They are very intelligent and human-oriented, but also very friendly to other dogs, so a combination of walking around, playing catch and simply allowing the dog to explore (as you read a book or study) is enough.
After the age of 6, they become less excitable but they still enjoy daily walks of at least 1 hour.