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Honest FAQ for Australian Cattle Dogs (2022)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a tempting choice for many potential owners. Medium size, striking colors, short easy-care coat, and loyal temperament... what's not to like? Unfortunately, he is a terrible choice for the vast majority of those owners.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Australian Cattle Dog have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Australian Cattle Dog temperament and behavior are:

bold, athletic, energetic, dominant, headstrong, suspicious, noisy

I give you my honest opinions about Australian Cattle Dog temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Australian Cattle Dog Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were Australian Cattle Dogs used for?

The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Queensland Heeler – Queensland  for the province in Australia, Heeler  for the breed's ability to drive unruly cattle by biting at their heels. The blue dogs were often called Blue Heelers,  while the red ones were called Red Heelers.

What traits would help Australian Cattle Dogs accomplish their work? That's right... high energy, toughness, mouthiness, endurance, athleticism, independent thinking, aloofness with strangers, and loyalty to their owner.

How big are Australian Cattle Dogs? Height and weight?

About 17-20 inches at the shoulder, and 35-50 pounds, which puts them in the MEDIUM category.

What colors do Australian Cattle Dogs come in?

Blue or red, with swirled markings occurring as mottled (large patches) or speckled. Darker markings on the head is common. The resulting dogs look like this:

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dogs are either blue or red, with their markings being mottled or speckled.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs come in different "types"?

Not really. There are a few breeders who focus on Australian Cattle Dogs just for working with livestock. But most breeders are more dual-oriented and will show their dogs in the conformation ring while also participating with them in herding, agility, weight pulling, flyball, dock diving, protection dog sports, or Search & Rescue.

How much exercise do Australian Cattle Dogs need?

A lot! Australian Cattle Dogs were not developed to walk around passively in your house and yard. If you don't provide enough vigorous exercise and challenging mental stimulation, a Cattle Dog is capable of destroying entire rooms. Don't get this breed unless you're already participating in some of the activities mentioned above and can get him involved right from puppyhood.

There is so much that can be done with this incredibly capable breed. It's a darned shame to see them barking their heads off in frustration in someone's back yard.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs need a fenced yard?

Absolutely. With a high solid fence. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs easy to train?

Yes and no. If you are an assertive person who can "read" and respond to a strong-willed working dog and establish a healthy leader-follower relationship, an Australian Cattle Dog can learn almost anything.

If you're more of a mild-mannered, peaceful, live-and-let-live kind of person... don't get an Australian Cattle Dog! This challenging breed is not for easygoing beginners.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs easy to housebreak?

Average. No problems.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs friendly with people?

No. The Australian Cattle Dog is a one-family breed and a very sharp watchdog. Toward strangers, Cattle Dogs are reserved and may be suspicious, which can lead to excessive barking and threatening behaviors.

Many Australian Cattle Dogs have protective instincts, without actual protection training  they are not effective protectors. But they can still be excellent deterrents... as long as you stay in charge and immediately stop any unwarranted aggression.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs good with children?

I don't recommend Australian Cattle Dogs for children younger than about age 10. This breed has an innate sense of pride and fairness and may not tolerate pushy children who step over the line. This vigorous breed can also knock over a toddler. I much prefer to see Australian Cattle Dogs in homes with kids who over age 10 and can be relied upon to treat a dog with respect.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs good with other dogs?

Not usually. Australian Cattle Dogs tend to be bold and pushy with other dogs, especially other dogs of the same sex. Also, because of their strong prey drive, it's a risk to keep a Cattle Dog with a small dog who might run. Unless you're experienced with aggressive dogs, I prefer to see an Australian Cattle Dog as an only dog.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs good with cats?

I would not keep this breed with a cat.

How much do Australian Cattle Dogs shed?

Australian Cattle Dogs are heavy shedders. Along with shedding chunks of hair in the spring and fall, you'll find loose hair the rest of the year, as well.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

Absolutely not. Australian Cattle Dogs are the very opposite of hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Australian Cattle Dogs need?

Just moderate brushing once a week... more frequently during the seasonal shedding periods.

What's a good training schedule for training Australian Cattle Dog puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Australian Cattle Dogs: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Australian Cattle Dogs tend to have?

First up... barking. Cattle Dogs can be very vocal, and many of them (not all) have a shrill, high-pitched bark.

The worst behavior problems tend to occur during the adolescent period of 6-24 months old when the hormones are in flux. Young Cattle Dogs can be rowdy, headstrong, mouthy, destructive chewers and without firm leadership and plenty of exercise, you're likely to regret getting one. This critical adolescent period is when you must teach calmness, establish the right leader/follower relationship, and respond properly to behavior problems.

Adult behavior issues center around dominance or aggression – people-aggression, cat-aggression, dog-aggression, or possessiveness of bones or food.

What health problems might Australian Cattle Dogs have?

Loose hip or elbow joints can be a problem in Cattle Dogs and can cause lameness and crippling arthritic pain. Inherited eye diseases can cause blindness. Then there is inherited deafness.

What breeds are similar to the Australian Cattle Dog?

  • Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog. Yes, what a weird name! This naturally bob-tailed breed has virtually the same appearance, temperament, and behavior as the ACD.
  • Australian Kelpie. Not as dominant/aggressive as the Australian Cattle Dog. Works more with gentle sheep than with unruly cattle.
  • Australian Shepherd. All over the map in temperament, but the best individuals are extremely smart, versatile, and milder-mannered than the Australian Cattle Dog.

Where can I buy an Australian Cattle Dog puppy?

I would buy from a working/performance breeder, or from a show breeder who also works his dogs in herding or other challenging activities. Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Australian Cattle Dog?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Australian Cattle Dog. Which pages should I read first?

  • Australian Cattle Dog Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Australian Cattle Dog puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Australian Cattle Dogs, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Australian Cattle Dog puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Australian Cattle Dogs have pros and cons, and female Australian Cattle Dogs have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Australian Cattle Dog puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Australian Cattle Dog breeder would ever place one of their Australian Cattle Dog puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Australian Cattle Dog puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Australian Cattle Dogs?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Australian Cattle Dog to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Australian Cattle Dog until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Australian Cattle Dog, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Australian Cattle Dogs that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.