Australian Cattle Dog Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Queensland Heeler – Queensland being a state in his native Australia, and Heeler referring his herding style of nipping at the heels of cattle in order to move them along. His color pattern can be blue-gray or red-gray, so you might also hear him called Blue Heeler or Red Heeler.
Bold and athletic, the robust Australian Cattle Dog enjoys romping and roughhousing.
He is absolutely NOT an apartment dog. To stay in hard muscular condition and a satisfied frame of mind, Australian Cattle Dogs (also known as Queensland Heelers) require lots of exercise. Working livestock, agility, jogging, biking, chasing balls, and playing Frisbee are productive outlets for this breed's high energy. Cooping him up with nothing to do will lead to destructive behaviors and obsessive barking.
With strangers, the Cattle Dog is watchful and often suspicious. Early socialization is important so that he does not become too sharp.
He can be dominant and pushy with other dogs, and with his strong chasing drives and tendency to nip at whatever he is pursuing, he is not recommended around cats unless raised with them.
A challenging combination of cleverness and hard-headedness, Australian Cattle Dogs will test members of the family during adolescence and must be handled with firm, consistent leadership. These versatile dogs can learn and do a great deal in the right hands, but they will run right over hapless owners.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium-sized
- Has a very sturdy, natural build
- Thrives on vigorous exercise and rugged athletic activities
- Makes a vigilant watchdog
- Has a short, easy-care coat that comes in striking colors
An Australian Cattle Dog may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Vigorous exercise requirements
- Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
- Suspiciousness toward strangers
- Aggression toward other animals
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
- Potential for excessive barking, often in a high-pitched voice
- Heavy shedding
An Australian Cattle Dog may not be right for you.
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Cattle Dogs have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Australian Cattle Dog to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
More traits and characteristics of the Australian Cattle Dog
If I was considering an Australian Cattle Dog (Queensland Heeler), I would be most concerned about...
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Australian Cattle Dogs were never intended to be simply household pets. Their working behaviors (chasing, nipping, barking, territorial instincts toward other animals) are inappropriate in a normal household setting. Trying to suppress these "hardwired" behaviors, without providing alternate outlets for their high energy level, is unfair to the dog.
I do not recommend this breed if you don't have the time or inclination to take your dog hiking or swimming, or to get involved in herding, or agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or tracking, or a similar canine activity. Bored Cattle Dogs are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of giant craters.
- Barking. Australian Cattle Dogs are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. This breed should should not be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. To make matters worse, some Cattle Dogs have intense, high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
- Suspiciousness toward strangers. Australian Cattle Dogs are typically reserved with strangers, but their reserve can veer into suspiciousness if you don't socialize them properly. Young Cattle Dogs need to be cheerfully introduced to friendly people so that they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone really does act abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which is very difficult to live with.
- Potential animal aggression. Many Australian Cattle Dogs are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Many have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures.
- The strong temperament. The best Australian Cattle Dogs are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal. But they have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and many are obstinate and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things.
To teach your Cattle Dog to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Australian Cattle Dog Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Shedding. For such a shorthaired dog, Australian Cattle Dogs shed much more than you might think. Their short coarse hairs stick tenaciously to clothing and furnishings.
To help you train and care for your dog
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.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.