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Australian Cattle Dog

About the Breed: Australian Cattle Dog


Australian Cattle Dogs (ACDs) are tough, intelligent working dogs with strength and endurance beyond most dogs their size.


Often referred to as Cattle Dogs, Heelers, Blue Heelers, Red Heelers, Queensland Heelers, Queensland Blue Heelers and Queensland Red Heelers, Australian Cattle Dogs (ACDs) were originally developed in the mid-to-late 1800’s in Australia, when the stockmen were in desperate need of a dog that had the stamina to withstand the rigors and harsh conditions of the rugged Australian Outback.

ACDs were originally bred to heel and bite cattle in the rugged Australian Outback and have the forceful personalities necessary to do so. However, with the proper training and commitment the ACD can be a wonderful companion.


The many wonderful traits and aptitudes of the ACD are often the very same reasons that lead to their downfall: when families bring an adorable ACD puppy into their home with no idea of the amount of energy, determination, and intelligence in this breed.

However with the proper training and commitment, the Cattle Dog can be a wonderful, dedicated, and loving companion… for this reason, it’s extremely important that Australian Cattle Dogs be well-matched with prospective adopters.

Friendship with an ACD must often be earned, but once an ACD has befriended you, he is a friend for life. Owners often refer to ACDs as “velcro” or “shadow” dogs—wherever you go, there they are!


Because of their highly social nature, ACDs need to be with people. This is not a breed to leave chained or penned in the back yard—such isolation can lead to serious personality problems.

ACDs are often reserved with strangers, and can even be fiercely protective when they perceive that their property and/or persons are being threatened.

The ACD is an EXTREMELY active breed, with mental stimulation being of paramount importance. As SPDR’s ACD Breed Rep will attest, a bored Cattle Dog is a destructive Cattle Dog. A firm commitment must be made to exercise ACDs: they make excellent running, hiking or biking companions (although care must be taken not to over-exert a young dog while it is still in its growing stages).

The ACD is very intelligent, which can sometimes lead to other less-positive monikers such as “hard-headed and stubborn.” However this innate intelligence makes them wonderful obedience prospects (although their intelligence can sometimes be a hindrance when they outwit your expectations in advance), and excellent in dog sports such as Flyball, Agility and Frisbee competition.


ACDs are intelligent and trainable with positive methods. They have a loyal and protective nature. They form strong bonds and love to be with their people. Known as “velcro” dogs, they prefer to be wherever you are. Health is generally good and they are often long-lived.


ACDs need lots of exercise. Stimulated by motion, they often have a high prey drive and may chase kids, cats, wildlife, bikes or cars, anything that moves. They require mental stimulation and daily activities. If you don’t give them something to do, they will create their own diversions, often something you don’t want them to do. Their high intelligence can make them challenging to live with. ACDs can be possessive of yard and family, and may bite strangers if not properly trained and supervised. They absolutely need to be part of the family and can’t be relegated to the backyard. ACDs are demanding dogs that require lots of attention and can’t be ignored.

Best With

  • Experienced and confident dog owners who understand how to be leaders;

  • People who are willing to make a lifetime commitment to live with an active, intelligent dog;

  • People who are willing to make the dog a part of the family and NOT a backyard dog;

  • People with an active lifestyle to meet the high energy requirements of an ACD;

  • People who can devote adequate time to socialization, crate training, and obedience classes;

  • Homes with a securely fenced yard, or if living on acreage, a way to confine the ACD when unsupervised, such as a kennel;

  • Children who are dog savvy and responsive to learning about dogs and appropriate behavior around dogs.

Not For

  • First time dog owners;

  • Homes with no fence or fencing shorter than 6 feet;

  • Homes where the dog will be left alone all day/night;

  • Apartment dwellers who cannot commit to exercising (and preferably running) the dog on a daily basis;

  • People who want to, or must keep the dog outside (ACDs are INDOOR dogs).

  • People who will not/can not properly train and socialize the dog;

  • Families with overzealous youngsters: ACDs are not appropriate for small children unless raised and socialized with them;

  • People who don’t appreciate self-thinkers. These intelligent dogs can be challenging to live with.



17-20”; 35-45 pounds.


Red or blue.

Energy Level:

Very high.

Life Expectancy:

On average, 10-13 years.


If the ACD has been socialized properly, they can be good with children: ACDs must be trained to NOT herd and nip children. Young dogs can be too exuberant and energetic for children under 6. Children need to be dog savvy and responsive to instructions by parents on proper behavior around a high energy, movement oriented herding breed. 

Other Animals:

Many cattle dogs get along fine with other dogs, especially those of their own size and energy level. However, many can be aggressive with other dogs, and may do best as the “only” dog or with dogs of opposite sex. Many ACDs have high prey drive and are not good around cats or other small animals unless raised with them.


Energetic, athletic. Most like to play ball or Frisbee, go for hikes. Intelligent and trainable, many excel at herding, obedience and agility.


Minimal grooming required. They do have an undercoat and shed quite a bit once or twice year when they blow their coat. Need brushing during shedding season.


Known inherited diseases include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (causing blindness), and deafness.

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