The Australian Cattle Dog is a superb cattle header with agility, speed, and exceptional courage. These dogs are simply gluttons for work, and will run all day if you let them. They are equally skilled at herding cattle on the open range, or working them in confined spaces.
This breed’s history is inextricably linked to that of Australia, and the Australian cattle industry in particular. In the early 1800’s, vast ranges of Queensland were settled by thousands of small cattle ranchers. The settlers needed a dog that could work their herds tirelessly in the searing Australian temperatures, and set about breeding one.
The result was a dog that became known as the Queensland Blue Heeler. Early history is somewhat patchy but it is believed that the Smooth Collie, Kelpie, Dalmatian and possibly even wild Dingos went into the mix.
The earliest Blue Heelers were bred with courage, speed and agility in mind and proved to be exceptional cattle dogs. But the breed we know today was refined and standardized mainly thanks to a man named Robert Kaleski, who drew up the first standard in 1902.
In 1903, New South Wales Kennel Club status was granted under the name Australian Cattle Dog, although Blue Heeler is still commonly used in Australia.
The ACD is a single-minded dog that has absolute focus on the job at hand. They are highly intelligent, pliant, and easy to train. They are also extremely loyal and eager to please, although somewhat suspicious of strangers.
These dogs control cattle by nipping at their heels, and they have particularly strong jaws, with formidable teeth. It is therefore important that biting and nipping should not be tolerated in a puppy.
The Australian Cattle Dog is a hardy breed with few inherited disorders. Hip dysplasia may occur, but it is rare.
These are medium sized dogs, standing about 18-20 inches at the withers. They have a broad skull and deep muzzle in order to deliver that powerful bite. The body is sturdy, and the coat is short, harsh and weather resistant. All puppies are born white and the coat later takes on the patchwork appearance that is characteristic of the breed.
Coat colors are primarily merle or red. The merle coat features blue mottling, while the red coat has red speckling. Both variants feature a spray of white on the tail.
Aside from being a herding dog, the Australian Cattle Dog makes an excellent pet for the right owner. The proviso though is that the owner needs to be an active, outdoor type who is prepared to meet the dog’s considerable exercise needs.
These are after all working dogs and thrive on lots of activity. Dogs that don’t get sufficient physical and mental stimulation are likely to develop problem behaviors.
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