What You Need to Know About the Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

Australia Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)You may have heard good and bad things about the Australian Cattle Dog temperament, but what is truth and what is myth?

One of the last true working dog breeds, the ACD is as intelligent as it is hardy but its reputation may have you wondering if this is really the right kind of dog for you.

Quick Facts

Bred originally to herd cattle across the vast planes of Australia, these dogs are still used today on ranches and farms but they can also make wonderful, loyal companions under the right conditions. Here are a few facts about the breed:

  • They can live to be about 13-15 years old
  • They weigh between 30 and 35 pounds
  • The males range from 18-20 inches tall and the females from 17-19 inches tall
  • The Australian Cattle Dog temperament requires the right type of home life

How do they get along with people?

Australian Cattle Dogs tend to be one-person dogs. Their independence means they are not usually too interested in spending time cuddling on the couch watching TV with you but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy spending time with you.

Australian Cattle Dogs are:

  • Loyal
  • Energetic
  • Highly Intelligent

Australian Cattle Dogs are NOT:

  • Lap dogs
  • Couch potatoes
  • Boring

How do they get along with other animals?

The Australian Cattle Dog temperament tends to be that of an alpha or dominant dog. Unsocialized ACDs may be aggressive toward other dogs and they are very territorial.

Because of their highly developed herding instincts, you may catch your Australian Cattle Dog herding your chickens, your kids and even the cat!

It is important to understand that the herding instinct is basically a strong predatory drive that has been adapted by man and this can cause problems when trying to integrate a cattle dog into a family of other pets.

As far as this breed is considered, if it moves it is meant to be chased and chasing can lead to nipping which can spell trouble with smaller prey type animals.

A busy Australian Cattle Dog is a happy one!

Australian cattle dogWhile you can never fully train the herding drive out of an Australian Cattle Dog, there are ways to help him learn to control it.

The trick to enjoying an Australian Cattle Dog’s temperament is finding activities that stimulate him physically while also providing him with mental exercise.

Run don’t walk

  • A quick walk around the block is not going to cut it when it comes to cattle dogs. Remember, they are designed for long hard days under the Australian sun! A nice, long hike is the ideal workout for this breed.

Got cows?

  • Working cattle isn’t just physically challenging, it is also mentally challenging which is why Australian cattle dogs need to have their keen intelligence challenged on a regular basis. If you don’t have a herd of cattle handy, consider checking with your local dog club to see what sort of canine sports are available in your area. Sports such as Rally Obedience and Flyball are exceptionally well suited to the Australian Cattle Dog’s temperament and intelligence.

Toys, lots of toys

  • A lot of ACD owners have found that providing their dog with plenty of sturdy toys can help keep the instinct to nip anything that moves to a minimum.

Socialization is key

  • All dogs need to be socialized, but with a territorial dog like an ACD it is especially important. Exposing these dogs to as many people and other dogs as possible at an early age can be very helpful in having a trustworthy and safe cattle dog companion.

Health Concerns

In general, the Australian Cattle Dog is a healthy, hardy breed. In fact, the oldest dog on record is an ACD who lived to be 29 years old! There are a few issues that these dogs have a genetic predisposition toward that you should be aware of.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This inherited disorder also known as PRA affects the part of the dog’s eye called the retina. Dogs with PRA are genetically predisposed to blindness. Not all Australian Cattle Dogs are prone to this, but it can be a problem in certain bloodlines.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a degenerative disorder of the hip joints and can be very painful.  While this is an inherited defect, there are several things that can be done to help keep a Cattle Dog up and running as long as possible including a healthy diet, exercise, and a warm, soft sleeping area.


Is the Australian Cattle Dog right for you?

If you live in an apartment, are away from home for long periods of time, or are looking for a lapdog, the answer is no. On the other hand, the Australian Cattle Dog’s temperament is right for you if you are looking for an energetic dog to keep active with and have the time and patience to keep his superior mind entertained.

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