Blue Heeler is an Australian Cattle breed developed by Australians to handle herds of cattle at expensive ranches. The word “heeler” comes from the fact that these dogs used to herd the cattle by nipping their heels. These dogs want to be active and busy all the time.
This breed has a strong prey drive and chases cats, squirrels, or other moving animals. Blue Heelers are tough and can handle high temperatures and even rough terrain. Their attitude towards strangers makes them perfect guard dogs. These dogs generally work in silence however, if they sense danger they bark in alarm.
In May 1908, Blue Heelers were accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club. The breed became eligible for show in the Working Group in September of that year and was transferred to the Herding Group in 1983.
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Blue heelers have a sturdy body with a curved tail. They have round heads with pointed ears. These dogs have a short double coat. The color of the coat can be blue, blue mottled, or blue speckled.
The outer coat is short and straight whereas the inner coat is denser. Tan markings might be present on the head. Partial tan is present on the forelegs, chest, throat, jaw, and hind legs. Some dogs have a tan undercoat with a blue outer coat.
Male Blue Heelers have a height ranging from 18 inches [45.72 cm] to 20 inches [50.8 cm] whereas females have a height ranging from 17 inches [43.18 cm] to 19 inches [48.26 cm]. The weight of this breed varies from 30 to 50 pounds [13.60 to 22.67 kg].
Life span varies from one dog to another. The average life expectancy of a Blue Heeler is between 13 to 15 years. However, some dogs might live longer depending on their health. These dogs generally live a healthy life.
Blue Heelers shed moderately at least twice a year. Shedding is influenced by many factors like hormonal change or pregnancy. For one or two weeks in spring, Blue Heelers shed their coat heavily to produce a lighter coat for the summer. Similarly, a few weeks in the fall they shed their lighter coat to accommodate a heavier coat for the winter. Malnutrition can result in excessive shedding in Blue Heelers.
This breed has a double coat so they need brushing twice or thrice a week. Brushing helps to distribute the body oils evenly and removes dirt. The undercoat needs deep brushing to ensure there are no matted hairs.
Bathing these dogs is important when they are dirty to maintain hygiene. Bathing should not be overdone as it can destroy the body’s natural oils and make the skin dry.
Nails should be trimmed once a month to prevent painful tears. Ears should be checked regularly for bad odor as it indicates ear infection. Ears should be cleaned properly with an ear solution as they are prone to ear infections.
While Grooming their skin should be checked for rashes or inflammations as it can indicate an infection or allergy.
Blue Heelers are loyal, protective, cautious, and obedient. With strangers, this breed is watchful and often suspicious. They can be dominant towards other dogs and are not recommended around cats.
Temperament and behavior are also shaped by the raising and training of these dogs. This breed has strong herding and guarding instincts.
Blue Heelers must be trained properly or they tend to chase cars and motorcycles. Their strong dominant nature requires an alpha owner.
Blue Heelers are highly intelligent dogs and probably the world’s best cattle herding breed. They have high working intelligence and obedience. They can easily solve toy puzzles owing to their intelligence. This breed is ranked 10th in the book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Corey. They understand new commands in less than 5 repetitions and obey the first command 95% of the time or better.
This breed is highly agile and is great at Agility activities owing to its muscular body.
Agility has been used by dog owners to develop confidence in their dogs and enhance their performance in training. Agility training also helps to enrich mental stimulation.
Blue Heelers were bred to work all day and therefore, they need 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily. Exercise for these dogs is not just a way to release pent up energy but also to enrich their mental well being.
One of the best ways to provide exercise to these dogs is by taking them for daily walks. If the dog follows commands well then it can be left off-leash for a walk. Dog backpacks can also be added to the exercise routine to add resistance to the daily walk.
Some other exercise routines can include high-intensity games and strength training. High-intensity activities keep their muscles in top condition.
Positive reinforcement techniques work well for this breed. The key to training Blue Heelers is to establish yourself as an Alpha. These dogs have high working obedience and are fast learners. This breed is responsive which makes it easy to train them.
The owner needs to ensure that these dogs are mindful of their enormous energy. Training routines should be consistent in order to develop a routine for these dogs. It responds well to structured training especially if it is interesting and challenging.
Stock dog trainer Scott Lithgow recommends making training a game so the Cattle Dog learns that obedience leads to enjoyment.
Good With Family
Blue Heelers are loyal to their owners and are excellent family pets. These dogs are great with children as well as senior citizens of the family. However, children should be supervised around them.
They form strong attachments to their owners and can be protective of them.
Blue Heelers prefer to live in open spaces like a house with a backyard. They need enough space to run, jump and play around. Leaving them in a compact space can lead to destructive behavior.
Just like other dogs, Blue Heelers show signs of separation anxiety. These dogs are emotionally attached to their owners and therefore, staying away from them causes anxiety and depression in these pups.
Different symptoms of anxiety are whining, barking, or howling. Separation anxiety can be reduced by different psychological techniques. Another way to prevent separation anxiety is by giving your pet toy puzzles.
Blue Heelers live a long and healthy life that can be as long as 15 years. However, they face a few health issues like other dog breeds. Some of the health issues are Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Hip Dysplasia, and deafness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a disease that causes deterioration of the retina. Initially in the disease, the dogs become night blind and start losing their eyesight during the day as the disease progresses.
Deafness is inherited by Blue Heelers. Some Blue Heelers develop hearing difficulties and can’t hear at all whereas others develop it to certain degrees. However, with proper care and attention, your Blue Heeler will live a healthy life.