The Blue Heeler breed, otherwise known as the Australian Cattle Dog, is a medium sized dog breed that was originally bred as a herding breed. The Australian Cattle Dog can be blue or red, but this article will focus on the Blue Heeler. These loyal and playful dogs make excellent family dogs, and their alertness and energy also makes them great working dogs.
If you want to learn more about this breed of dog, read on below as we discuss their history, characteristics and what living with and taking care of a Blue Heeler is like.
History Of The Blue Heeler
The nickname of the Australian Cattle Dog, which is Heeler, arose because of their tendency to nip at cattle’s heels to encourage the direction of movement while they are being herded. They were bred to herd cattle over long distances and special characteristics such as their high energy levels and stamina were desired to cope with the rough terrain and high temperatures of the Australian outback.
This background means that they are very energetic and playful dogs with a high intelligence. You’ll need to make sure that you have enough time to spend with your Blue Heeler outside, although they also do well as a pet rather than a working dog when they are trained and socialized properly.
There are two different types of Australian Cattle dogs and therefore there are two different types of Heelers — the Original Cattle Dog, from New South Wales, and The Queensland Heelers, who are a variant of the breed from the 1940s. Both are now known as Heelers.
Let’s take a look at their breed origin below.
The Blue Heeler was originally bred to her livestock in Australia in the 19th century. The settlers who lived there needed a dog who could guard and herd livestock in very hot conditions, and could also withstand the rough terrain and run for long distances.
Thomas Hall is somewhat responsible for the creation of the Heeler. He crossed the Collie with the Australian Dingo creating the Halls Heeler, which is thought to be one of the ancestors of the Australian Cattle Dog due to their appearance.
The Halls Heeler was then crossed with Dalmatians, Bull Terriers and Kelpies to create the Heeler. The Heeler was well established by around 1890.
The Blue Heeler was first introduced to the United States in the 1940s and they were registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1980. The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America is the official breed club in the US. However, this breed is also recognized by the Australian National Kennel Council, the Canadian Kennel Club, the Kennel Club, the New Zealand Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
Blue Heeler Quick Facts
- Compact and Muscular: The Blue Heeler is a compact but muscular breed, making it a sturdy and resilient dog. Its muscular build contributes to its agility and strength, making it an excellent herding dog.
- Intelligent and Loyal: Known for their intelligence, Blue Heelers can outsmart their owners. They are also extremely loyal, forming strong bonds with their human families.
- Hardworking and Active: Blue Heelers are hardworking dogs that thrive when they have a job to do. They are extremely active and require plenty of physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
- Shadow Dogs: Blue Heelers are often referred to as “shadow dogs” due to their intense devotion to their owners. They don’t like being separated from their owners and are much happier when they are by their side.
- Coat Changes: Interestingly, Blue Heeler puppies are born with white fur. Over their first few months of life, the coat turns blue or red, often with speckles or a mottled pattern.
Characteristics Of The Blue Heeler
Often, you might hear of the Blue Heeler referred to as the Queensland Heeler or Red Heeler. Don’t worry, they are the same dogs, just different colors! These pups are normally born in litter sizes of 1-7 and can go to their new home at around 8 weeks of age. You can expect to pay anywhere between $600 to $1,000 for a Blue Heeler puppy.
The Blue Heeler is a medium sized breed that normally stands between 17 and 20 inches tall, with males usually a few inches taller than females. Their weight can range between 35 to 50lb for both males and females. They will normally reach their full size and weight by around 18 months of age.
These dogs are very athletic and muscular, with a broad head and powerful jaw. Their ears are set apart on the top of their head, much like a German Shepherd’s ears, and they have sloping shoulders with a level back on top of strong forelegs and muscular hind legs.
It is quite common for their tail to be docked if they are working dogs in the US, however in the UK and in Australia and Canada, they are kept at their full length to help with maneuvrability.
|Height||18-20 Inches||17-19 Inches|
|Weight||35-50 lbs||35-50 lbs|
Blue Heelers coats are short in length and are a double coat that can be strong and stiff. They shed excessively two times a year, instead of shedding moderately all year round. They are a relatively low maintenance dog and do not require much grooming, although we will go into more detail about that later on.
The Blue Heeler will most likely be blue, blue mottled or blue speckled in color and may or may not have markings. Their forelegs can also have some tan coloring, which can sometimes also be seen on the chest and the neck. Fun fact — both Red and Blue Heeler puppies are born white and their adult coat color grows through as they develop and mature!
The Australian Cattle Dog is a loyal and sweet-natured dog that loves to be by their owners side. They adore human interaction and playtime and because of their high intelligence they are very focused pups.
With a high activity level, these pups love to run around. However, they have a high prey drive because they are a working dog and can be known to chase things. Luckily, because of their intelligence, they can also be trained easily. They love to work and will thrive in an environment where they have something to do.
The Blue Heeler can be very protective of their family and will watch out for anything out of the ordinary. This makes them good guard dogs and watch dogs and they will not bark or alert you unless something is wrong or they feel threatened. They are unlikely to show aggression towards humans, however they can be hostile towards other dogs they don’t know. They do get along with children but may show herding behaviors with younger children so it is best to keep them in a family with older children.
Blue Heelers have a relatively long life expectancy. They usually live to between 12 and 15 years old.
Known Health Issues
The Blue Heeler held the Guinness World Record for the oldest dog ever until February 2023, when it was succeeded by a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo . However, like with all breeds of dog, they can be prone to some health issues. While you should look at any health issues the parents of your pup may have dealt with and obtain a health clearance from your breeder (a reputable breeder will give you one), there are three main health problems that your Heeler may be more susceptible to.
- Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia —these are two conditions that are seen in other large dogs. It is caused by the incorrect formation of the cartilage in the hip or elbow joint.
- Deafness — this is normally associated with their coat color and some association has been found between speckled markings in the coat and deafness.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy — these are a series of conditions that cause eventual blindness and is incurable.
Now we know what the characteristics of a Blue Heeler are, we can take a look and see what everyday life with one of these dogs is actually like.
Food And Diet
Blue Heelers are known for being able to live off a very limited diet. However, you should always feed your dog high-quality dog food and you should feed them the correct amount based on their size, weight and activity level. For a Blue Heeler, this is around three cups of food a day, although you should always check the back of the food packet to see the exact measurements.
The food you feed your Heeler should also be tailored for active dogs, because they have a lot of energy. This also means that they have high protein dietary requirements and no less than 20% of their diet should be meat. For this reason, many pet owners may choose to feed their dog a raw diet.
You can check your dog is overweight by looking at and feeling their bodies. At the correct weight you shouldn’t be able to see a waist and you should be able to feel but not see their ribs without pressing too hard.
Best Dog Food For The Blue Heeler
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog FoodBUY ON AMAZON
We recommend the Extreme Athlete dog food from Diamond Naturals for your Australian Cattle Dog. Formulated for very active dogs such as the Blue Heeler, this food will ensure your pup gets all the nutrients they need. Included in the recipe is high-quality chicken that provides an excellent source of protein for strong and lean muscles.
There are also vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables and superfoods included in this formula, all of which are easily digestible. Even better, this food contains K9 Strain Probiotics which is bacteria that supports their immune systems and helps your dog maintain an active lifestyle.
We have mentioned above that Blue Heelers are very active dogs and have high exercise needs. Because they are working dogs, they do not do well when they are feeling bored. If they are bored, they can display signs of aggressive or destructive behavior, so they will love it if they can run free or be given a purpose.
Blue Heelers need about 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day, preferably split into two walks. If you want to fulfil your dog’s needs of being given a purpose, even something as simple and training and teaching them tricks will work. You can teach them to pick up toys or clothing, too, and they will love working for you!
This breed of dog loves to walk, hike and swim. They will do best with people who are outside a lot and exercising, and don’t want to be cooped up at home.
Blue Heelers love people and do well in a family environment, but because of their high energy needs they may do better with more experienced dog handlers and might not be the best first pet. You will need to make make sure is that they are getting enough exercise everyday, so they will benefit from a family that likes to go out hiking or jogging. This means that they will definitely benefit from having a large yard or area to run around in, too.
The Australian Cattle Dog can be protective of their family and be wary of strangers. However, if they are socialized properly then this shouldn’t be an issue. While Blue Heelers get on well with both adults and children, they can exhibit herding behavior around very small children because of their herding instincts. They are best kept with children over the age of 10, although if you have younger children, socializing with your Blue Heeler may help.
Australian Cattle Dogs also shouldn’t be kept with other dogs or animals because they will show herding behavior towards these animals too and have been known to chase them. That being said, with the right training, they can grow up happily around other animals — it will just take patience and perseverance from you.
Because Blue Heeler dogs love to work and feel needed, they are very easy to train. They are also intelligent and pick up of things very easily. Just like all dogs, they will benefit from positive reinforcement training which includes both verbal rewards and treats. Training can help to stop unwanted behaviors that your Blue Heeler may show when you have to leave the house, as well as helping to stop herding behavior.
It is important to start training your Australian Cattle Dog from a young age. With a strong-prey drive and one track mind, you will find it much easier to train them when they are little so they don’t get too distracted.
Socializing is just as important with training and should be done with every pup. Ideally, socializing should start from a young age and include different sights and sounds. We have mentioned above that Blue Heelers don’t do well with smaller children or other pets, so if you do have young children in the house or other pets then early socialization is very important.
Blue Heelers do not have high grooming needs, but they will need to brushed once a week with a slick brush because of their short double coat. This will help to remove any loose undercoat. They won’t need to be bathed very often, unless they have rolled in something unpleasant. We mentioned above that they are more likely to shed twice a year than moderately shed all year round.
You will also need to clip their nails every so often, and brush their teeth as frequently as you can to prevent build up of decay that could lead to gum disease. However, you can also feed them dental sticks and crunchy kibble can be great for keeping their teeth clean. Some dogs don’t like to be groomed, so establishing a grooming routine from a young age can be really beneficial.
Blue Heeler – Breed Traits
|Positive Traits||Negative Traits|
|Very loyal and loving breed||Can be very stubborn, destructive if not cared for properly, or left to become bored|
|Very active working breed, eager to help and be involved||Can suffer with separation anxiety more than other breeds.|
|Very intelligent, good at working things out||Needs lots of mental and physical activity to keep them healthy and happy. Early socializing and training are essential|
|Very strong and agile breed||Needs space to run around and be active, so not good for small homes or apartments.|
Blue Heeler FAQ’s
Should I adopt a Blue Heeler?
While many people prefer to buy their dogs as puppies from a breeder so they can raise them from young, it is important not to forget that there are many dogs in shelters at the moment who need good homes.
Buying a Blue Heeler from a breeder can set you back around $600 to $1,000, so you may want to consider adopting if you can.
Are Blue Heelers aggressive with children?
No. Blue Heelers can sometimes exhibit herding behaviors around small and young children, due to their herding nature. They can also “nip” at young children while they are playing, but they do not mean any harm — they just want to play! Socializing your Blue Heeler from a young age with small children will show them how to behave around them. That being said, young children should also always be supervised when around a Blue Heeler.
Are Blue Heelers and Red Heelers The Same?
The only difference between a Blue Heeler and a Red Heeler, is the color of their coat. They are both Australian Cattle Dogs, and both start their life with the same white coat with mottled spots. As they grow up, their hair will either grow in with a black color or a reddish brown mixing in with their white fur. This determines whether they will be a blue or a red heeler, nothing else.
If you want an energetic and active dog that wants to spend their days by your side, a Blue Heeler might be for you. This loving and affectionate dog thrives in an active environment and also makes an excellent family dog. Although they love humans — both adults and older children — they are not afraid to bark when they are scared so they also make excellent guard dogs. They can display herding behavior around other animals and small children, but with the right training and socialization, the Australian Cattle Dog can be the perfect family pup.