Some Honesty from an Australian Cattle Dog Owner. These Little Biters Can Drive You Crazy.

Updated on June 27, 2014

Why Did We Choose an ACD?

It was a Sunday night when my boyfriend Colin and I brought home our brand new puppy. We'd been waiting to get a puppy for years and finally settled on an Australian Cattle Dog. Now, before you go judging Colin and I on picking this breed for our first dog, I want you to know that I extensively researched this dog more than I studied for my finals all four years of college. I read so many articles, books, blogs, etc. saying that ACDs are better for experienced owners. Those same stories and advice columns also stated that ACDs should not be in an apartment as they need vigorous exercise and plenty of it. Well, folks, Colin and I are "technically" first time dog owners. We've had family pets, but have never actually raised a dog on our own before. And guess where we live? That's right. An apartment. And before you "tsk" at me, I was well aware of these warnings about first time owners and apartment life before we even put down a deposit for our puppy. And the fact that I was aware of these warnings has made me slightly more patient when it comes to training this amazing dog.

Even though I knew that we didn't have the ideal lifestyle for an ACD, we knew that this was the dog for us. We knew that he has a fit and active lifestyle, and though neither of us are members of Crossfit or currently sporting a six pack, we were (and are) dedicated to giving this new dog the kind of workout that he needs both physically and mentally every day. Going along with these demands of his breed, we realized right away that this breed would be a challenge. This idea probably scares a lot of dog owners. It's hard enough to train mellow dogs not to chew up your entire house and tear your flip flops into pieces. However, these more mellow dogs are the kinds of dogs Colin and I had known in our lifetimes thus far. We both had some experience with the chihuahuas, beagles, labs and miniature pinschers of the world. We wanted a dog that was different. We even had a unique and different name picked out for him: Yusuke (pronounced: You-skay).

Lots of families choose to get labs, shepherds, golden retrievers, chihuahuas, or a similarly well-known dog breeds. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. A lot of the best dogs I've ever known were one of those breeds. We just knew that we wanted a standout dog. What can I say? We wanted the kind of dog where people stop and honestly don't know what breed our dog is. It's exciting for us to introduce people to this new breed they may not have known much or anything about. We were up for the challenge of this dog. We had been looking them up online for months and melting over the adorable photos of them. Have you SEEN how cute those puppies are? I think they're cutest when they're sleeping.

Yusuke at 5 and a half weeks.
Yusuke at 5 and a half weeks.
Yusuke post-bath around 7 weeks.
Yusuke post-bath around 7 weeks.

Am I right? Adorable. I'm not exaggerating when I say that 5-10 people a day stop me and ask me what breed he is and tell me he's the cutest dog they've ever seen. When I take him on walks, I have yet to run into one person that doesn't stop and pet him. And if they start to walk by me, I can see on their faces that they're waiting for me to ask if they want to pet him. And I always do and they always break into a smile and pet him and (as always) ask me what kind of dog he is. I can tell in some people's voices that they have no idea what a "red heeler" is. Most people do, but some seem to still be a little lost until I say he's a herding/working/cattle dog.

All cuteness aside, why did we choose such a challenging dog? Well, you need to know that I am a very honest person and don't really like to beat around the bush. So I won't lie to you, there are days when I wonder why I didn't just get a pug and call it a day. I'm not saying I don't love Yusuke, but sometimes puppies have a way of getting on your very last nerve. Or at least, Yusuke has a habit of getting on mine.

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So What Are The Challenges?

This is the part where you get to hear the times when my dog can be...not as cute and sweet as he looks in his photos. I must stress that these are my personal experiences with my ACD. These experiences don't reflect all ACDs. Although, if any of the ACD books I read were right, I'm assuming that some of these characteristics must be shared across the breed. And keep in mind that I've only had Yusuke for a little over 3 weeks (almost 4) and I am also aware that he was taken from his litter a little earlier than would be recommended. Here are some examples of my daily hardships.

  1. Biting. Now, this should be a no-brainer with red/blue heelers. They are herding dogs. The word "heeler" is in their name. They were specifically bred to herd cattle and nip at their heels. It is well-known to owners of this breed that this biting habit needs to be corrected as soon as it happens the first time and for every offense afterwards. If you slip up even once, it is sure to rattle your system of correcting his biting. As I just previously stated, our dog was taken from his litter early (at 5 weeks). I didn't want to take him this early, but I did not have a choice to pick him up later. Because he was taken so early, he missed out on a huge and very important lesson from his mama: bite inhibition. Yusuke honestly has never "mouthed" our hands and feet. He bites, and let me tell you, he bites hard. And I understand that this is a fault of my own for getting him so early. This issue made it even harder for Colin and I in terms of this breed being a "challenge." Why? Because when he bites, he really bites. I honestly feel like I cannot stress this enough. At 8 weeks old, he has bloodied my ankle twice in one day from one single nip at my heel. Trust me when I tell you, we diligently reprimand him when this happens. We reprimand him the way our Vet recommended and the way that we've read in a number of books/online forums. This instinct of theirs is just so instinctual and our puppy never learned how much his bites can truly hurt. So this biting can really drive me up the wall since he hasn't yet grasped the meaning of the words "no bite."
  2. Whining. This trait is true of every dog breed, not just heelers. And we all know that puppies will inevitably whine. I must say though, I personally don't remember other dogs that I've known whining even half as long, half as loud, or as high-pitched as Yusuke. He has got some serious vocals on him and my gosh, he can whine for hours without stopping. Every new dog owner hates their puppy (at least a little bit) for the first few nights that they have him. This love/hate relationship is unavoidable those first few nights. Your puppy is in a new home. He's scared. His momma is gone. And if you're like Colin and I, and don't want him sleeping in your bed then those whines are pretty horrendous those first few nights. But all the books tells you, "under no circumstances, should you let your puppy out or go get him when he's whining, or else he will always whine when he wants your attention." I wish I could give credit to someone for this bit of information, but I have read it so many times in so many places, that I feel it's general knowledge to most dog owners now.
  3. Chewing and/or Destroying. This is another huge general doggy trait that we all just LOVE our puppies for. They WILL chew on your things. NO MATTER WHAT. I've never met a dog that didn't destroy something their owner liked/loved/needed/owned. Case in point: my phone charger. Colin and I finally had some time to ourselves and decided to go out to dinner together. We put our dog in the kitchen, behind a baby gate. When we got home, the dog was no longer in the kitchen, the baby gate was knocked over and my phone charger no longer worked. Our 8-week-old puppy, somehow unbeknownst to me, broke down a sturdy baby gate and completely chewed through all the wires inside my phone charger cord. Talk about getting revenge for leaving him home alone for two hours.
  4. Play Time. This sounds generic and that's because I'm not sure how to categorize what I'm going to describe. Our dog is finally grasping the concept of "fetch." It's exciting for us because us wrestling him with stuffed animals is getting a little old. The latter play time example is still his favorite right now though. He's still just a little pup and he misses wrestling with his brothers and sisters. What's frustrating though is that he gets very tired of playing with the same toys for extended periods of time. This is also known to be common in heelers. They need lots of mental stimulation or else they can be destructive. Since our dog is still so young, he tires easily of fetch and just wants to wrestle. In his mind, it's probably great. He thinks to himself: "I could go get that toy and bring it back. Or I could go belly up and let this human wrestle with me. I'll have more energy and just as much stimulation." Our dog will fetch a few times and then he'll decide he'd rather chew on a toy in our lap. However, after 2-3 minutes of chewing on the toy, if we're not part of this process, he gets frustrated and bored and lets out his "frustration bark." To me, it almost sounds like a scoff, bark and groan put together. This constant strive for attention of his can get overwhelming and frustrating for us. We love playing with him, don't get me wrong, but sometimes fetch would just be a more preferable option on our end. We need to get things done too during the day! And if we ignore his antics, he usually starts back in on the biting. It's a vicious cycle.

These are just four issues that cause me some "psychological pain" every day. And Yusuke does all of these every single day. But don't let me leave you thinking that I hate my dog. There are days when I tend to feel dislike towards him, but I ultimately love Yusuke and want him to grow into a happy and healthy adult dog. He just so happens to be much cuter and sweeter when he's sleepy rather than when he's crazy.

His Colors Are Finally Coming In

Yusuke at 8 and a half weeks.
Yusuke at 8 and a half weeks.

Though He's a Challenge, He Can Be Sweet

Most of the time, he is nearly always challenging me. I constantly have to remind myself of how young he is and that this means he needs more attention and more direction. We often forget this since we got him at 5 weeks. He's such a smart breed that he tries to get away with a lot of naughty acts and tries to trick Colin and I on a daily basis. However, he can be the world's biggest sweetheart, especially when he wakes up from a nap. He's always still sleepy and not exactly "all there" right away. He licks and whines for some loving when he wakes up.

There is one specific thing he does to me that always reminds me of how much I love him when I sometimes feel that he's driven me over the edge with his craziness. When he makes serious infractions that he knows are not allowed (mostly biting ankles/heels/fingers), we sometimes have to separate him from us because our usual corrections aren't working. This usually happens when he is so wound up or bored that he acts out by biting. After his whining has ceased and I come to praise him for being quiet when he's alone, I am very aware that he often knows he's done wrong. He will skulk over to my feet and lay down, carefully placing his head on my foot and he'll oftentimes fall asleep like this if I don't move for a while. If I happen to walk across the kitchen, he will almost always follow me and lay back down, resting his head on my foot. It's like he's saying, "I'm sorry I did something wrong, but I still love you." It melts my heart every time.


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      Taylor Lathrop 2 weeks ago

      I am looking to get a puppy who my 8 year old heeler has met once... how do I curb her from being automatically aggressive with him? We noticed early on she gets along with male dogs better than female.. any tips on how to associate her with the new puppy?

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      Linda Hansen 6 weeks ago

      I got my Blue Heeler mix at 7 weeks old and immediately requested a recommendation for a dog trainer from my vet. The dog trainer showed me a trick to get him to stop biting/nipping.

      The next time he goes to bite, scoop him up around the middle of his stomach (to hold him still) and place your hand over his mouth, holding it shut. Not tight so he can't breathe, but just enough to give him a message. He's going to squirm and wiggle like crazy, trying to get free. Keep a hold on him until he relaxes and stops wiggling. Then let him go. He'll do one of 2 things: 1) take off and then come back to bite again, or shake it off and try to bite again. Whichever he does, repeat the process of grabbing and holding him with your hand over his mouth. It may take a few days for him to get the message that it's not ok, but he will learn.

      Another thing she had me do was put Rocky in my lap, and put my hand on his upper jaw, near the back. Press your fingers onto the lip as he's chewing and he'll find out what it feels like when he bites or nibbles on you.

      Blue Heelers are not a dog that does well with being crated or kept on a lead outside. I had several people come over one time, and decided to put him in his crate until everyone had arrived. For 30 minutes straight, he barked continuously!

      I have told Rocky, when he "bites", to be "Easy" because I'm not cattle and don't have thick skin like a cow! Lol

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      Joy 2 months ago

      I have a 5 month old Blue Heeler! I am in a very similar situation as you. I'm a first-time dog owner (I've never had a dog of my own as an adult. Only had one dog growing up and it was my moms, and he lived til he was 6) and I'm also a single mom. The only thing I've got going for me that you don't is a I have a house and a fenced in backyard. But, I work and I'm finishing up my biochem degree, so I'm BUSY BUSY BUSY. When my dog is sick and has diarrhea all in her crate, I have to choose between cleaning her and the crate up, or getting my kid to school on time. It's really stressful, but that would happen no matter what breed I had. So, THE BITING. My God, the biting. I've trained Kira not to bite me, she will only barely open her mouth over my arm/leg, but she doesn't bite down. My 9 year old daughter is a completely different story. The two of them together are so irritating that I often feel like I need to just completely separate them. Kira will nip at my daughter's heels probably 20 times a day. I've had a trainer come out (he trained with Caesar Milan!) and he made a few suggestions, like keeping her on a slip-lead when she's around my daughter. This dog was SUPPOSED to be my daughters dog, she'd begged for a dog for years. So even though my schedule is crazy, I caved. It is painfully obvious I am her "person". She follows me around everywhere when she's inside. She doesn't bite me, but she bites my daughter. But I can tell Kira does love to play with my kid, she just doesn't respect her as a pack leader. I knew Heelers were a lot of work and not preferable for first-timers, like you, I had done a lot of research, but I've just always wanted an Aussie or a Heeler. So, we've got our work cut out for her but this Blue Heeler is the sweetest, most lovable dog. She's brilliant, hilarious, she NEVER barks unless I poke my head out of the window from upstairs to talk to her in the backyard, and it drives her crazy that I'm not playing with her. She's VERY friendly towards other dogs/people, never seen an ounce of aggression in her towards people/dogs she doesn't know. I think your pup is just whining a lot because she's still so little. Kira came home with us at about 13 weeks. I've never heard her "whine". She does do the "scoff" if she's being told "NO", and she knows she has to obey lol. Good luck to you guys!! ACD's are very special dogs.

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      Shutterbug83 2 months ago

      We have three ACDs, two reds ages 3 and 5 and one roan who is almost a yr old. All three are related with the two oldest being full brothers and the youngest (little girl) being a 1/2 cousin. They all talk!!! The 3 yr old is the most chatty, he woowoos at anything he wants and he teaching the baby to be vocal. Our ACDs are all farm dogs so they spend most of the day outside watching and protecting the ducks and chickens. The only warning I like to give first time ACD owners is about the bonding process. I’ve seen a few ACDs given up to shelters because the won’t let one owner near the other.

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      Tim Stafford 2 months ago

      My cattle dog is eleven years old, I know this because we have the same birthday. Anyone having trouble with mood swings/bitting are not stimulating their cattle dog enough either mentally or physically. To keep my cattle dog happy, I use an equal amount of teaching her tricks (mental) and frisbee catch (physical). Understanding pack mentality is EXTREMELY important when raising a cattle dog. I strongly suggest every ACD owner read books on K-9 social structure and anything specific to raising ACD's. I am happy to answer questions anyone may have!

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      Deb 3 months ago

      I have a 4 month old cattle dog. He sometimes gets in a "mood" where his brain like flips and he will stare at me, bark that high pitched bark, and then start attacking me. He snaps out it. Sometimes if I don't give him something he puts out a low growl and then does that bark. Sometimes I am afraid of him. Is this normal?

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      carolyn 3 months ago

      i have a 4 month blue heeler and i got him when he was 6 1/2 weeks old perfect to me, because they bond with u more i love these dogs they are not wimps either they are all around dogs hunting fishing hiking omg everything they love attention and they love to be close to their owners and very smart like a 3 yr old child. i crate train mine and he knows his house and i just put him in his crate when we leave and when we go to bed other than that if i am able to take him i will i did have problems with the nipping dang that hurts but every once in a while he will do it and i will be like no eeek.

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      Trina 4 months ago

      Thanks so much to everyone who has posted their experiences with these dogs. We are getting one soon, and your comments have been extremely helpful !

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      Jenna 5 months ago

      Hi everyone!

      I have a deaf 6.5 month old red heeler and he has been such a challenge. He's incredibly smart, which makes some things easier, but it also has made his "teenage temperament" difficult. It is actually really refreshing to read about other people's struggles and not just read how loyal this breed is (although of course he is my little fur baby that I love to no end).

      Charlie would throw "temper tantrums" when he was little over things he wanted to do that I would not let him. This included trashing his body, screaming, and trying to bite me. This developed into resource guarding over things he shouldn't have and turning on me. This fierceness of his little personality was something I was not prepared for. He was definitely trying to challenge my authority! I've been working with a trainer since and have it under control with myself although I am worried to leave him alone with others that he may not see as his pack leader.

      Other than that issue, he's incredibly social with other dogs and people! And he knows about 20 hand signals already and can walk off leash. He's incredibly smart and you guys are right: no matter how much exercise I give him he can keep going! Love my crazy little dingo.

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      Leslie 6 months ago


      We are adopting a 1 yr old aussie cattle dog/ beagle. ( they think). He was calm when we met him, except in when with the area with other dogs. I read your article and the comments. I plan on taking him to training as they said he needed leash training. I tried walking/running. He did well. He pulls a little but I could handle it. I plan on teaching tricks and would love to eventually go to park to play fetch. Any other suggestions would be appreciated

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      Samantha 7 months ago

      I am a little worried about our 9 week old ACD, Autumn. When I try to correct her biting- and when she is in the mood to bite that is all she wants to do- she just growls and becomes more aggressive. I tell her no in the most commanding voice I can, I restrain her, I redirect her with toys, but all she wants in these moments is to bite me. She can be so sweet when she wants to be but I'm afraid of this biting and hoping she will grow out of it.

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      Katherine Shaffer 7 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! And yes! That biting is torment for a while! I am always telling people that I don't think any other dog has as sharp of teeth as a heeler. Those little babies can draw some serious blood! Haha.

      I'm obviously a bit biased, but we think our dog turned out fantastic! :) He is loyal and SO smart and he listens to us. He does bark at strangers but 9 times out of 10, he stops once we walk up and meet who he is barking at. He's not perfect but I wouldn't change a thing about him or his crazy antics!

      In terms of the biting, we just had to be VERY consistent with correcting him. And I mean every. single. time. At the time, it felt like he bit our ankles for forever but now it's like a distant memory! I remember when I was at my wits' end, I looked up some advice online and some people said to "ignore the biting." *major eye roll* I actually found that to be the worst advice I'd come across. So I continued to just correct him each time with a snap of my fingers and a firm "no." He finally stopped at around 6 months of age. And I've read that this age range is pretty typical for that behavior to finally break. So stick with it!! :)

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      Katherine Shaffer 7 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Hi Rodu! So exciting that you're possibly getting an ACD! I'll tell you that you'll probably receive conflicting advice about having a heeler in an apartment. My apartment was similar in size to yours (somewhere around 800sqf) and we handled having an ACD just fine. But I have to admit to you that once we moved into a house with a fenced backyard, it made things much easier.

      But while in the apartment he needed LOTS of stimulation. And I don't just mean walks. ACDs are working dogs. If given the choice, they would work until complete exhaustion and be happy about it. But in my experience, taking my dog on a walk wasn't enough exercise. (We actually had to train our ACD - with the help of a trainer - to walk on leash because he hated it and would heel us or bite the leash or thrash about and pull.) He also needed mental stimulation or he got bored and could be destructive (I have destroyed books, external hard drives, wicker baskets, etc. to prove it). So be sure to give him more than just a walk - we liked to do mental workouts too. ACDs like to have a job to do as often as possible. Games. Tricks. Our dog's favorite is "Find" where I hide his treat and tell him to go find it. (It took him all of 5 minutes to learn it!). In addition to both of these, we also played at least a good hour of fetch every day in a nearby dog park. And just to warn you...we would play fetch and then walk home and he would STILL want to play when we got back to the apartment. They just LOVE to be active.

      Another thing we did to make sure our dog got enough stimulation was doggie daycare. We didn't take him every day. But we had set days every week that he went and he got used to the routine quickly and knew which days we were going to take him to daycare. Those days were SUCH helpers because we would pick him up after work and he would actually be (a little) tired!

      In his early puppy days, my ACD had two states of being: 100 MPH or dead tired. There was no in-between. So be sure to have LOTS of toys to keep him active and stimulated and you should do just fine! The fact that you're semi-retiring in about a year though sounds like you'll soon have lots of time to give that dog the attention it will need :)

      In regards to the whining/crying. All puppies will whine and cry, especially when left alone. And if you plan to crate train (which I STRONGLY recommend or your apartment will be eaten/chewed on), I have never dealt with a puppy that doesn't cry during crate training. They get over it though! Just takes some time. The barking issue is just a matter of training and getting your dog used to the noises that come with apartment life! Raising an ACD is not an easy dog by any means, but they are SO worth it!!

      Best of luck to you!!!

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      Annessa heaton 7 months ago

      Oh my goodness. I loved reading his article. I've had my blue heeler/black lab for 9 days now and I'm pretty sure everything you mentioned and I have said in my head. I've even taken to calling her Dr Jekyll and me Hyde. I'm pretty sure the original owner was a bit dishonest when telling me how old she was. I doubt she was 8 weeks. When I first got her, her size looks closer to your picture of your dog at 5.5 weeks. Now that it's. It would appear a couple of years have passed since you wrote the article. I would love to hear how things have turned out and if you have any working advice to stop the biting the biting is truly painful! It's the worst!!

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      Rodu 7 months ago

      Hi some very interesting, detailed and thoughtful advice her in original post and other comments.

      A friend who grew up on a rural property and had several dogs surprised me by suggesting an ACD would be suitable for my inner city 75sqm apartment.

      Wondering what others think. I am reasonably aware re dogs as pets and have put off getting a dog because I live in an apartment. Having said that, I would be able to give a dog appropriate training, and a reasonable amount of exercise ( say, one hour a day walk) or more active off leash activity couple of times a week. I hope within a year to be semi-retired (at 58) so would have more time to be around the dog and for exercise.

      Excessive barking/loud whining would be an issue as I do t want to incur the wrath of neighbours.

      'Simple' question then is would I be ill-advised to get get an ACD ( for my sake and the dog's) or, as my friend suggests, it could work happily for both of us.

      All advice very much appreciated.


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      Elena 8 months ago

      Poe'ta Melodia is my little Crazy girl, now 7 months old. Every problem you mention is So True!!

      I just lost my 13 year old Ti'tan Chato to a sudden infection & my hubby got Poe'ta for me, the next day. Ti'tan was a mellow fellow; my best buddy

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      Kelly 9 months ago

      Funny I must have an unusual heeler.... no biting problems, she is very loyal and obsessive of me yes... but zero aggression unless she feels threatened usually a large male will lead to barking but that's about it.... she displays a natural herding instinct with the other dogs but no violence :) she's very sweet submissive and cuddly, follows me everywhere

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      Michaela 10 months ago

      Hey thank you so much for posting this. This has been really encouraging to read. Right now I am through the roof with my Blue Heeler! She is being such an idiot! I needed some reassurance....

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      Titolarosa 11 months ago

      Good for you. My Red Heeler Lalo (Lah•lo) was surrendered to me by his previous owner, he had not been socialized and spent the first year of his life confined to a backyard. As you know, this breed is not the pack type so early socialization is crucial for their success in a human world. It took me 6 months of arduous work, long matinal and nocturnal walks and as much exposured to other dogs to help Lalo's fear and severe anxiety as he could not stand the sight of anything that moved. Today he can go anywhere and walk off leash at parks and around the neighborhood. He has lots of friends and I became a much better pack leader for it. Consistency, patience, assertiveness and knowing your role in the pack go a long way. Keep it up!

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      Bahamas ava 16 months ago

      I thought it was only unique to us

      .....the biting, the scratches, so much blood drawn. But our blue heeler has such incredible power of making us smile and laugh's just part of it, which sounds terrible, but true. Every day she shows the most devotion,loyalty and love. We admire how smart she is, her trying to start her coup against us with brilliance and a smile. AcD/dingo stole my heart

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      Hdogg 17 months ago

      Reading all these comments/stories just makes me smile. Heelers are indeed the best dogs in this world. Everything I have read here is a picture perfect scenario of my red heeler and it's nice to hear other people's experiences and relationships with their ACD's. I find sometimes it is hard to have conversations and get advice from other "normal dog breed" owners because owning an ACD is unlike any other breed. It is truly a unique experience and you really don't know what I mean until you have raised one yourself. My red heeler just turned 3 a couple months ago and I can definitely relate to all of your posts. Though it is a tough and never ending battle at times and I feel like I want to pull my hair out, I would not want my Nokki to be any other way. She is stubborn, she steals my socks, and she is too smart for her own good, but she loves me. We have the best times together and I couldn't imagine owning any other breed. I have come to face that because of her breed, training will never stop and she will always test the boundaries, but I am fine with that. Most people would not put up with a dog like that but I think that is what makes devoted ACD owners so special. They are not a breed for everyone. Thanks all for sharing your comments. On another note, my dog trainer will be coming over next week (we have not had a training session with him in a year so it should be interesting, lol) for a much needed session on aggression towards strangers. My red heeler has always been weary of strangers but it is to the point where I have to put her upstairs if anyone comes over because she will lunge and growl at them. Anybody else have these issues? I know this is typical of the breed. I will post our progress of this if anyone is interested or if anyone has any advice, that would be great too.

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      CamandThief 18 months ago

      THanks for sharing! I have a similar story, but my wife and I got our red from a couple who had a 1 year old heeler while their 2nd child was on the way. They just couldn't deal with him anymore.

      I appreciated you talking about how different your dog is compared to the usual labs, goldens, etc because that could not be MORE true. I grew up with Cocker Spaniels and, my boy is sooooo vastly different it can not be more expressed. You need an example? The first day I brought Thief home (his name) we went for a 7 mile run.........

      I do marathons and a ton of running out on trails in the middle of nowhere. It's where I'm most at peace. I always envied the runners I saw who brought their dog with them and they just stayed right at their side. This "dream" officially came true when I brought my dog home and that was the original intent for us adopting him. Just like ranchers need their ACDs to herd, I needed mine to run with me (is that bad for saying that?)

      No one told me that they were smarter than me!!!!

      I can teach my dog any command in less than 5 minutes. I taught him how to climb trees on command. I taught him how to bring in the newspaper for our house AND the neighbors. I even taught him how to paddle ON a paddle boat without jumping off. These dogs are not your average dog. Many of my friends have border collies and shepherds and the ACD is just, different. No other way to explain it.

      They are not very nice to other individuals, whether it be dogs or people, if they are not part of the family. My dog "puts up with my wife" but lives, breaths, and would probably sacrifice himself for me if ever called to do so. He loves me more than all of his toys and balls, treats, trees to climb, trails, anything...I'm his everything.

      I've never experienced this level of unconditional love before among any other breed of dog. If you watch the Australian movie "Red Dog" or know a friend who has an ACD you'll see what I'm talking about. They're known as "1-person dogs" and before Thief, I've never been able to conceptualize what that would mean/entail. It means following you everywhere not because they must but because they legitimately want to. Someone comes in through the front door, Thief will look to see who it is, turn his head and look at me ("They cool bro?"), I nod, then he starts waggin his tail and goes and licks them. That's how smart and loving they are.

      (I'm almost done) BUT, it takes me anywhere from 1.5-3 hours to wear him out. I once took him on a 15 mile run (it was slow and tons of water was provided to all you hippie dog owners that like K9s more than humans and are thinking "dogs weren't meant to run that far") and when we finished the run, Thief goes to nearby tree and bites of a little stick and drops it on my feet to play fetch. I mean really dog? So, if you are willing to dedicate the time this dog deserves you'll have one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. I am a living testament to that as I HAVE dedicated and invested not only tons of my time but a lot of my money as well and this dog is truly extraordinary and one of my best friends. I'm fairly convinced that if dogs had "human like" vocal chords he could speak english to me.

      Anyways, hope this helps in a general sense.

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      tifanypixie 22 months ago

      Thank You, I should be getting one in April or May! Can't wait, thanks for the tips :D

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      Katherine Shaffer 22 months ago from Columbus, OH

      In my experience, dogs are wary of humans that are wary of them. Animals can tell when you are uneasy or scared or apprehensive around them. I've seen this response the most in my heeler. As an example, he is very aware of the fact that my brother-in-law's father does not like dogs. My heeler has warmed up to everyone he's ever met, but he has never liked my brother-in-law's father and I attribute it to that fact.

      But honestly, there is no magic trick to making a dog bond with you. You just need to be dedicated to spending time with that dog and raising it. But when a dog grows up with you, I find that you create a bond quite naturally. I experienced this with my family dog (lab/german shepherd mix) and with Yusuke. The most important thing is to show that dog you love it while also setting boundaries. My fiance and I were worried about our dog bonding with one of us more than the other but surprisingly, he bonded with us fairly equally. We didn't do anything special over the other. We just both spent time with him as much as possible and treated him well. We both trained him, walked him on a leash, played with him, potty trained him, fed him, bathed him, praised him (lavishly). You bond with your dog the same way you bond with a friend. By spending quality time together. You need to be loving but you also need to be firm in your training. You have to love him without letting him walk all over you, because he will try to. But NEVER a rough hand with a heeler (or any dog for that matter). Heeler's may be stubborn/ornery as puppies but they are also very sensitive. But with a heeler, you need to be strong-minded, because that heeler will push you to your limits. And you need to stand your ground because they will try to trick you into letting them get away with things. And they WILL get away with it if you waver.

      Small example, being adamant about not jumping on me. One small thing I never thought much about correcting was when he was a cute tiny 8 week old puppy and he would jump on me as I walked in the door. At the time, it was cute and adorable and "oh look at this tiny 10 lb puppy jumping on my leg and wanting attention." but NOW, he's 35/40 lbs and jumps on me and i wish I would've corrected it when he was a puppy. What you don't realize when they are tiny cute puppies is that they will continue those SAME habits you allow when they are big and strong. And let me tell you, it's not cute when your dog is meeting new people and trying to jump on them and his nails haven't been trimmed and he just so happens to jump and then scratch down their entire leg with those long nails. As another commenter mentioned, it doesn't take much for your heeler to realize he's done something wrong. I usually snap my fingers and shush him and he knows he's done wrong. It's as simple as that. But you NEED consistency. It's confusing for your dog if your corrections are inconsistent.

      But overall, just spend time with your dog doing things you both enjoy. My dog and I bond when we play fetch, when we go on bike rides, walks, when I take him with me on car rides (such as through the car wash or the fast food drive through). And heelers will attach to you. There's a reason they call them velcro dogs. They want to do what you are doing at basically all times of the day (unless they're passed out or taking a power nap after play, which mine still does). And if you live with yours parents, yours dog will bond with your parents too. But that's a good thing and you shouldn't be scared of it. but the love your heeler has for you is incredible. They are truly loyal and great dogs. The best of luck with yours and have fun raising your blue heeler!! :)

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      Katherine Shaffer 22 months ago from Columbus, OH

      My heeler is almost 2 now and his favorite activity is also fetch! He would happily go for hours and hours if I let him. One time, my fiance and I overworked him (we didn't even realize it at the time because he didn't show signs of slowing or tiredness one little bit from start to finish) and when we headed back inside the house, he started to sway to the side a little like he was off balance because he pushed himself too hard. No harm done, just needed to cool down. But now I know he needs more breaks whether he knows it or not!

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      Katherine Shaffer 22 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Thanks for the comments and advice, Martin! You're right about the amount of work and attention heelers need. They are not easy pets. They need a strong and patient owner. I find that if you have the energy and motivation and are willing to put in the work, they are great pets! But the work you put in needs to be very substantial! It's a much larger commitment than known "family dogs" like a lab or golden! Glad to see a fellow heeler owner that knows the amount of work these dogs truly need! :)

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      Katherine Shaffer 22 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Hahahah! Gerroutofthere. i love it!! That made me laugh out loud. I *accidentally* created a command that my heeler listens to. I never realized how much I said the word "alright" before finishing the rest of a sentence when I'm talking. "Alright, let's go outside" / "Alright, let's eat dinner" / "Alright, I'm going to bed" But i did it so much that my dog thinks "alright" means something is about to happen. Made me realize I need to watch what I'm saying but the word "alright" kind of became our "settle" because he stops whatever he's doing and waits to find out what I'm doing after I say it. Thanks for the comment!

    • Katherine Wyss profile image

      Katherine Shaffer 22 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Thanks for the added advice!! Having specific commands is definitely a life savor with all dogs! (but especially stubborn and strong-willed heelers). And since heelers do try to out-last you and trick you and outsmart you, it's nice to have some commands up your sleeve that you know they will listen to. Thanks for commenting :)

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      Joe 22 months ago

      Welcome to the wonderful world of ACDs! We have two. Our oldest is a rescue that was abused and our youngest we got as a pup. Couldn't be more different dogs. Our pup (Jordy) will play fetch from the time hes done with dinner, till its past time to go to bed. Aside from eating, its his favorite activity. Hes a year and half now, and shows no signs of letting up.

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      tifanypixie 22 months ago

      I am going to be getting a Blue Heeler pretty soon, I am worried though I have never been good with animals (they just don't like me) and I live at home with my parents who are AMAZING with animals (they love them) I am worried that I won't be able to bond with the Heeler and that when I move out I won't be able to take it away from my parents.

      Please can you give me some pointers on how to make sure she (Blue Heeler) will bond with me!? Thank You

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      Martin 23 months ago

      I have an albino ACD who was born deaf. She's 10 years old and is the best companion I have ever had. Cattle dogs are protective by nature so she barks when people walk in front of my house, and she cannot regulate her bark volume because she is deaf and doesn't know what sound is.

      She is incredibly intelligent. She knows around 50 hand signals and pays attention to me. She has a strong bond to me but tolerates other people and dogs. She was a frisbee dog until she started developing dysplasia.

      After 10 years experience with the breed here is my advice: Cattle dogs are not pets. Don't get one if your ideal dog is a golden lab because you will be overwhelmed by the intelligence and will power of an ACD. You will have to take your dog out for strenuous exercise every day. I take my girl out twice a day to the dog park where she can socialize and run.

      Treat an ACD as you would a 3 or 4 year-old human child. Never, ever strike your ACD, it is not necessary if you've done your part of bonding with your dog. You should only have to give them a scowl to have them apologize to you. Yes, they will apologize and you will recognize it. They will thank you for feeding them and you will recognize it.

      There is no other dog like an ACD. I cannot imagine having any other breed.

    • Hilary Kerrod profile image

      Hilary Kerrod 2 years ago

      This is great advice, Robyn. I also use another useful command "Gerroutofthere". I've had three heelers and the current one, now 18 months, is the most hyper and challenging. But we are getting there!

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      Robyn 2 years ago

      I am a heeler owner of 30 or so years. I have bred heelers for the last 5. There are several commands that will literally SAVE you and your heeler from having a crazy relationship! Aside regular exercise, which needs to come first, these commands will keep your dogs from getting on your last nerve in many cases.

      First!.... It should be known that your heeler, as any working dog, NEEDS a JOB and basic obedience and behavior commands will satisfy much of this need. The critical commands are as follows:

      "Leave it!"- This command can be taught in the house as you drop small bits of treat on the floor and tell them 'Leave It' with a firm strong voice. If your dog goes for the treat, you correct with a quick light tug on the leash. (As with any command with heelers, they are not fond of the leash and can either become terrified of it or aggressive towards it. Try letting them drag one around the house if they are unused to it.) Gradually give stronger tugs until you find a level that discourages but doesn't cause cringing or biting. If you find your dog biting when you correct him, at that moment, correct the biting. THEN, re-evaluate your technique. Are you being too rough? As you got rougher, did the dog get more aggressive? If so, you are probably using too much force. Finish your session on a good note, then, break and come back with a more sensitive touch next session. It will take the dog some time to catch on to the change. Eventually, this command can be used off-leash with any distraction, people, squirrels... anything. Their drive to herd is very strong so expect mistakes and be ready to correct them.

      "Settle!"- This command is the absolute best! Just because your heeler has excessive energy, doesn't mean you can't correct it when they are too much for friends, family or even you when you just want to chill. The whole point of this exercise is to get your dog to calm down. It is NOT a 'down-stay' it is just 'calm down'. This is taught best when you sit on the couch with the dog on the floor. Use your collar and leash. Run the leash under your foot. Tell your dog 'Settle' then pull up (don't yank) on the leash until it pulls the dog's neck to the floor, or until they lay down, whichever is first. Once they are down, loosen the leash. Repeat as needed until the dog is calm. Begin GENTLY teaching this when the dog is already fairly calm so he can learn easier. Then when he has a clue, try when he is more excited. There is no specific 'release word' for this command. Just do not allow them to get back up until they are calm. Eventually, if taught correctly, they do not necessarily have to lay all the way down but will calm down with the command. Just always remember to relax the leash each time he responds.

      "Back"- I use this command when I don't want my dogs to go outside when I do or when they are too 'in my face'. A tug on the leash does well here too.

      Remember, meet the dog's need for force on the leash. This may vary over time and between sessions. If the dog is super excited, it will take more force than when he is calm. Be ready for an adjustment as needed.

      Heelers are one of the 10 smartest breeds so they pick up on things fast. They do sometimes have a streak of persistence that can be frustrating but just remember to keep your temper in check and keep correcting. They will persist as long as you let them and it is really just a game of who-outlasts-who. In some situations, it is possible to distract them. This way, at least you control what they are going for. Then you can get their attention easier.

      I hope this was a help to you all! Their loyalty and affection for family, and alertness and wariness of strangers has always endeared them to me as a breed. I never have to worry about my safety when my dogs are around and have never had to worry about my kids' safety around them. Have fun with these little lovers!!

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      Katherine Shaffer 2 years ago from Columbus, OH

      haha yes! my little guy just turned a year old and his more adult-like destructiveness is starting right about now. Train, train, train is definitely a huge key with heelers :) mine goes to daycare and has lots of playtime with me on top of that! thanks for the comment! i relate to that "i absolutely love my dog, but..." line so much!! haha.

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      Mike 2 years ago

      I have a 3 year old blue heeled. They only get crazier. I absolutely love my dog, but training is a must. When they are puppies they are manageable of course, but when this highly intelligent breed become an adult they will get destructive (on a dog level not puppy level) to mentally stimulate themselves when left alone...ha this is why I run mine 3-4 miles a day.

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      Katherine Shaffer 3 years ago from Columbus, OH

      I am so happy to hear that! I'm glad all my rambling could be of some help/encouragement to someone :) But I definitely feel the pains of leaving a heeler behind a baby gate. Ours climbed over it twice!! haha

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      Taylor 3 years ago

      I cannot begin to explain to you how helpful and encouraging this article was! We have a 6 month old red heeler puppy with the EXACT problems, including mistakingly leaving her in a room with a baby gate! Thanks for a great article! :)

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