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.

What's the biggest challenge you face with your dog?

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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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      John 

      4 weeks ago

      Funny, I just checked this 4 year old page and noticed that people are still posting stories and comments about their ACDs here - way to go Katherine - you've created a nice crowdsourced resource for prospective ACD owners! I suppose I should share my story:

      Just about two years ago, and despite reading this article and many others warning us to the difficulties ahead, we bought an ACD puppy from a reputable breeder. His name is Red and he was (and still is!) a very cute, yet very challenging dog to raise and keep! The first year was so hard. There were times when both my wife and I thought about re-homing him, but we stuck it out and now he's a great dog, (mostly) well behaved, and is currently training for agility and herding (he LOVES agility, doesn't seem convinced yet about herding - go figure).

      In response to some comments below, here are a few observations:

      It really is true that ACDs need at least an hour of exercise per day. I usually take Red to a park twice a day, but a long session before/after work will probably do. Save yourself extra work: train your dog to fetch properly (get it, bring it back, give it to you) and get a chuckit ball thrower.

      They also need mental exercise. Before each meal (best to feed on a schedule: morning and evening), get some treats out and do some training: there's always something to work on: stay, sit, down, heel, fetch, tricks, obedience, agility, etc. Make him do a trick for every treat.

      Unwanted behaviors in general, such as biting, chewing, etc: this breed is just prone to these issues, but they can be reduced to manageable levels or stopped altogether. To deal with them, you have to start training early, be consistent, be strict (not mean - just never let things slide), and never let up. ACDs are stubborn and will test you, and they are very perceptive and smart: if they see a way to sneak out of following a rule, they will take it.

      To prevent problems down the line, I highly recommend that you establish house rules from the first day he/she is brought home, and stick to them. Our rules: No human food or table surfing, never allowed on furniture (it gives them notions of dominance), no jumping up, no biting, no chewing on anything but his own toys, no chasing the cat (that was a tough one), go in your crate and stay there, no barking (ha ha! just kidding - no training can stop that), etc.

      To stop biting, we tried a lot of things, but what seemed to work best was putting him in an expen and playing with him: when he bit us (as he always would at first), we would say "no biting!" or "ow!" and walk away for a while. Then come back and try playing some more. Over time, he got the message: biting makes the fun go away and he bit us less and less until he pretty much stopped.

      Chewing: easy method, though exhausting at first: give the puppy LOTS of chew toys. Keep toys always available. Never punish for destroying a toy - that's what they're there for, and they WILL be destroyed. Whenever puppy chews or grabs something not a toy, say NO and give her one of her toys instead. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually she will get the message that she is only allowed to chew on her toys.

      Aggression: socialize socialize socialize! Do this early and often: later on this will be much harder to do. Take him to puppy classes, bring him to the dog park as soon as he is vaxed, have puppy parties, introduce him to as many different people as you can (though maybe not all at once - that can be scary), let children pet him. Constantly handle your dog: pet him, pick him up, brush him, grab muzzle and open his mouth to inspect teeth (and put a treat in there - great game, gets them ready to take medicine), hold and inspect the paws and claws, basically get the dog used to being manipulated in every way. If he shows fear about something (say, a bicycle, or people with hats, or walking on a metal grate), then start desensitizing right away: introduce that thing at a distance, treat heavily, move closer, treat, etc. All of this socialization and experience training will make your dog less anxious about his world and new things, which in turn will make him more confident and reduce the tendency for fear aggression.

      And for those who say that cattle dogs are "easy to raise" and if you have problems it must be your fault, I will say this - from my observations of many different cattle dogs: every one of them is different. The temperament of this breed is just highly variable, and each one has it's own lovable quirks and hair pulling devil-dog antics. Some are sweet and gentle, others are very aggressive, some are reactive and fearful, others self confident. Some are one-person dogs, others like everyone. Some are cat killers, others could care less. Owning a cattle dog is like receiving a gift from a white elephant party: you never know what you'll get - hopefully it's not the booby prize.

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      Tiffany 

      4 weeks ago

      Our ACD Border Collie mix is now 7 months old. He is full of energy and incredibly smart.

      We hired a trainer almost immediately as he has had some challenging behaviors (biting and lack of socialization were the biggest issues). I also took him to a group puppy obedience class (more for socialization and ideas on stimulating him mentally). I highly recommend the puppy classes for the socailization alone. Classes that are kept to a small size 6-8 puppies of the same age are best.

      We are both experienced with dogs having always had them as pets (30+ years). This type of dog is a new experience. He has energy to the point where he will act out if not physically and mentally engaged every day. He is also the smartest dog we have ever had. We adopted him at 3.5 mo. old.

      CHALLENGES:

      Biting - he bites when he has too much energy & when wants something. Especially challenging with our 13 year old. He would like to bite him all the time as he gets very excited and wants his attention so much. We have to monitor and sometimes leash him to control this when indoors. However, when in the fenced yard with several kids who are at least 8 years old he is phenomenal. I always watch him (every second) while he is with the kids but he is great with them.

      Exercise- NEEDS exercise and not just a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood. He needs to walk at least 45 minutes while training (he wants to work). We practice obedience while walking. This sometimes needs to happen multiple times a day. We also have a good sized fenced yard and this helps.

      Socialization-this dog is awesome with all people but he is somewhat cautious of other dogs. He can go to the dog park but we are careful he not be around amped up dogs (like the entrance/exit area can sometimes be a little nuts) and avoid overstimulation. This type of dog needs frequent exposure to new situations.

      Demand barking- this mainly happens when he is frustrated and wants attention. It is very loud and high pitched and I plug my ears with my fingers and turn away until he stops. This behavior is decreasing and I think it is a phase.

      POSITIVES:

      Intelligent- this dog is extremely smart. He loves to work and be challenged to figure things out. It is amazing to train with him. He picks up on subtle body language movements. We even play the eye game with him to get him to go to a location (like his bed). So incredible. His ability to figure things out is a great way to tire him out.

      House trained in about 12 days with a couple of accidents after that (but really, maybe 2 more). He never pooped in the house.

      Ours is an awesome car rider. He LOVES it. As long as he is going somewhere with us he is happy.

      One thing I have learned is that I can stop negative behaviors most of the time by ignoring him. This means ignoring - no talking to him, no eye contact, no touching, turning away. This can be very hard to do when he is jumping or biting or barking. Lots of blocking.

      At 7 mo. he knows sit, lay down, shake, come, back, pick the hand with the treat hidden, sit for leash on, sit to walk out the door, heel, stay close off leash (within 20 feet), go to your bed, go to your kennel, get your toy, fetch with a ball, play frisbee.

      He is learning bang/play dead right now and we plan to start him trying rallyball and agility.

      He is a big commitment and sometimes I feel my life is wrapped around him right now. I work with him multiple times every day. It can be frustrating (I have been in tears a couple of times) but also very rewarding. He is and will be a fantastic dog. He is a puppy and is still learning. He is also a very loyal and loving dog.

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      Krista 

      5 weeks ago

      I have a 16 month old heeler named Gus. We've been training since he was 12 weeks old and we're now on our third trainer. Although he is loving and affectionate at home, he's a nightmare when we go for a walk or take him to the park. Leash aggression is the worst. He does love other dogs, only if he's not on leash. Riding in the car, walking in the neighborhood or even hiking is not fun with Gus. In the house however, he's pretty good. He is super smart, listens most of the time, can do all the typical stuff that trainers teach but he's just over the top aggressive when people come to the house or when he sees another dog. I've been told that he's bored and frustrated. Even though we walk/run twice a day, I have multiple food puzzles for him, we play outside when I take a break from work (I work from home), we're always working on training when we're in the house, I cannot fathom how he could be bored. He's just so smart I think he needs a job on a farm. Any ideas, recommendations?

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      Aaron 

      2 months ago

      Did your red heeler ever run off for a while ? Ours has been gone for 2 days and he doesn’t normally do this .

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      Small514 

      2 months ago

      I got my first heeler in February when I lived in a studio apartment on the 4th floor...

      I am a very active guy. I knew somewhat what I was getting into with a very active high drive dog but did not know how to curb some of the typical “heeler” traits that ONLY these dogs have.

      I have had labs and a few small dogs but nothing compares and I knew that. I just didn’t realize the intelligence, breed tendencies and socialization could work against you if you didn’t know what you were doing.

      First, you would think an apartment is terrible for this dog. Wrong. I have a farm, and was actually planning on getting rid of the apartment when I got him but decided not to because it hit me that it would naturally socialize him. It actually worked really well for two reasons. It helped socialize him to a degree and forced very direct exercise sessions.

      After two or three month i did move and get a place beat for us both.

      Without getting into all the tendencies the breed has, all I can say is this:

      These dogs, as we all know on here, are super smart and super high drive. I think of them as Porsche’s. Can a 16 year old drive a Porsche ? Yes. But do they know how to get the most out of it. No.

      If it’s your first time owning the breed as is mine, and you live in the city, just be patient. Yes he can do all kinds of tricks and is great with frisbee and fetching and running with me and biking etc... but the one thing I constantly work on is MANNERS! Don’t forget, this breed is super smart! Once you have taught them “no,” they understand it. If they continue to act rude, then you have to up your correction.

      Never redirect with treats. Never give them anything that they see as a reward for acting bad. Example: if he barks, don’t give in. I start by saying “no” In a deep voice, then louder if he continues. Until he stops.

      These dogs were bred from cowboys. You do not have to be gentle with them. You can throw them around, play rough etc... but they have to know when it’s time to stop. You must be in charge at all times. Remember, their job and their DNA is to manipulate. If you allow them to manipulate you in anyway, they will continue to do so constantly.

      Exercise is critical but not everything. They will learn that if every time they act like they have lots of energy they get to play frisbee. Not cool. If you have exercised them, and they still act bad then you have to teach them “no.” And be firm with it.

      Once I found Dirts level of resistance, everything changed. I simply use “eh eh” if I need him to stop something. Practice this over and over. A lot of times I will “accidentally” drop a sock, when he goes to get it, you can practice the command.

      I’m not a dog trainer but if you put in your time with this breed, I can tell you already I will never own another breed.

      I watch a guy named Stonnie Dennis on YouTube religiously. His techniques are fantastic and perfect for heeler owners.

      You can’t break their natural instincts of protectiveness and herding, but you can redirect it.

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      Julie 

      2 months ago

      I have owned three heelers.

      1: Crate train them. They love having a “den.”

      2: Treat them like a dog. They need structure and authority. You must be apha or they will. At a year old, each one of my heelers challenged me, and I had to show them who was boss. They desire to have a pack leader and they are fiercely loyal.

      3: Socialize. Socialize. Socialize.

      4: Teach them frisbee early. It will be your saving grace.

      5: Have their undercoat blown out 2X a year.

      6: Do not play ANY aggression games with your ACD.

      7: Give them lots of love and affection. They are sensitive. They are so smart. They will be loyal to you forever. But you have to understand that they NEED a leader and they NEED a job and they NEED lots of love.

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      borksj@hotmail.com 

      3 months ago

      I have a 3-year-old ACD and she's my girl (most days). However, she is not my first dog nor my first herder. I raised a border collie mix before her. Two things, I would strongly recommend teach your dog the command "off" or "leave it" this included you it will stop the biting and chewing, and you can get items back that have been stolen. Mine still thinks it's big fun to steal dirty socks out of the laundry basket and run around the house. I also use this command while play fetches occasionally which eliminates the tug of war battle to get tennis balls back.

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      Heeler girl 

      3 months ago

      Interesting to read this thread, we raise heelers, I have 2 left and have started on some simple training, they truly are sooo smart! They just blow me away with their “tricks” like trying to out smart me so they don’t have to work so hard, ‘forgetting’ commands, but yes, also very loyal, and they KNOW when they have been naughty! Our adult dog Sadie hangs her head and looks sooo repentant, and fortunate for her also too adorable! We live on a ranch and she works cattle, so exercise is never a problem. I don’t see us ever having a different breed! Anybody need a pup, let me know!

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      Dallas 

      3 months ago

      I have had acd's all my life and never had a problem.if your dog is out of controll its on you.and you probly cant controll your kids either.so who's fult is that.think about it.

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      Larry 

      3 months ago

      Our Heeler Hank, whines and groans, the whining is usually for a reason (he wants something). These guys are smart and will be totally focused on you as they get older. I work from home and he rests right under my feet. However, he does require getting rid of all that energy, one of his favorite toys is the Amazon Pet ISqueak (this guy anyway). Also, tennis balls another favorite. I think as you begin to train him, you will be pleasantly surprised! He will make you feel like a pro quick...

      He is scarred to death of feathers.

      good luck

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      Overwhelmed 

      4 months ago

      My husband and I have a one year old ACD. We decided to try a puppy out to liven up our quiet home (we don’t have kids). My husband choose the breed because his friend had a three year old ACD that was really adorable, quiet and mellow and he just fell in love. I didn’t read about the breed or do any research because my husband is usually so thorough. Each time we buy something he reads articles, reviews and talks to people before deciding so I trusted his decision.

      When we brought Sam home he was so cute but within a few days when he wasn’t sleeping he began biting our heels everywhere we went. It hurt so bad that I started wearing rubber rain boots everywhere. Then I read something that said you should stop walking and stand still until they stop. After doing this for months it finally ended and now he only nips if we bolt or run off quickly.

      At this time he also started a high pitched shriek bark. Apparently this was his demand bark. Anytime he wanted something he would shriek often times this was when he was close to our ears like when riding in a car. I had never heard a sound so evil. My ears would actually ring after he barked like this. Not really knowing what to do again we both did some reading and learned that you should never give in to this. So we didn’t. This barking went on for months. We just ignored it and eventually it went away. Eventually the demand bark was replaced by a deeper traditional dog bark and thus begins a new chapter. This barking was whenever he heard someone walk by (outside) or whenever he saw dogs. Although it was better than the demand bark it was still really over the top. If another dog walked by he would bark hysterically and lunge on the leash. Unfortunately there isn’t a solution for this yet. It is so bad that my husband and I bicker whenever we walk him from the stress. I have tried a peanut butter kong and treats to distract him but this only kind of works. At some point (oh please don’t judge me) I got a bark collar. That pretty much helps except sometimes he cries like it has really hurt him so it is still not a great solution.

      ACD’s are very high energy. I learned that when he latched on to a jacket hanging in the entry way and ran with it until he tore the jacket hook out of the wall and tore out the drywall with it. Then he chewed up our shoe rack and an antique table my aunt had found at a second hand store that I have had since college.

      At that point I begged to get rid of him. I cried, but my husband had never had a dog before and he was attached. So I decided to keep trying. Afterall Sam was and is still a puppy.

      One thing I think is interesting is how hearty and healthy this breed is. Since we got Sam he has eaten cooked chicken bones accidentally. I was up all night worrying that they would cut him. But he just threw them up. Just last week he chewed up three iphone chargers and ate the small end of the plugs, he ate a bulb off the Christmas tree. Its crazy he has never had any health issues. He can digest anything.

      At some point he was and is so destructive that we realized we weren’t excercising him enough. This breed needs to run full force until they stop and lay down and are done running. So anyway, we began taking him to some hiking trails near our place. It was great. We would mostly go at night because during the day there were too many other dogs that he would bark aggressively at. Again, yeah we need to figure out how to break him of that probably by socializing him more. Anyhow, we would walk and talk and Sam would just run off his leash through the trails. My husband would call him to come and give him a treat when he got to far away. This went on for months. We would take him on all these hikes. Then tick season began and I found a tick that had climbed off him onto the floor and up the wall right behind where my pillow is. We found another one on him. Then one night before my shower I got bit by one. At that point, we decided to wait until tick season was over.

      Another thing he likes to do is topple over a full water bowl. This went on for awhile until we got spill proof bowls.

      The shedding. Oh my gosh does he shed. My husband read that they loose their coat twice a year. Ok well that’s not totally accurate. I sweep up piles of hair on a daily basis. When we first got him we couldn’t figure out why he was shaking off so much. Well he shakes off his hair. Sometimes right after I have vacuumed or swept the front room he walks in and shakes off a few times and its all covered with hair again. We did get him neutered and although some articles suggest that it helps, it didn’t.

      We also have two cats. For some reason Sam keeps giving them fleas. We put him on an oral flea and tick medication. Which keeps pests off him but he still bring things home. We thought if we got Sam as a puppy he would get a long with the cats but they just tollerate each other. One good thing is that he mostly respects their space, but he does try to herd them sometimes.

      Training him to do just about anything has been easy. He learned to go to the bathroom outside in a few months. He loves food in a kind of an obsessive way. I trained him to go to his crate for bed on command, he can sit, rollover, play dead, shake, come, stay, leave it and wait. I think wait was the most valuable command. I taught him to sit and wait for meals and before I walk outside( so he doesn’t knock me over when the door opens) if a piece of food falls on the ground that I don’t want him to eat, I say wait or leave it and he does.

      I can’t begin to describe how smart Sam is. However, with that intelligence comes great responsibility. These dogs will walk all over you if you let them. I really don’t recommend this breed unless you have a lot of free time and want a big challenge. I also feel it’s necessary to have some land. Sometimes we take him to my mother in laws house. He will go in the pool in a raft and loves to run in circles on the lawn for sometimes over an hour. However he does like to dig and left alone too long he begins digging holes in the landscaping. These dogs belong on farms or on tons of land or in a backyard where digging is ok.

      Again if I could go back in time I would have researched the breed more and figured out what I was getting myself into. I would not have gotten him.

      If you already have one and are overwhelmed, just read as many forums and articles as you can. It really helps.

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      Laney 

      4 months ago

      I disagree with this a little.. I got a red heeler mix at four months and she hardly chewed a thing. Sure if we left it out in the open while we were gone and it was a T-shirt or shoe, she would have a nibble. Other than that, I did not experience this torturous chewing. I find with heelers- the more you exercise them, the less they will punish you with destruction. Just keep on taking them

      Out and you should be ok. They are such smart dogs that I trust my girl off leash, she chases elk and deer, and always comes back. She learned all her tricks on the first night too! From then on I barely had to teach a thing. Very loyal and loving dogs.

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      David Crouthamel 

      5 months ago

      My blue heeler TINKERBELL. Eats the insoles out of my shoes. Now the kicker one is my vertical blinds chewed 2ft up. Looks like a great white shark took a bite. But i still love her

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      Jean 

      5 months ago

      We adopted an Australian Cattle dog/Australian Shepherd mix four years ago. She was about 1- 1.5 years old when we got her so now she is around 5. She was a wild, crazy animal when we first got her, and not house broken. We took her for Mirror Method training for six weeks and worked on house training. I tried to give her back to the SPCA three times, because I didn’t think I could handle her, but my husband wanted to keep her. Before the third attempt at giving her back I was on the couch crying, and she came up on the couch and laid across me with her face right up to my face and I could not go through with it. She is super smart. She is high energy and demanding, more so than any dog we have owned but she is so sweet and loving and has a big personality. We walk her twice a day and she goes to agility classes. These dogs are working dogs and need an active life to keep them out of trouble. Best dog I have ever owned, so don’t give up.

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      Vanessa 

      5 months ago

      I have what I think is a Blue Heeler mix. She's tall and maybe has grey hound in her, because of the way she is built. Fastest dog ever, except for grey hounds. She has destroyed so much stuff in my house from separation anxiety. Super smart. Has broken out of kennels. I love her. Lots of work, but she is beautiful and my girl.

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      david 

      5 months ago

      we rescued a red heeler a couple months ago he is just over a year like maybe 14 months and it is a learning experience i have raised pitbulls my whole life and they can be high energy, i thought then we got Bandit he is everything you wrote about i have to throw the ball for him several times a day, swimming is a good outlet too but i am absolutely in love with this breed and i will have a heeler for the rest of my life or as long as i can keep up with one

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      Alyssa 

      5 months ago

      I never have to be too tough on my ACD. Once she learned the rules, all I have to do is give her a stern talking to and she feels terrible. We even tell her to “say sorry” and she’ll return to you(very sad) and give you kisses and love. Best dog I’ve ever had. She never runs out of love or energy.

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      Lobo 

      6 months ago

      We just got a 2 year old ACD. We knew he would need a lot of physical time, walking, playing. Also beeing 2 that he had been through something's.he had been with his last family since 10/2017. He had been found in a field in another state then taken to the shelter. It was a kill shelter so they relocaed him to another state. He is very smart, sometimes I think to smart. Neither myself or bf like crates also have had big dogs before. However this adorable guy just having a hard time. He jumps on furniture to see out windows. He is whining if we put him outside he scares everyone cause runs and batks at kids on little play bikes that makes noises, guys on four wheelers, birds. Not sure what to do. We know patience and time. How do we get through the trying time.

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      Dude 

      7 months ago

      I’ve had four ACD’s and would say if you put your training time in and throw them a tennis ball 3 times a day for twenty minutes you’ll have a friend for life. They need WORK in the form of play, training or other purpose. Seems like after 1 1/2 to 2 years if you’ve put your time in and showed them whose boss you’ll have a loyal companion for life. Their a tough breed with a big heart.

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      Greg 

      7 months ago

      You have to be a very patient person to own a cattle dog.most people don't have the energy of the patients to deal with a one.they are not your typical dog.

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      Greg 

      7 months ago

      They don't make the best pets.I've had mine for 2 years and I'd say there's more bad about them then good basically my life revolves around him.A tired cattle dog is a good cattle dog!

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      Pacience 

      7 months ago

      Also can we all just agree on how soft this breed is? When i first touched him which was the first time ever touching a ACD I was in awwww so the fact that he gives hugs is awesome but I was reading all the comments & no one talks about theres giving hugs.....i wonder if its just him.....

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      Pacience 

      7 months ago

      I was reading your last statement about him being sweet. I have a red heeler as well. He turns 1 this month. I didn't get him until he was 6 months old though, a friend i knew was getting rid of him cause she just had a baby & it was winter time so she couldn't keep him outside. I actually paid nothing for him. But let me tell you.... He is a handful. He doesnt bite hard like yours did but he does like to nip on fingers & every now & then he will get a good one in there but for the most part he's good on the biting area. But he barks all the time & it's soooooooo loud. Screaches my ears & when you tell him no he does it again & just looks at you like haha. But the getting back to the sweet part. He gives hugs!!!!! I did not teach him this & as far as i know the previous owner didn't either. But every time i get home from work he'll jump on my bed & stand up on his back legs until i walk over to him & when i do he lunges at me & wraps his paws around my neck & shoulder & squeezes. It's the most amazing thing. He also does it if you sit on the floor, he'll run up to you & do it. It's the cutest. But he is literally teriffied of covers or comforters or towels. As soon as you raise it up he cowers or runs away, it's sad & idk why he hates them. & i dont think the previous owners gave him baths because he is terrified of water & idk why. Maybe you could give me some insight? Thanks.

      Oh btw his name is inferno & it suits him well that's for sure.

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      Kalli Wahls-House 

      7 months ago

      We rescued a red heeler 6 months ago from my parents who had cats but live on a farm. She was herding them and my parents are older (50s & 60s) and the dog was too much, jumping, nipping, and all. So we took her in. We live in town, have a good size fenced back yard. Husband and I love her but she's starved for attention and we cannot deal with her instinctual behavior. We know it's not her fault but we just can't take care of her. We're asking around for people to take her (must be country living). We love her enough to let her go. I dread going to see her most of the time because she hurts me, even if I reprimand her. We don't play with her enough and that is both of our faults. We've both had dogs before (not together), I lived in the country and we had many drop offs we just fed and I loved on and kept for many years. We've had one pit bull, border collie (awesome and smart dog), lots of lab mixes, and just mutts. I've had dogs in my life since I was very little but never like her. We tried to get her a companion, a female dog close to same age but they kept fighting and I didn't want her to hurt the other dog (visiting dog someone wanted to rehome--very docile dog by the way). We are actively trying to help our dog but it's heartbreaking on both ends. I don't want her in a shelter, she's penned up enough here in our backyard I can't imagine a shelter pen. :( Just heartbroke.

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      ginger 

      9 months ago

      I agree with Martin a cattle dog is like a toddler. We adopted Mana a merle white heeler but not deaf at 7 years old. Heelers do not belong in shelters, anyway she was the most loving, most precious dog ever, biggest personality, we recently lost her to cancer at 14 and I am still so heartbroken, she was my third child. We had two dogs, Mana and Frida a chihuahua mix terrier. I love Frida too but she is more like a dog, Mana was like a toddler, I miss her so much that I don't think I will get another dog after I am left dogless some day, the pain is just too much. Loosing a heeler is like loosing a child, I'm just warning you. I'll get through this one day but for now it still hurts.

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      Carolyn 

      9 months ago

      I rescued a 2 yr old Golden cattle dog mix named Barkley 7 years ago. He is a fantastic creature. He is physically gorgeous with golden coloring and a white stripe and freckles. Incredibly smart, but willful. Have had some leash aggression issues with him and spent a lot of money on training. I have grown to love his quirky personality and learned how to handle him. He is a professional beggar and would eat all day if allowed. He has charmed everyone who meets him and I couldn't ask for a better companion or protector.

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      David Skehan 

      9 months ago

      My family dog I also a acd. His name is Johan and he has a few quirks like wining for food. Or just snatching it out of your hand if your not looking.one thing that I have to say about this breed is that he bites. Not in a bad way for my family, but if your not family you shouldn't show us aggression if he is with us. at that moment when he bit a guy I know. I was 100 percent in love with him. Knowing that he will protect my daughter makes him a keeper. That's one of the upsides of this breed. They are committed to your safety. So walks in the woods are a breeze, your little protector is with you

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      Kim 

      9 months ago

      I have a 8 month of Blue Heeler name Zeke. I have read most of the comments. Zeke is not your typical heeler. He is my house dog. We got him when he was 6 1/2 wks old. We also had his brother (littermate) Dez, but he was ran over right after his past Christmas because he wanted to chase the farm truck up our driveway nipping at the tires. Bad trait for these dogs, break it if you have one that does it. We had shocking collars on order when Dez was killed. My husband says he is defiantly my dog. They say the breed will pick an owner. He cuddles in the bed with me, latterly right on the pillow...LOL. he will climb up in my recliner. If my husband hugs or kisses me, Zeke will look at us and bark. At this time he only knows 2 commands. We also have 2 cats that he does not hurt at all but he sure loves to hear them hiss and meow at him. My 7 year old plays pretty rough with him and he don't hurt her. He will tear up something gif you leave it within reach. he has even pulled the cable off the side of the house. He must of been real mad that day. When he is destructive, he is always at home alone while we are working. Him and his brother tore up all my outside decor this last Christmas. He rides in the back of the truck, he rides in the car really well. When I get his body harness he knows he is about to go for a ride. He loves to hunt, fish and he is more scared of the cows than they are of him. So even though he loves to have fun he also loves to work and protect his home which he does very well.

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      JoBarco 

      10 months ago

      So glad to have read this article. We got our ACD mix puppy 4 weeks at 8 weeks old from SPCA 3-1/2 hours away. The biting is so bad that my husband wants to take her back. We have always owned dogs, are usually get them at Pups, since we’ve been married 42 years. I do not want to give up on her, and I do have her signed up for obedience training starting on March 1. Could not get her in sooner. We have an 87 acre farm, but do not have cattle or any kind of big livestock. We have chickens and guineas. I am very worried about when the grandchildren come up. The youngest is five. I’m hoping she will settle down as she gets older. In the agreeKent That we signed when we got her, there is actually a clause that we are not allowed to sell her or give her away, but if we need to give her up we have to take her back to that shelter. Besides not wanting to give up on her, I do not want to make another 3 1/2 hour trip each way to take her back. Just hoping the training classes for work. She is the cutest and smartest little thing. The house training is going great and we actually have her crate trained as well. She slept through the night from the first night she was with us, and always sleeps for at least seven hours during the night. I don’t know if it is a mistake to take her around the chickens or not, but we did take her out there when we first got her, and a couple of the head hens would not let her get close to them, they ruffle their feathers and she ran.

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      Arfarf 

      10 months ago

      My blue heeler is fifteen years old, and he is still a colossal pain in the ass. He doesn’t destroy things, but every damn day he whines for hours. He’s smart, but he’s an utter imbecile. He has no common dog sense. We have a yard and he has toys and another dog to play with and we walk him and exercise him. He’s the worst pet I’ve ever had and I’d die before I got another.

      Unless you live on a farm or ranch and intend to use your dog as a herder, you have no business owning this breed. We took him as a rescue from a bad situation. If I had it to do all over again, I’d’ve taken him and then gotten him to an ACD rescue. It’s been horrible.

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      D Reynolds 

      10 months ago

      My husband and I got our first ACD almost 6 years ago. Although being an experienced dog mom, I was not prepared for what I a little while later while on a trip to Vegas woke in the middle of the night in cold sweats having a nightmare that I left my dog nanny with a baby chupacabra. I began to doubt my ability to own a dog and my sanity to boot. I might add, I have all her baby teeth saved to one day make a necklace.

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      Taylor Lathrop 

      11 months 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 

      12 months 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 

      13 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 

      14 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 

      14 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! Stafford1038@gmail.com

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      Deb 

      14 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 

      15 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 

      16 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 

      17 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 

      17 months ago

      Hi,

      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 

      18 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.

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      18 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!! :)

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      18 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 

      18 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 

      19 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.

      Thanks

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      Elena 

      20 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 

      20 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 

      21 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....

    • Titolarosa profile image

      Titolarosa 

      22 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!

    • profile image

      Bahamas ava 

      2 years 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 heartily.....it'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

    • profile image

      Hdogg 

      2 years 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.

    • CamandThief profile image

      CamandThief 

      2 years 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.

    • profile image

      tifanypixie 

      2 years ago

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

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      2 years 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!! :)

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      2 years 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!

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      2 years 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! :)

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      2 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      2 years 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 :)

    • profile image

      Joe 

      2 years 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.

    • profile image

      tifanypixie 

      2 years 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

    • profile image

      Martin 

      2 years 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 

      3 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!

    • profile image

      Robyn 

      3 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!!

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      3 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.

    • profile image

      Mike 

      3 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.

    • Katherine Wyss profile imageAUTHOR

      Katherine Shaffer 

      4 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

    • profile image

      Taylor 

      4 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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