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Honesty From an Australian Cattle Dog Owner: These Little Biters Can Drive You Crazy

I am not a dog trainer nor do I have a career in anything dog-related. I'm just a girl who did mountains of research before getting an ACD.

Me with my Australian Cattle Dog, Yusuke

Me with my Australian Cattle Dog, Yusuke

Australian Cattle Dogs Can Be a Lot of Work

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 me for picking this breed as our first dog, I want you to know that I extensively researched this dog more than I studied for my finals during all four years of college.

I read so many articles, books, blogs, etc., saying that ACDs are better for experienced owners. Those sources 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 we 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.

Colin with Yusuke

Colin with Yusuke

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 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 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.

Australian Cattle Dogs are cutest when they're dozing.

Australian Cattle Dogs are cutest when they're dozing.

Am I right? Adorable. I'm not exaggerating when I say that five to ten 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.

Yusuke post-bath around 7 weeks.

Yusuke post-bath around 7 weeks.

The Challenges of Owning an Australian Cattle Dog

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. Here are some examples of my daily hardships.

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 afterward. If you slip up even once, it is sure to rattle your system of correcting his biting.
  • Our dog was taken from his litter early (at five 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.
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  • This issue made it even harder for Colin and me 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 eight 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 habit of theirs is 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."

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 them. This love/hate relationship is unavoidable those first few nights. Your puppy is in a new home. They're scared. Their momma is gone. And if you're like Colin and me, and don't want them sleeping in your bed, then those whines are pretty horrendous those first few nights.
  • But all the books tell 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.

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 eight-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.

Playtime

  • 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 playtime 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.
  • His constant striving for attention 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 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 five 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 me 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.

Despite the occasional bite or naughtiness, Yusuke has stolen our hearts.

Despite the occasional bite or naughtiness, Yusuke has stolen our hearts.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: We have a red Heeler who is almost a year old now. We got him at six months. He mouths my hands and bites down so hard! Did your puppy ever stop that behavior?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. Our heeler still likes to mouth our hands very much but he doesn't do it unless: 1. We invite it by prompting wrestle/play time OR 2. He is bored and we have neglected allowing him to get some energy out through fetch, walking, tricks, etc.

Question: Why does my heeler bite my husband and not me?

Answer: Hmm. That's interesting. I'm not sure I have a good answer for you. My only thoughts are if he sees him as a sort of threat to being the "leader of the pack" - like he is trying to be dominate. Or possibly if he has learned through experience (training, being told yes/no) that he is allowed to bite your husband but not allowed to bite you.

Question: I have an Australian Red Heeler, he was a rescue at 5 weeks. We babied him because he was so small. He was aggressive from a small puppy. He is 2 years old now, he has been fixed and is still super aggressive. He broke my heel last August. I had to run him 3 miles in the woods 3 times a day. He is super energetic and needs lots of exercise. He is very sweet at home and snuggles. What do I do to cut the aggressive behavior?

Answer: It sounds like perhaps he's gotten away with a lot since he was very small when you got him? Perhaps he is aggressive because he was allowed to be when he was little and it is what he knows. I'm afraid I'm not very helpful for a question like this as there are too many variables in describing his behavior as aggressive. I would suggest seeing a local dog trainer and asking their advice. Perhaps you can find someone that is able to come and see your dog doing this behavior wherever it is that the behavior begins and if there is anything that specifically seems to trigger it. It sounds like it doesn't happen at home so I'm not sure what is triggering the behavior. Perhaps if it's in public it's an issue related to proper socialization? I hope you are able to find a trainer to shed some light on this for you!

Question: How safe would this sort of dog be around small dogs?

Answer: This question is a bit difficult to answer just because any dog's behavior is going to be dependent upon how well the dog was socialized and making sure you have given him/her the proper training. Heelers typically are not great "pack dogs" though. In my experience, they prefer to hang out with humans and be involved with whatever their owners are doing or whatever job they are given rather than being with another dog. But my heeler was not raised with other dogs since being a puppy so I'm sure other people may have had a different experience than me.

Question: Can using a shock collar help stop an Australian Cattle dog from biting?

Answer: We never tried a shock collar. I just used training techniques of saying no and then replacing the part of me he was trying to bite or biting with a toy he COULD bite and then encouraging it strongly. He stopped biting our ankles around 6 months of age. Now he's almost 5 and he likes to "mouth" us when we play with him because he/we like to wrestle. So he does still do a bit of biting but he only does it when we play, never hard enough to hurt or pierce the skin and he stops when we say stop.

Question: Can an electric fence help with stopping a cattle dog from climbing over?

Answer: I'm sorry to say that I've never had to worry about an electric fence because I've always lived somewhere with a 6' privacy fence or else my dogs were on a leash so I've never had to worry about my dog wandering off where he's not supposed to be. Are heeler did have some problems barking for a while and we did purchase one of those citronella collars and it worked for a little while but he eventually didn't care anymore and just barked right through it. I'm not sure if this is helpful or not but best of luck to you!

Question: Did you both work full-time jobs when you first got Yusuke and was living in an apartment with an ACD puppy manageable?

Answer: When we first got Yusuke, my boyfriend (now husband) had a full-time job but I did not. It was very helpful in terms of training that I was able to be at home with him to crate train and potty train, especially since we got him at a younger age than anyone should be getting a puppy. When he was about 4 months old, I started a full-time job and we made sure one of us came home to let him out at lunchtime then we played with him EVERY NIGHT. We would always play fetch or walk/jog for over an hour with him. And his energy still barely let up. Lucky for us, our apartment complex had a fenced-in "dog park" where we could give him proper exercise. Without this convenience, having him in an apartment would have been harder. And when we finally got a house with a fenced-in backyard, it made our lives that much easier still. So if you have the time, patience and willpower to have an ACD in your apartment, it is manageable. But it is definitely not easy.

Question: Are multiple heelers known to gang up on other dogs?

Answer: I've never owned 2 heelers before so I probably can't answer this in the way that you would like me to but heelers are very independent dogs and since I wrote this article, my husband and I have gotten a miniature golden doodle as well and I would say if anything, our doodle honestly bothers my heeler more than he does her. Heelers are a lot more independent and often even like to go and hang out on their own way more than many other dogs. They can be dominant dogs in a way just because they are so smart and independent but as long as you are properly training them then I wouldn't think you should have a problem with anything like this.

Question: Our Aussie growls and barks at everyone. She’s crazy protective of her ‘pack’. Did you have any socializing issues?

Answer: While our dog is definitely protective of us and he does always bark at strangers, he typically begins to back off once we "meet" the person he is barking at and this sort of lets him know that this person is okay and we are safe. Sometimes he still slips up but if he does, we just issue a correction to the behavior or if we notice it's making him stressed out then we will let him be by himself in his crate and that downtime typically helps him.

Question: Have you ever had a problem with your heeler pup barking at you, at every chance they get?

Answer: Fortunately, we only had this problem for a very short time and it did not happy very often. For us, he did it when he was feeling under-stimulated and needed more to do and had tons of pent up energy that we were not aware of. Correcting this behavior is obviously the first thing. This is why teaching your dog a "settle" type of command is so helpful. Then once he settles, you can start letting him get his energy out through games/activities, whether they are physical like fetch/walking/running or mentally stimulating like doing tricks or learning new ones. Our favorite mentally stimulating game to play with Yusuke is "find." We tell him to stay. We go to hide his treat in another room. Then we come back and say "find" and he comes looking and sniffing around for the treat we've hidden.

Question: How do you stop your dog from barking?

Answer: When we started having issues with our heeler barking after he started going to a doggie daycare a few days a week, the trainer we spoke to gave us the advice to physically put ourselves between our dog and what he was barking at. By doing so, you are breaking his eye contact with what he/she is barking at and giving yourself the chance to correct the behavior at the same time. So then you would issue your correction that the dog should know means "no" while you have his attention. And continue doing so until he learns. Another option we were given was a spray collar than automatically deployed when he barked. That only worked for a couple of weeks. Then he stopped caring and kept barking. I suggest the former idea.

Question: We rescued a dog from being PTS. Turns out, it is an ultra white Australian cattle dog. He is about 3yrs old and bites and draws blood what can we do?

Answer: If this has been a problem that you haven't been able to correct, I would suggest asking your local dog trainer. It took Yusuke 6 months before he stopped biting our ankles but he is 5 years old now and he hasn't done it since those first 6 months. It's a natural instinct of theirs to heel and training them not to is a lot of hard work. For us, consistently using the same correction every single time and never wavering was what saved us. It took a long time but we won out in the end.

© 2014 Katherine Shaffer

Comments

Kris on August 19, 2020:

I don’t know you personally, and I’m sorry that you are receiving hate mail (no one deserves that). However, I found your post a little concerning. Whether you meant for it to come off that way or not it did sound like you were saying a big reason for getting an ACD was for the uniqueness of the dog. Unfortunately (not saying you because I know you said you still have her) MANY people buy heelers because they are a “cool” breed to have, and then give up on them. It’s so disheartening to see how many heeler and heeler mixes end up in shelters because people have no idea what they are getting into. I currently have 2 pure breed cattle dogs. I cannot tell people enough how amazing they are BUT that I would not recommend them to most people. They are an amazing and truly special breed but they are not for everyone. I work from home and spend pretty much my entire days with my dogs. We play frisbee, fetch, go on walks/hikes/runs, trick train, and ive been building an agility course which we’ve been training on as well. They NEED to have lots of mental and physical stimulation daily. It’s not optional. Now will some people get an exception to the breed and get a really mellow laid back heeler? Of course! But why take that chance when you can choose a breed more well suited to your lifestyle? My dogs play together and with me throughout the entire day. Not to mention we are so bonded from all the time we spend together. I think if you really love the breed, don’t encourage other people who work full time and crate their dogs, live in apartments, or don’t have the time and energy to give these dogs the life they truly deserve to get them. That’s how so many of this wonderful breed end up in shelters :( Sure there are exceptions, but at what cost?

Troy on August 17, 2020:

I think healers can’t be really pinned down as far as behaviors. I have had two, Sydney my first Bluie. I actually met an Australian guy camping, that’s what he called him. I thought that was cool! My current girl is Shelby. These dogs are freaky smart, loyal and a companion that will never leave you wanting for absolute love! Never had problems. Sydney did end up being a little whiny, Shelby rarely does. 100% in my opinion, best dog ever!

Megan on August 17, 2020:

I too keep a heeler in a apartment. He was a land shark as a puppy but now he’s five and still happily living in our apartment. My advice would be exercise is not enough, their smart brains need exercise as well.

Food for thought: the animal behaviouralist I spoke to at the shelter I got him from told me when I asked about the apartment and a heeler ‘all dogs live in a cage, the size of the cage depends on the size of their living quarters. To be happy all dogs need to get out of the house or yard.’

Certainly proved true in my case, yes heeler are hard work but like anything you reap the rewards

Tina on August 12, 2020:

We adopted an ACD mix about 2 & 1/2 years ago when she was about 18 months old. We had no idea she was an ACD mix at first, I chose her because I heard her terrible story. She'd been abandoned on the streets of Tennessee. They found her pregnant, flea ridden & frightened. The vet attached to the shelter had spayed her, even though she appeared to be pregnant (her nipples were still enlarged) That really upset me. The shelter volunteer said it was most likely a phantom pregnancy, which I don't believe, as those are rare & I've had pregnant pets before. After all this I just wanted to give that poor little thing lots of love & a home where she felt safe. It took her a long time to feel safe & to know we weren't going to abandon her. She still hates getting in the car, which I feel is because she's afraid that we're going to to dump her somewhere. We would never do that, to me that's as bad as abandoning a child. Eva also doesn't feel comfortable eating around other pets or people, except for me. I have to stay near her as a guard so that she feels secure enough to let her guard down, to be able to eat. Of course she was a bit older when we got her, but still a puppy at 18 months, so she chewed everything,. Shoes, toys, even the fake leather on the seat back of my leg exercise machine, but it was really nothing out of the ordinary in our experience with other puppies we've had. In fact, I have to say that we've had dogs that were worse, but we've loved them all and they were all unique. She out grew the chewing & destroying at about a year or so after we adopted her, so around 2 & 1/2. She never whines unless she's locked out of the room I'm in. This last year Eva has become very close to me and has chosen me to be her best friend & the one she adores, and the feeling is very mutual and we are each others' best friend. I figured out she was part ACD after I noticed she was trying to herd our 2 cats & my daughters' 2 dogs and also by her colouring. I thought she had to be some sort of herding type of dog breed, so I started to look at photos of different breeds to see if I could find a match. Being from Australia myself, I had an idea that she was an Aussie Cattle dog and it made me happy when I was right. It lessened my homesickness a little bit. She's very happy with us. We have 3 & 1/2 acres and she loves to run around chasing deer & squirrels, which I wish she didn't do because they come onto our property to graze & sleep at night in the woods. But, it's in her nature & she can't help it. We took her to the vet today for an allergy shot & I asked why she kept nipping my husband's heels & growled when he turned his back to her, but no one else. She doesn't like men. The vet said that a lot of herding dogs do this. Eva probably sees me as an alpha & is trying to herd him away from me and out of the area. I feel bad for him, especially as he's nothing but sweet to her, and can't help but think some man may have been cruel to her in the past. The vet also said ACD's are unbelievably intelligent & the reason she waits for my husband to turn his back is because she can escape quickly in case he'll be aggressive towards her, which he never would be. I keep reminding her that he pays for her food and she shouldn't bite the hand, or foot, of the one who feeds her. I'm the one who literally feeds her.

Laura1984 on July 31, 2020:

@Brittany I went through the same thing, but mine is more interested in lizards than bunnies. He nearly yanks me off my feet out of nowhere when we're walking. However, the training is paying off, we also hired a professional trainer to coach us through the puppy phase. It took about 6 weeks of fairly consistent training but he is now learning to regularly obey commands. He "herds" the leash and jumps up to bite it and occasionally hits my hands with his teeth (very painful). But now that he's nearly 6 months we're seeing major improvements and that makes me optimistic about his potential to be a great dog! They really are challenging but wonderful at the same time because they're so smart.

Brittany on July 29, 2020:

This article is spot on! We adopted our heeler pup at 3 months knowing he needed a high energy family. Early on this was a MAJOR challenge as he refused to walk and needed to be herded backwards to even get around the block! At 7 months we average about 4 walks a day (facing forwards!), and struggle with the herding instinct as he's prone to ignore all his training in an effort to eat all the bunnies. We've found some awesome dog parks where he can roam and he's made some good dog friends to wrestle with. The training with a professional was key (a bit of a delay given the pandemic) and while he doesn't always listen it's an improvement from the wild beast we brought home. We still have our good and bad days, but it's super nice to hear others have the same challenges/unique rewards!

We are asked everywhere we go what type of dog he is :)

Laura1984 on July 28, 2020:

Hi Jordan, sorry you are having a hard time. Heelers do nip, and it can be frustrating. Instead of hitting her, try gently inserting your hand into her mouth until you are able to press down on the back of her tongue, not in a rough way, more firm but hold down until she retracts. Do this IMMEDIATELY, dogs only know the present, not 1 minute later. This teaches the dog that you "own" their mouth and that something unpleasant will happen when they nip. Dogs actually perceive hitting as a form of play/attention, so it will not work to counter the behavior. In fact, it may make it worse.

You can also stand up, turn around and walk away. Do not make a sound and do not look at her when you ignore her. Those are forms of attention. AFTER she calms down, reward the "model" behavior. I have been doing this with my heeler for 6 weeks and the nipping is starting to calm down. I also get the big dog bones from walmart (about $3.99 with peanut filling to imitate bone marrow), these are hard white bones, not the fake treat ones. My ACD chews on those for half an hour and it has calmed his biting because it allows him to chew to his hearts content and not on my arms or hands. I only give these to him when he's modeling good behavior such as sitting politely or lying down.

Rob Driggs on July 20, 2020:

I love my mini blue heeler , he is 6 months old and a little terrorist. He is a fast learner when he chooses to learn . Heelers have a mind of thier own .

Jordan Puckett on July 19, 2020:

I have a Blue ACD and she's about 3-6 months old. My pup has bit my face and made me bleed on multiple accounts, and she pounces and bites my other 2 dogs that are Chihuahuas. We consistently discipline her by hitting her or putting her up, but when we hit her, she just thinks we are playing and putting her up doesn't do much like she doesn't care.

Katie on July 18, 2020:

We have an ACD too. She's 1.5 years. She went through the crazy biting phase, too. Thankfully she has calmed down quite a bit. We play fetch all the time, and it seems to be the best way to wear her out. Good luck to you and thank you for sticking with it! We don't know what we don't know and we can't go back in time. :)

Laura1984 on July 15, 2020:

Thanks for sharing your insight! I am so happy to find a community of other ACD owners. I got mine completely by accident - 16 weeks from the local animal shelter. They told me he was a lab mix, but once I got home and the heeler nipping kicked in I was like, huh?! What is this?! haha. Now I know why he is so dang cute. But oh Lord was I in over my head: the boundless energy, constant nipping, and he's smarter than me, which as you know may work against you in training. I knew from then on it was a heeler breed, as my vet confirmed. I'm laughing now but let me tell you: I was CRYING on a daily basis regretting my decision. This is my 5th dog since childhood and unlike anything I had ever experience. That said, you would have to pry him from me over my dead body! He's my lovebug in everyway. What I have learned: