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Why Australian Cattle Dogs Aren't For Everyone

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3 years ago I came across a Facebook ad giving away a cattle dog mix. I've been fascinated with the breed ever since I brought him home.

Australian Cattle Dog puppy (blue coat color). Did you know that Australian Cattle Dogs are also called "heelers"? This is because they nip at the backs of cows' heels in order to get them to move where they want them.

Australian Cattle Dog puppy (blue coat color). Did you know that Australian Cattle Dogs are also called "heelers"? This is because they nip at the backs of cows' heels in order to get them to move where they want them.

Unique Dogs With a Unique Look

If you're familiar with Australian Cattle Dogs, then you probably know already that they are cute as a button, with a very unique look.

They come in a variety of colors, with only two of those being considered acceptable for the breed standard. Those two colors are red and blue. They also come in chocolate and cream colors, with different variations in all the above mentioned colors. But anything besides red or blue is considered to be a fault, although the other colors are naturally occurring in full-blooded cattle dogs.

The Australian Cattle Dog's genetics have been widely speculated, but most agree that Australian wild dingos definitely make up some of their DNA. This probably explains where they got some of their more unique personality traits, and their fearless approach when herding cattle.

It is also thought that they acquired DNA from blue merle Collies, Australian Kelpies, and Dalmatians. Their coat colors seem to agree that these breeds are a part of their history somewhere along the line.

Cattle dogs are naturally born with a tail, but some owners/breeders of working dogs will decide to have the tails docked. It's a highly debatable practice, with some stating that it serves no purpose to dock a dog's tail. However, there is always a threat of the dog's tail getting stepped on and injured when herding cattle, so not having a tail at all may come in handy for them.

The Australian Dingo. It is believed that cattle dogs were created by breeding dingos with other breeds of dogs, including the dalmatian, and Australian Kelpie, among others.

The Australian Dingo. It is believed that cattle dogs were created by breeding dingos with other breeds of dogs, including the dalmatian, and Australian Kelpie, among others.

Our Australian Cattle Dog and German Shepherd mix, Axl. He acquired most of the cattle dog traits (they are usually the dominant traits in mixed breed Heelers). He is of the chocolate variety, which is less common and not recognized by the AKC.

Our Australian Cattle Dog and German Shepherd mix, Axl. He acquired most of the cattle dog traits (they are usually the dominant traits in mixed breed Heelers). He is of the chocolate variety, which is less common and not recognized by the AKC.

Before You Get an Australian Cattle Dog

I get it, it's hard to say no to that face! But when you're considering owning any new breed of dog, it's a good idea to research what makes up that breeds personality. You probably don't hear about this breed very often, not like you do with German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, etc. So research is very important!

Cattle dogs are a true working breed. They are a favorite for many people who own farm land. And for good reason! They truly excel out in the field herding cattle. They were bred for it, and they get the job done like no other.

They have limitless energy, allowing them to spend entire days working on the farm with their owners. As a house dog, be prepared to find ways to keep them exercised and mentally stimulated.

Many people will tell you that cattle dogs are fearless, and it sure does seem that way if you've ever watched one in action. They're also highly alert, always watching for a cow to break from the herd. Not much will get past one of these dogs. They notice everything.

They have a natural born desire to herd, so if there are small children around they will tend to try to nip their ankles when they run. Chasing bikes, scooters, and even cars is not unheard of with this breed. Movement triggers them to chase.

These dogs also shed—a LOT. They are a double-coated breed, and shed pretty consistently throughout the year, but even more during the summer. If you don't enjoy dog hair in your house, this is not the breed for you. Unless you have a really good vacuum cleaner.

These dogs have a very high prey drive! If it moves, they will 100% be triggered to chase. Be aware of this when introducing them to any small animals that you already have or may want in the future.

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Australian Cattle Dog (Red coat)

Australian Cattle Dog (Red coat)

A Friend For Life Who Will Always Outsmart You

The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the most loyal breeds, but they do tend to favor one person in a family over the rest. They aim to please, but because they are so extremely intelligent, you will often times feel as if they are always one step ahead of you. It takes a persistent owner to work with them and train them properly.

Another thing worth mentioning is that cattle dogs are bossy. You would be too if you were bred to move around 2,000-pound cows every day! In a home setting, their bossy ways can drive you absolutely mad if you're not on top of it.

If they want something from you, they will figure out how to "train" you to give them what they want. And if you don't, they will let you hear about it. They are known by breed enthusiasts as being a little bit "psycho" at times. They are masters at giving you the stink eye, and some of them will argue with you like an unruly teenager.

But at the end of the day, the Australian Cattle Dog is truly a lover. Their loyalty is unmatched in the dog world, and they love their owner fiercely. A lot of people refer to them as "velcro dogs." because they always want to be near their owners, or doing things for their owners. So be prepared to have a dog that never leaves your side (except when it's time to work).

They make excellent guard dogs too! They are naturally not fond of strangers, and will usually be listening for any type of strange noises going on around your home. But they do need socialization at an early age to try to counter their natural distrust of strange people. You want to be able to have visitors and friends over without your dog growling and barking at them.

If you're buying from a breeder, try to find one that breeds Australian Cattle Dogs for companionship if that is what you're looking for. That way the instinct to be constantly running and doing something will be less ingrained.

These dogs end up in shelters a lot because people don't understand how this breed works. They are a difficult dog, but they are also so much fun and will make you laugh on a daily basis at their clownish antics. And they will offer you more love than you've ever seen from any other breed of dog.

Cattle dogs have different coat patterns. Some are speckled, with white hairs showing against a darker background. And others are mottled.

Cattle dogs have different coat patterns. Some are speckled, with white hairs showing against a darker background. And others are mottled.

They Will Bite

It's not unheard of for Cattle Dogs to bite. Sometimes it may actually be more like nipping (like they do when handling cattle). Other times it's not. They're very protective of their people, their things, and their territory.

If you're a first-time dog owner, they won't be the right choice for you. They can have low patience for young children grabbing at them, so teach your kids manners and respect if you will be sharing your home with a cattle dog.

Even as puppies they like to nip a lot. It's in their blood. When we brought ours home as a puppy, he ripped my boyfriend's pant leg because he was trying to "herd" him.

They have to be taught from a young age what's appropriate and what's not. And allowing them to play and bite at your hands as a puppy is not a good idea either. They will continue to try to do this as they get older, and will have much bigger teeth by then. Their excitement can cause accidental injury to your hands if you're not careful, and it's hard to calm them down once they get going.

Cattle Dogs are great companions, but they like to work and keep busy too!

Cattle Dogs are great companions, but they like to work and keep busy too!

If You Decide To Get One

Make sure that your whole family is aware of the possible obstacles that come with owning a cattle dog. Everybody has to function as a team in order to keep everyone in the home happy. That means that mom and dad both need to take part in making sure not to give in to the dog and ignoring important aspects of training.

A lot of times a dog will learn who is more lenient in the family and use that to their advantage. You can't stop bad behaviors by giving in when you become frustrated.

If you're dog is a pet, find ways to exercise him or her every day. Mentally and physically. Some people stand firm in their opinion that a cattle dog should never be kept as a house pet.

I disagree with the word "never." You just have to provide outlets for them to release energy and work their minds. They make all kinds of learning toys for dogs, and toys that make them work for a treat, etc. These are things that will mentally tire them out and keep you from going crazy.

If you have land for them to run, that's the perfect way for them to release energy. If not, I'd suggest at least a decent-sized yard where you can play together. I'm not a huge fan of dog parks (too many untrained dogs and bad owners), but you should try to take them on a long walk every day, weather permitting.

Spending money on a good trainer is smart if you start to notice bad behaviors. If you let them go too long, it will become habit. And habits are much harder to break. Especially because sometimes owners may be making the behavior worse without even realizing it.

Australian Cattle Dogs have a thick double coat that keeps them cool during hot weather, and warm during cold weather. So don't ever shave them. Nature knows what it's doing and the coat they have is the coat that is best suited to their needs. If you shave a cattle dog, its natural coat will never grow back the same again.

Additionally, keep in mind there a lot of cattle dogs and cattle dog mixes in shelters all across the United States. If you really would love to bring one into your heart and home, check out your local animal shelter or humane society. You might find your next best friend there waiting!

One thing is for sure, an Australian Cattle Dog will love its owner with every breath that it has in its body.

One thing is for sure, an Australian Cattle Dog will love its owner with every breath that it has in its body.

Love and Happiness

And last but certainly not least, enjoy your new best friend! A cattle dog will provide you with love, entertainment, and lots of stories to tell your friends. They will always be there for you at the end of each day. After they are done driving you crazy!

Go tire them out and then sit down and watch a movie together!

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.

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