Thinking about getting a Red Heeler? Also known as the Australian Cattle Dog, this beautiful breed is intelligent and loyal and can be a great companion. However, they’re also high-energy and need to be well-socialized.
A Dog of Many Names
The Australian cattle dog or red heeler originated in Australia in the mid-1800s. As ranchers moved into this rugged landscape, they noticed no dog could keep up with tough cattle herding work in the harsh desert environment. Farmers created the breed by crossing the dingo – a native, wild dog – with a range of other dogs for coloring, loyalty, and herding instincts.
The result was a compact, thick-set dog perfectly suited to working livestock in the arid Outback. Their unique appearance – and, of course, their place or origin – have given this dog many different names.
The Australian Cattle Dog: Blue Heeler, Queensland Heeler, Red Heeler Dog and More
The breed was known as the Australian heeler or Queensland heeler first.
The “heeler” part of their name comes from their tendency to nip at the heels of cattle as a way of herding, and the name red heelers or blue heelers is a reference to the color of their coat. The dog breed came to be known as the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) and was officially recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in May of 1980. Sometimes, the dogs are also known as Hall’s heelers.
Red Heeler Dog? Blue Heeler Dog? What’s the Difference?
This is purely a reference to the color of the dog, rather than indicating different breeds. The reddish-brown Queensland heelers are referred to as red heelers, and those that have a greyish or black coast are blue.
There are no rules about the color of the parents producing any particular colored heeler puppies – except that red and blue won’t make purple.
Sometimes these dogs will have a short tail, and herein is the official difference – to be certified by the American Kennel Club, a heeler or (to use the official term) Australian cattle dog must have a long tail.
Appearance and Personality of the Red Heeler
The Australian cattle dog (whether it’s a red heeler or blue heeler) has a strong personality. Some distinctive traits and qualities are:
- Bold and courageous
- Highly intelligent and alert
- Determined, and sometimes stubborn
- Tendency towards roughhousing
- Natural desire to chase and herd
- Suspicious of strangers and dominate other dogs if not socialized
- Affectionate and loyal dogs towards a firm but loving owner.
Australian cattle dogs are arguably one of the most handsome breeds.
They’re thick-set, muscular, and strong dogs. Despite their short coat, they shed a lot. Their patterning and color is attractive, often brindled or mottled. For a red heeler dog, this is a mix of brownish-reds and white; the blue heeler tends to have a grey and black coat speckled with white and some golden-browns.
Generally, a red heeler has robust health and will live 12 – 16 years on average. One common ailment is hip dysplasia and (as with many pure breed dogs) inherited eye conditions.
The Hardiest Breed of the Outback
Don’t forget this dog was bred for the extreme conditions of the harsh Outback, and for a working life!
Australian cattle dogs still have the wild dingo’s endurance, stamina, and natural adaptations for the Australian western desert.
Heeler Dogs Need a Lot of Space
It’s not surprising that these cow dogs need plenty of exercises! Many of their natural behaviors as herding dogs (nipping, chasing, barking, territorial instinct, barking) are not suitable for the home, so as a responsible owner you need to make sure they have an outlet.
Between their intelligence and high energy levels, a red heeler or blue heeler will only be the right choice if you have plenty of time for them. They need lots of exercise outside and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored.
A Working Heeler is a Happy Heeler
A bored blue heeler will tend towards bad and even destructive behavior. They need the chance to express their natural traits. They’re a working dog breed after all! Some of the following activities will help your dog stay happy:
- Herding or working livestock
- Joining you on hikes
- Participating in sports
- Advanced obedience training
- Taking part in agility or obstacle courses.
5 Reasons the Australian Red Heeler is Such a Good Working Dog
- They’re a hardy breed, strong, muscular
- They have high energy levels
- Their determined personality allows them to face even the most stubborn of cattle
- They enjoy driving and chasing things
- Their intelligence means they’re able to problem solve and learn to follow instructions
Not for First Time Puppy Parents: They Need a Strong Alpha
Red heeler puppies are incredibly adorable, but they need a firm owner! With a red heeler, training is crucial.
Because Australian cattle dogs are clever and can be stubborn, they need an alpha to properly socialize and train them. Some traits that will need attention are:
- Aggressive behavior towards other dogs and animals
- Suspicion (sometimes aggression) towards strangers
- An instinct to chase things that move (including cars, animals, joggers, children)
Keep in mind that it can be hard to predict the future temperament of red or blue heeler puppies.
If you have doubts or are inexperienced raising pups, an adult dog may be a good choice. Their personalities and traits are already clear, and in a well-raised dog, the hard work of heeler training and socialization will be complete.
Popular Heeler Dog Mixes
Because heelers can be such a demanding dog as a pet, sometimes cross breeds and mixes can produce a puppy that’s better suited to smaller homes, or with a mix of traits.
The Pros and Cons of an Australian Cattle Dog Mix
Breeding Australian cattle dogs with other breeds can produce a puppy that has the red heeler hardiness but softer personality traits. However, your mixed puppy is still going to need plenty of exercise and stimulation!
One of the big benefits of cross-breeding or mixing dog breeds is genetic diversity. As well as new traits, this can reduce chances of hip dysplasia and eye problems.
Red Heeler Lab Mix
This popular mix has some of the loyal qualities of both breeds brought together. This mix still has high energy but a mellower personality. It can make an ideal puppy for an active family.
Red Heeler Mix
Any mix with a red heeler can add robustness and loyalty to the qualities of dog breed its being mixed with. One of the other benefits can be some beautiful coats!
Blue Heeler Mix
The same things apply in mixing blue heelers as with red heelers – after all, the two are the same species! Keep in mind the personality traits of both breeds. You’re likely to get a mix of the two.
Blue Heeler Border Collie Mix
These are excellent working dogs, tending to combine the best qualities of both breeds. The Texas Heeler is a popular breed, a mix of the ACD and Australian Shepherd (which has border collie in its background). It’s very popular as a companion and a sports dog.
Why People Love the Border Collie – Heeler Mix
Mixing Australian cattle dog border collie breeds makes a great pet for an enthusiastic owner. They’re more laid back than exuberant border collies and deal better with the heat, but have some of the general friendliness of the collie.
Look! A Red Heeler Puppy!
Australian cattle dog puppies are wonderful balls of energy and fun. If you’re seeking one out, look for a responsible breeder.
Beware if you see a red or blue heeler pup for sale in a pet store – this could be a sign that you’re not dealing with an experienced breeder, and pups may not be as well cared for or as easy to train.
Red Heeler Puppies for Sale!
Whenever you see puppies or dogs for sale, it’s important to check they have a good background and are also in good health. Always visit Australian cattle dog pups before buying! Some tips are:
- Do the pups seem alert and healthy?
- Check the environment – for example, is it clean? Are the parents around?
- What traits do the parents have?
- Have the pups been socialized?
- Can the puppy hear?
- Can you contact the puppy’s veterinarian?
- Does the breeder give a good impression?
If it’s important to you, also check if the parents and pups are AKC registered.
Red Heeler Puppies are Pricey
Australian cattle dogs are one of the popular breeds and sometimes you can expect to pay more when you see these cow dogs for sale. If you’re going for a purebred that’s certified, you’ll always be looking to pay more.
But if you’re willing to put in the money and do your homework first, it could be well worth the extra cost!
Red Heelers are hardy and tough, but they will shower their humans with tons of love and loyalty.
Australian cattle dogs can be rewarding companions for an owner who has the time, discipline, and love to care for a Heeler. Blue and red heelers are true dogs and can be as determined by their affection as they are in their personalities!