Thinking of getting a Blue Heeler? This lively and intelligent breed is not suitable for all situations, so first read up and make sure it’s a fit.
Origins of the Blue Heeler are not completely known. It is definite, however, that they were bred in Australia from a mix of various cattle dog breeds (possibly blue dotted Collies, Australian Kelpies, Bull Terriers and Dalmatians) along with wild dingoes in a successful attempt to come up with a dog tough enough to survive the harsh outback country. They will herd anything that moves. Their tall, often over-sized ears, bright eyes, and mischievous personalities speak loudly to their dingo ancestors. It’s this ancestry which makes the Blue Heeler both an extra interesting pet, and possibly a troublesome companion.
Blue Heelers are often also called Queensland Heelers, Australian Heeler, and Australian Cattle Dog: Many breeders now call them ACD. There is also a smaller, redder, breed which I (and many others) call the Red Heeler. Both the Red and Blue Heeler are Australian Cattle Dogs but they are quite distinct from each other. The red ones are quite red with white undertones, and the blue ones are black with the white undertones. In my opinion calling them Red Heelers and Blue Heelers makes a lot more sense than lumping the breed into “Australian Cattle Dog.”
We adopted a Blue Heeler from the pound a few years ago, and have been getting to know the breed since then. Fortunately we live on a ranch with lots of space, and have been able to adapt to our Blue Heelers needs. But one thing is sure; the Blue Heeler breed is not suited for all living environments.
Heelers Will Bite and Nip
The Blue Heeler is bred with a very deep herding instinct. Their tool is their mouth. Everything is tested and touched with the mouth which is good both for licks and bites. Heelers are famous for nipping at the heels, and they live true to their names. A good heeler is constantly looking for an opportunity to sneak up behind someone or something and give them a little nip. It is done both in love and with a desire to push and correct.
A Heeler usually has a very soft mouth and doesn’t bite to hurt, just to push and correct. In the wrong conditions, however, such as when a person pulls quickly away in fear, they can draw blood! Blue Heelers are actually tagged in police dockets as the dog with the most biting complaints. They cannot be left alone and unrestrained in conditions where they are surrounded by people (or even cattle for that matter!)
Blue Heelers are very smart, and completely confident in their assessment of right and wrong. They have a very definite code of behavior that they expect every living thing around them to live up to. Our Heeler (named Kyle) does not like anyone who walks to the beat of a different drummer. If you come into our house and display any odd behavior, like a funny laugh, a happy skip, or if you like to wander by yourself, you will get a quick nip in the back of the heel to straighten you up! I have noticed that Kyle has an uncanny ability to always pick on the person who can’t handle being picked on. If you are afraid and nervous he will hunt you down. The more someone reacts in fear, the more he pushes them. If you are afraid, obviously something is wrong with you and you need to be corrected. This makes great sense to him.
You are in particular trouble if you knock unexpectedly on the door! It will take Kyle quite a long time to forgive you for sneaking up on him! It should also be noted that he stalks his prey with an evil stance and glint in his eye. Though he is really the sweetest creature I have ever met, I never blame anyone for quivering in his presence (which, of course, just makes things worse!)
We keep our heeler under control, but this could be real trouble for a new dog owner who does not have experience in training a dog. A heeler out of control will definitely get in trouble. You can’t baby a heeler, you have to let them know that they are second in command.
Heelers Need a Lot of Space
Heelers need a lot of exercise. They are a high-energy breed that enjoys running. They are quite fond of chasing balls and sticks. Kyle loves to swim and thrives on being chased around the house. He is crazy about cows and can spot one a mile away. He is protective, and hates to be abandoned or kept away from his people. All these reasons make a Heeler not suitable for apartment life. A heeler would hate to be surrounded by strangers who aren’t living up to their code of behavior. They would hate to never see a cow. Spending every day alone in an apartment would be torture, and not getting enough exercise would lead to difficult behaviors.
If you do end up with a Heeler in an apartment special care will need to be taken to get them socialized and exercised. Get them all the attention you can and you’ll have a good dog.
Heelers are Smart
I personally think Blue Heelers are the smartest dog alive. I have no scientific evidence to the fact but the look in a Heeler’s eyes is brighter than any other breed. I’m sure it’s the Dingo in there: wild, wily, curious, and slightly dangerous. I swear my Heeler can talk. He is very vocal, and knows numerous words. He loves to sing, and has particular songs that he joins in with.
In conclusion, if you don’t believe me about Blue Heelers being the smartest dog alive, I would like to introduce you to Skidboot and his movies on Youtube. Skidboot could talk, count, talk on the phone and managed to make his owner a million dollars. If that’s not smart, I’d like to see something better!