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The ACD as its name is known in the shorter form is also known as the 'Heeler'. This is a tireless, high energy dog which can withstand the rigours of a full days work and is rated as one of the top ten breeds in terms of canine intelligence.
The ACD, as the name suggested, is a breed originating from Australia. It was developed by the early European settlers to the new land called Australia in the early 1800's. The settlers took their own European breeds of working herding dogs with them, but found that they were unable to cope with the new terrain and more importantly, unable to cope with the high temperatures they encountered. The most prolific of the settlers who set out to change the physical and behavioural traits of his dogs was a farmer called Thomas Hall. Thomas Hall and his family farmed cattle and he set about breeding a droving and herding type dog which would have the stamina to do the job which saw them herding cattle, sometimes thousands of miles to livestock markets in the major towns from their farm through unfenced cattle routes which consisted of mountain ranges, bush and scrub land.
Thomas Hall decided to experiment by crossing his droving dogs with Dalmatians, Bull Dogs, Kelpies and tamed (but still undomesticated) Dingoes. The resulting offspring over the next 30 years produced some spectacular dogs which were legends in their own lifetime which had all the traits needed to undertake this work with success. The role of this dog was to snap at the heels of the cattle, working in a team and keeping sometimes many thousand head of cattle in check. This breed became known as 'Halls Heelers'. Thomas Hall did not sell his dogs to the wider public and they only became available for other farmers to use and breed when he died and all his property and stock, dogs included, were sold at public auction. From here, they gained in popularity and by the late 1800's, a gentleman and Heeler enthusiast called Robert Kaleski wrote the first breed standards of these unique dogs.
Average height to withers: Females are between 17-19 inches with males up to 20 inches.
Average weight: Both males and females can vary between 20-28 kg.
The ACD is a particular looking dog. They are usually either a red or blue merle colour, although the pups are usually born paler or white, this being a genetic throwback to the crossing with Dalmatians in years gone by. Due to the extraordinary physical strength and stamina of this dog, it is well muscled and well balanced with a tail which is slightly shorter than the length of its body. At rest, the tail hangs at a low curve to its body. It has a broad skull shape to its head, with medium sized triangular ears which are set wide apart on its head, held erect. The eyes are round, dark and intelligent
Keen, alert and intelligent is how most people describe the ACD. This is a dog which is not at all suited to a sedentary lifestyle and the owner must be aware that if it is allowed to become bored they will most likely end up with problematic behaviours on their hands. A bored ACD is usually a destructive one which will chew anything it can lay its paws on. If this breed is not going to be used as a working dog, then it must be stimulated in other ways. It is extremely receptive to training and obedience and excels at all canine sports such as flyballl, agility, trailing and obedience.
The ACD can make a good and happy family pet though, provided the family are prepared to give it what it needs in terms of understanding its behavioural and physical needs. If socialised from an early age, it can live very happily with children and other animals but owners must be aware that the instinct to herd anyone and anything is alive and kicking in this dog. It will try to round up anything, including adults and small children alike, by its characteristic 'nipping' at the heels. The family must treat this dog firmly but fairly and, as quite a dominant type of dog, it must know its place in the family otherwise it can become aggressive.
A well balanced ACD is a joy to own but if you cannot invest the time to make this dog into just that, then this is not the breed for you.
The average lifespan of a healthy ACD is around 12 years of age. This dog is prone to some genetic conditions including deafness due to the merle gene which causes the colouration of the coat. Hip Dysplasia can also be an issue. Hip Dysplasia (HD) can affect all breeds of dog but is more prevalent in some breeds than others. It is caused by the abnormal formation of the hip ball and socket joint. Normally the ball would form a pivot point in the socket; however, some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition for HD. This means that at birth their hips are normal but as they grow, the hip joint does not grow correctly and as a result the ball no longer fits as it should. After the age of a year or so, the owner can opt to have their dog 'hip scored'. Hip scoring is a method used by vets to determine the degree of HD in dogs and involves the vet assessing a number of criteria during a diagnostic examination. If the dog is then found to have a high probability of HD, remedial action can be taken.
This breed can also be prone to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy). This is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dog. Its clinical symptoms include a degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. There is currently no known treatment for this condition.
Definitely a breed for people with a high energy lifestyle themselves, this is a dog whose most demanding need is the amount of exercise and stimulation it requires. This must be taken into account when you consider bringing an ACD into the family as they will not tolerate a couch potato lifestyle one little bit - you have been warned! The smooth and weather resistant coat is easy to groom and is noted for almost keeping itself clean and free from detritus. Do not over bathe and simply brush once a week. This breed sheds a couple of times per year so more frequent grooming at these periods is advisable.