Lancashire Heeler

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Introduction


The Lancashire Heeler is one of the UK's vulnerable native breeds, yet at one time these intelligent, "people-friendly" dogs were a popular choice both as working dogs and companions. Renowned for their hunting abilities and their love of people, the Lancashire Heeler is an energetic little dog that likes to be kept as busy as possible while at the same time they enjoy being part of a family and involved in everything that goes on in a household. They are known to have an affinity with older children and like playing interactive games with them which in short, means they are great choice as family pets in households where the kids are older.


History


Although the true origins of the Lancashire Heeler are a bit of a mystery, many believe the breed came about when Corgis were crossed with Manchester Terriers. The Corgis were used to drive cattle to market from Wales to Ormskirk and the result of them being crossed with Manchester Terriers was the Lancashire Heeler. What is known is that these little dogs have existed in that region of the UK since the 1600's and apart from being used to herd and drive cattle, they are also very adept hunters used to control vermin and to catch rabbits.



The breed was only recognised by The Kennel Club in 1981, but sadly these charming, little dogs although very popular through the ages, fell out of favour over recent times and as such, they have been placed on The Kennel Club's vulnerable native breeds.


Appearance


Height at the withers: Males 25 - 30 cm, Females 25 - 30 cm



Average weight: Males 3 - 6 kg, Females 3 - 6 kg



Lancashire Heelers are small, but very robust and sturdy looking dogs being a little longer in the body than they are tall. Their front feet turn outwards which is perfectly normal for the breed. Their heads are nicely in proportion with the rest of their body and the top of a dog's head is flat and quite wide between their ears. Their eyes are set wide apart with dogs boasting a moderate stop. Eyes are almond-shaped and dark in colour with the exception of liver coated dogs when they can be lighter so they match a dog's coat.



Their ears are erect and the Heeler has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones with dogs having firm lips. Necks are moderately long and well laid back into their shoulders. Their front legs are well-muscled and powerful showing lots of bone.



Their bodies are compact with dogs boasting well sprung ribs that extend well back down their body. They have level, firm toplines and strong loins with powerful back legs. Feet are well padded, firm and small. Their tails are set high which dogs carry over their backs.



When it comes their coat, the Lancashire Heeler has a double coat that consists of a fine undercoat and a short, dense, hard and flat topcoat that's extremely weather resistant. The accepted breed colours are as follows:




  • Black and tan with markings

  • Liver and tan with markings


Temperament


Heelers are intelligent and they love to please which means in the right hands and with the right sort of training and handling, these little dogs are easy to train. However, their training has to start as early as possible and puppies need to be well socialised for them to mature into well-rounded, obedient dogs. Heelers have a tremendous amount of energy and as such, they need to be kept busy both physically and mentally. If they are left to their own devices for long periods of time, being so smart these little dogs will find their own ways of entertaining and amusing themselves.



When Heelers get over excited, they have been known to nip the closest thing to them which could be someone's rear end, but with this said, they are not "biters", it's just that it is in their nature to "drive" and will do so when they are excited even in a home environment.



They are very good watchdogs and like nothing more than to alert their owners if there are any strangers about, but rarely would a Heeler show any aggressive behaviour other than bark and wag their tails furiously. They are very tough little dogs and tend not to show any sort of distress even when they are feeling unwell, which is something owners have to bear in mind, especially when a Lancashire Heeler reaches their golden years.


Intelligence / Trainability


Lancashire Heelers are known to be intelligent dogs and they are always eager and willing to please. However, they do have a bit of a stubborn streak in them which can make them harder for a first time owner to train. As such they are not the best of choices for novice dog owners, but do very well with people who are familiar with the breed or similar types of intelligent, highly active dogs.



Their training has to start early and it has to be consistent throughout a Heeler's life. These little dogs need to know their place in the pack and are happiest when they know they can look to their owners for guidance and direction. If they are not given the right amount of socialisation when young and if their training has been left a little too late, a Heeler would show a more dominant side to their natures which can make them a lot harder to handle when all they want to do is their own thing.


Children and Other Pets


Known to be very people oriented, the Lancashire Heeler gets on well with children. However, they are not that good around toddlers and younger children, being more relaxed and confident with older kids who know how to behave around dogs. With this said, any interaction between children and dogs should be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous.



Some Heelers have been known to get stressed out when they are around other dogs which is why early socialisation for puppies is essential. Care has to be taken when these little dogs are around smaller animals and pets because their hunting instincts might just take over with disastrous results. If a Heeler has grown up with a cat in the house, they will generally tolerate their feline companion, but would think nothing of chasing a neighbour's cat.


Health


The average life expectancy of a Lancashire Heeler is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.



Like so many other breeds, the Lancashire Heeler is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:




  • Collie eye anomaly - Test available

  • Lens luxation - Test available

  • Patella luxation  


Caring for a Lancashire Heeler


As with any other breed, Lancashire Heelers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Grooming


Lancashire Heelers boast having short, tight coats which are low maintenance when it comes to keeping things tidy and a dog's skin in good condition. A weekly brush and a wipe over with a damp, soft cloth is all it takes to add a shine to a Heeler's coat.



It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Exercise


Lancashire Heelers are high-energy, active dogs and they need to be kept busy both physically and mentally for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient dogs. These little dogs thrive in a country environment although they do adapt to living in towns as long as they have a nice back garden to roam around in whenever they can. Heelers need to be given a heap of exercise which means a good 2 hours a day.



A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these inquisitive and very adept escape artists in cause if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.



With this said, Heeler puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs.


Feeding


If you get a Lancashire Heeler puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.



Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters in fact, these little dogs are known to have a very healthy appetite, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.


Average Cost to keep/care for a Lancashire Heeler


If you are looking to buy a Lancashire Heeler you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything from £650 upwards for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Lancashire Heeler in northern England would be £18.22 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.



When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Heeler and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £900 a year.



As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Lancashire Heeler would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.


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