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The Lancashire Heeler is a small breed in dog and is listed with the Kennel Club as a 'vulnerable native breed' - breeds native to the UK which have less than 300 registrations of birth per year.
This small breed was originally bred to be a drover and herder of cattle. The exact origins of it are unknown, but it is likely that it owes its size and shape in some part to the Welsh Corgi and a black and tan terrier called the Manchester Terrier. The ancestors of the Lancashire Heeler were first seen as a separate breed some 150 years ago. In the late 1970's the Lancashire Heeler Club was formed with KC recognition following in 1981. Since then however, numbers of this dog have sadly declined and in the 21 century, they were placed on the KC's 'Vulnerable Native Breeds' list. A number of dedicated breeders are trying to save this dog from possible extinction, but in 2007, only 146 were registered with the KC.
Average height to withers: Up to 12 inches for males and females, with females usually being at least an inch shorter.
Average weight: Males and females can weigh up to 6kg.
A similar shape and profile to the Welsh Corgi, the Lancashire Heeler normally is a smooth haired dog, black and tan in colour (although more recently liver and tan dogs have been recognised by the KC and the breed club). Being quite short in the leg and long of the body, the Heeler can be prone to some back problems (see health section). They have a thick tail which flows smoothly from the straight back and overall, this dog is longer than it is tall. Overall, this breed is surprisingly well muscled for its size and has strong legs.
The head features either pricked or tipped ears, with a broad, smooth skull shape in between them. The eyes are a moderate size, dark and almond shaped.
Most owners of these dogs would be able to describe them in two words - intelligent and stubborn! While they are very clever and able to learn new commands and obedience skills very easily, whether they choose to or not is another thing. They do, indeed, have a stubborn streak a mile wide and when the decision has been made, they will stick to their guns. Very firm training methods are required to get the best out of this dog, but firm does not mean cruel or negative. It simply means the owner or trainer must be consistent and ready for a battle of wills. It is always best to end any training session on a good note with any breed of dog, but this is especially important with the Lancashire Heeler. It will remember for next time......
That said they are delightful dogs who are independent, incredibly loyal and have a normally sunny and playful disposition. In fact, such is the nature of this breed, many of the dogs listed on the KC's rather short list are used as PAT therapy dogs in hospices and nursing homes. Some can be of a nervy disposition and these ones are not generally suited to living with other pets and younger children, but as with most dogs, early socialisation is recommended to enhance the positive traits.
The owner of this breed needs to remember what they were bred to do. The instinct to round and herd is strong and as a result, anything is fair game from children, the postman or virtually any other animal. The Lancashire Heeler herds by snapping at the heels (hence the name) of the things it is rounding. The innate need to do this is difficult to overcome, as it is with many other herding breeds, but this behaviour and drive can be channelled into other activities such as canine flyball, agility and trailing - challenges of which the Heeler will relish.
In good health the Lancashire Heeler can live between 10-15 years of age. There are few genetic conditions but they are prone to some eye conditions including Collie Eye Anomaly. CEA is an inherited and congenital disease of the eye which affects certain parts of the eye. It is usually a mild disease that does not affect them to any disadvantage, however, breeders of this rare dog can now utilise a DNA test to ensure their dogs do not produce any pups which carry the disease.
As mentioned previously, due to their long back and short legs, the Lancashire Heeler can be prone to back injury. This is mainly caused when it jumps down from furniture, the car, flights of stairs etc but is easily prevented by owner observation and discouraging it from being in the situation in the first place.
In terms of grooming, the Lancashire Heeler is quite a low maintenance dog. Some owners simply don a rubber washing up glove or grooming mitt and run their hand over the length of the body with loose or dead hairs coming away easily. Do this once to twice a week and the grooming needs are covered. The main investment in terms of time needed to own this breed is that of exercise. A small dog with fairly large exercise requirements, the Heeler needs a good long walk at least once a day to keep it fit, healthy and stimulated.