Australian Cattle Dog

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Australian Cattle Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Australian Cattle Dog

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #169 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Australian Cattle Dog breed is also commonly known by the names ACD, Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, Queensland Heeler.
12 - 14 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Pastoral Group
Males 46–51 cm
Females 43–48 cm at the withers
Males 15–22 kg
Females 15–22 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£300 for KC Registered
£408 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


Australian Cattle dogs as their name suggests are native to Australia where they are highly prized as working dogs all thanks to their strength of character, stamina and ability to work for long periods of time. Over the years these attractive dogs have fast become a popular choice in a home environment not only in Australia, but here in England and other parts of the world too.

They are often called Heelers because of the way they herd livestock which is by nipping at their heels and although they can be wary around strangers and protective of their "family", they are loyal and highly intelligent dogs that boast an implicit devotion to any jobs they are asked to do.


Australian Cattle Dogs have been around since the eighteen hundred’s in their native Australia, but only arrived on British shores in 1979 when John and Mary Holmes imported the very first dog from Australia. However, two puppies were also imported to the UK at around the same time by Malcom Dudding and it is these dogs that boast being the foundation stock of the ACD we see in the UK today.

ACDs are the result of careful, albeit intensive, crossbreeding in their native Australia when it was found that dogs bought over from other countries were not up to herding and controlling cattle when they were taken to market. This involved long treks across difficult terrains which imported dogs were just not up to. The dogs that were used to create the breed were Dingos, Kelpies, Dalmatians and Bull Terriers, but as previously mentioned ACDs have been around since the mid eighteen nineties when dogs were needed on ranches in the outback. A farmer called Thomas S Hall crossed a Dingo with two blue merle Collies he had imported from the UK. At the time, the dogs he produced were called Hall's Heelers, Blue Heelers, Red Heelers or Queensland Heelers.

The first breed standard was established in 1903 after which time more records were kept of these dogs by a man called Robert Kaleski who also wrote many books on the breed. Being very independent thinkers, ACDs soon earned themselves the reputation of being highly intelligent and capable of working on their own without the need to always rely on people to tell them what to do when herding livestock over vast distances.

Today, the Australian Cattle Dog is still highly prized and regarded as a very skilled working dog in their native Australia, but they have also made a name with people all over the world for being wonderful companions and family pets as well as working dogs.


Height at the withers: Males 46–51 cm, Females 43–48 cm

Average Weight: Males 15–22 kg, Females 15–22 kg

Australian Cattle Dogs are strong and compact giving the appearance of having great balance and a lot of power. Their heads are broad and nicely proportioned in relation to their body with a slight curve in between a dog's ears. Their cheeks are noticeably muscular and they boast strong jaws and muzzles that are neither too short or too long with a black nose.

Eyes are an oval shape and dark brown in colour with dogs boasting an intelligent, calm look. However, ACDs are known to have a bit of a "suspicious" glint in their eyes, especially when around strangers. Their ears are neat and broader at the base which dogs hold pricked and they are set wide apart on a dog's head. They boast a clean jaw line and a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.

An Australian Cattle Dog's neck is muscular, very strong looking and their forequarters are also powerful with well laid back, sloping shoulders. Legs are strong and well-muscled. As previously mentioned, the ACD is a compact looking dog and they boast a strong body with a nice level topline over a well sprung rib cage. Their chests are deep and muscular again showing a lot of power and strength.

Hindquarters like their forequarters are strong, broad and well-muscled and dogs have strong back legs with well-developed thighs. Their feet are round with short, well arched toes and hard, tough pads perfect for driving livestock over long distances. Their tails are set low and hang with a slight curve in them although when dogs are excited or alert, they hold their tails slightly raised, but never too high.

When it comes to their coat, Australian Cattle Dogs boast smooth, double coats with a shorter and much denser undercoat. Their top coat is coarser and extremely weather resistant. The hair on their underbody and back of the legs as well as around their neck is slightly longer, but the hair on a dog's head, the front of their legs and feet is neat and short. Acceptable coat colours include the following:

  • Blue with or without markings
  • Red Speckle with or without markings


Australian Cattle Dogs are renowned for both their courage and their intelligence. They are also known to be highly suspicious of people they don't know, but they are tremendously loyal and protective of their owners, their family and property. As working dogs, they are totally devoted to the job they were bred to do which is to herd livestock over great distances when asked to.

They are also devoted and trustworthy family dogs, known to be as kind as they are tough. The ACD is considered to be a "natural" breed of dog that boasts very few hereditary or congenital health issues that are so often seen in other pure breeds. Because they are so intelligent, the Australian Cattle Dog does really well at agility, obedience and other canine sporting activities. They literally thrive on the partnership they form with their owners when taking part in any classes or competitions. However, they are high energy dogs and therefore they need to be given the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. As such, they are not the best choice for first time dog owners, but they do really well with people who are used to handling and training such intelligent, high energy characters.

Another thing to bear in mind is that ACDs were bred to nip and as such this is something they naturally do especially when excited about anything. They are also known to "nip" children when they get too boisterous. These dogs also need to know their place in the "pack" which means they have to be given the right sort of direction and training or they would end up getting the upper hand which usually results in them becoming unruly, stubborn dogs that are hard to handle.

Australian Cattle Dogs are definitely not couch potatoes and would not be a good choice for people who lead more sedentary lives. They do not like being left to their own devices either, preferring to spend all of their time at their owner's side. They are, however, the perfect dog for families and people who work outdoors or who spend as much of their time as possible in the great outdoors.

Australian Cattle Dogs also boast one of the longest life spans with one dog called "Bluey" having worked cattle and sheep for 20 years before retiring. He died when he was over 29 years old back in 1939 which in short means, that if you decide to share your existence with an Australian Cattle Dog, they will be a constant companion for a very long time if well cared for.

Intelligence / Trainability

Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent with the added bonus of them being eager to learn new things which is why they are among the most popular working dogs in their native Australia and in other parts of the world. They are best trained and handled by someone who is familiar with the breed or this type of active, high-energy dog and would not be the best choice for people who have never owned a dog in the past.

An Australian Cattle Dog's training needs to start eary and puppies have to be well socialised from a young age for them to be more confident, outgoing characters. These dogs can be quite timid when they reach their adolescense and therefore need to be handled gently and fairly at this vulnerable time. Their training also needs to be consistent throughout their lives. They are happiest and more responsive when they know their place in pack and when they are given the right sort of direction and guidance.

Children and Other Pets

Australian Cattle Dogs are generally good around kids of all ages, although adult supervision is always advisable especially with puppies because it's in their nature to "nip" which often happens when they are excited about things and this includes when children start running about or get too boisterous.

ACDs are known to be extremely territorial and therefore they can show aggression towards other dogs no matter what size they happen to be. It's important for them to be introduced to new pets and animals slowly and carefully although if a dog has grown up with another pet, they generally tolerate having them around.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Australian Cattle Dog Health

The average life expectancy of an Australian Cattle Dog is between 12 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages.

Known to be a robust and healthy dog, the Australian Cattle Dog does however have quite a small gene pool and as a result they are prone to suffer from a few hereditary conditions which are worth knowing about if you’ve decided to share your home with one of these high energy dogs. The health issues most commonly associated with the breed includes the following:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - DNA test available
  • Deafness - in one ear or both - DNA test available
  • Hip & Elbow Dysplasia - DNA test available

Caring for a Australian Cattle Dog

As with any other breed, Australian Cattle Dogs 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. Unlike many other breeds, they need a lot more in the way of mental stimulation and physical exercise because these dogs are definitely not couch potatoes. On top of this, an ACD needs to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Australian Cattle Dogs are not high maintenance in the grooming department all thanks to their short, smooth coats. However, just like other breeds, they do shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn which is when a dog needs more frequent grooming to keep their coats tidy and any shed hair off the furniture.

They don't have that typical "doggy" smell either and they don't need frequent bathing unless absolutely necessary which is just another reason why they have become such popular companion dogs and family pets outside of their native Australia.


ACDs need to be given a tremendous amount of daily exercise and ideally they do better living with people who work from home and who have outdoor jobs. They are also extremely intelligent, alert characters which means they need to be given lots of mental stimulation to keep them happy and well-balanced or they will get bored which could result in a dog becoming unruly and difficult to manage.


Australian Cattle Dogs are extremely hardy characters that can live on air which is why it's important to keep an eye on their weight. However, these dogs need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet that suits the different stages of their lives to remain fit and healthy.

If you have decided to get a puppy from a breeder, they would provide you with a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to it for the first few weeks after bringing a puppy home. You can change their diet when the time is right, but this needs to be done very gradually and carefully over a few weeks to make sure puppy doesn’t suffer any tummy upsets. If they do, it’s important to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before trying to change their diet again.

It's also important for puppies to be fed at least 3 to 4 times a day to begin with, but you can start feeding them the same amount of food twice a day when they are around 4 months old always keeping an eye on things to make sure a young dog can cope with the change in their feeding routine.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Australian Cattle Dog

If you are looking to buy an Australian Cattle Dog, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3-year-old ACD in northern England would be £19.01 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £40.81 a month (quote as of March 2016). When companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in several things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not a dog has 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 making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an ACD and this includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £1000 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an ACD would be between £100 to £120 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 Australian Cattle Dog puppy.

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