By Macy Gen Veterinary AssistantMacy Gen Last updated: 18th October 2022

Australian Cattle Dog


Macy Gen Veterinary Assistant Macy Gen
Last updated: 18th October 2022

The Australian cattle dog, alternately called the Red heeler, blue heeler, and Queensland heeler is a medium-sized herding breed native to Australia. The purpose of developing it was to drive cattle over a long distance along the rough terrain of Australia. Its nicknames are an outcome of the several colors it comes in. In contrast, the word ‘healer describes its tendency to nip at the heels. An out-and-out working dog, the ACDs are intelligent, alert, and loyal, but at the same time a great house pet.

It overall appears strong, muscular, and compact, with a broad skull and powerful muzzle. Their medium-sized oval-shaped eyes spell alertness and intelligence. Moreover, the ACDs ears appear muscular and pricked, being wide near the base. They even have a moderately low set tail, raised

Australian Cattle Dog Pictures

Quick Information

Other NamesACD, Red heeler, Blue heeler, Queensland heeler, Cattle dog
Coat Smooth double coat; Undercoat- Short, and dense; Outercoat: Closely fit, hard, straight
ColorBlue; blue mottled; red mottled; blue speckled; red speckled
Breed  TypePurebred
Lifespan12-16 years
HeightMales: 18-20 in
Females: 17-19 in
Weight 35-50 pounds
Litter Size2-5 puppies
PersonalityObedient, cautious,  loyal, protective, brave, energetic
Good with ChildrenYes; only if raised with them
Barking TendencyModerate; only if threatened
Climate CompatibilityGood; adapts to cool and temperate climate
Apartment CompatibilityLow; since these working dogs have high energy needs
Do they shedModerately
Are they HypoallergenicNo
TrainabilityModerately easy
Average Price$250-$3000
Competitive Registration Qualification/ InformationAKC, ANKC, FCI 

History and Origin

The ACD plays a significant role in contributing to the country’s beef industry because of the increased efficiency they have shown in handling the cattle. The country’s first cattle dogs came from a British breed known as Smithfield in the 1800s.

Despite their cattle-herding abilities, one of the major flaws of this breed was its inability to adjust to the harsh terrain of Australia. Thus, to overcome this concern, the stockmen tried to develop a new herding breed that could meet all their requirements and survive through difficult conditions. Hence Dingoes and even the Scottish Highland Collie was included in the breeding process and crossed with the Smithfield to create the hardy working dogs that ranchers desired.

 George Eliot of Queensland played a vital role in the ACDs development. In fact, in 1840, he experimented by crossing his Dingos with the blue-merle Collies, the result being some excellent working dogs. The local farmers liked the new breed’s working skills and went on to purchase the pups. Of all those who had acquired the puppies, the Bagust brothers, Jack and Harry, took the initiative of improving them further. To do so, they crossed the Dalmatian with George Eliot’s dogs. The result was a distinct breed with blue and red speckles against its merle body. The Dalmatian’s protectiveness and faithfulness, besides the loyalty displayed towards horses, was instilled into this breed.

The ACD had a wide variation in colorations, from blue to red, with a mottled or speckled pattern. However, the blue-bodied dogs were the most popular, known as Blue Heelers, while those with a speckled red appearance were called Red Heelers.

Then began the formal development of this breed. Robert Kaleski was the first to write its breed standards, exhibiting them for shows in 1897. It received the American Kennel Club’s registration in 1980 under the Working Group. However, from 1980 onwards, it became a part of the AKC’s Herding Group. The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, formed in 2004 for the breed’s betterment, exists presently. Some other prominent registries to recognize this breed is the Canadian Kennel Club in 1980 and the Kennel Club (UK) in 1985.  

Temperament and Personality

The ACD has typical traits seen in most working dogs, from having high energy levels to increased independence. It is entirely the reverse at home to what it is on the field, playful, loyal, and affectionate.

It even displays stern reservedness when it comes to its interaction with strangers, no wonder, excelling to the status of a good watch and guard dog. In fact, upon sensing any danger to its terrain or property, the ACD would generate a high-pitched bark as an alarm.

As for kids, with older well-behaved children, they would be fine. However, with the younger ones who tend to squeal and run rambunctiously, the ACD could get into their herding mode, nipping at the little ones’ heels. 

Regarding this breed’s interaction with other pets, the ACD does well with the family’s dogs. However, they could develop aggressive tendencies with unknown dogs if not socialized well. They show immense devotion to their masters. So, the presence of other dogs in the family might trigger jealousy among them if the owner doesn’t take charge of the situation right from the start.



High on energy, the ACD would not just remain contented with a walk and some playtime outdoor. To keep them on the go and happy, you need to assign them a job. If you have a farm, you could give work to guard it, and owning cattle would be an added boon indeed.

They wouldn’t adjust nicely in a closed apartment even if given ample playtime. Making the ACD participate in events like obedience and agility is an excellent way to channelize the abundance of energy they have positively.


They do shed but not all year round, somewhat seasonally one or two times in a year, when they shed their undercoat. In non-shedding season brush the ACD once a week, and bathe them occasionally. Increase the brushing to three to four times a week during the shedding season. Use a short-bristled brush to remove the dead hairs. Trim their nails monthly and brush their teeth twice or thrice a week for proper dental hygiene.

Health Problems

Some of the common problems in the Australian Cattle dog include progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, and even deafness that is mainly inherited and color-related.


The Australian Cattle dog is intelligent, ranking 10th in the Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren. So training them would not be too mammoth a task. However, their independent nature might come in the way of hassle-free grooming. Thus, a firm and tactful trainer is needed who may handle them in a better way by enforcing positive reinforcement techniques in the training process.

Socialization: That is the first thing you should start after getting the ACD home. Acquaint them with different situations and people so that they eventually get to know that every stranger would not pose a threat to their household. The more they see several individuals, mainly those associated with our daily lives, they would gradually get to differentiate between a milkman and a burglar. Also, take them to a dog park on a leash, and let them watch the dogs play initially from afar. Make interactions only when you feel that your ACD has become tamed enough to mingle with unknown dogs without showing too much aggression. 

Obedience: The sooner you train them on the basic commands like “No,” “Stay,” and “Stop,” the faster they will grasp these instructions. This would help them get rid of some of the behavioral issues they are known to have, like nipping at people,  showing aggression towards strangers, or barking unreasonably.

How to stop an ACD from biting / nipping

  1. After your dog has mastered some basic commands, say a loud ‘NO’ each time he bites or proceeds to bite. Be loud and firm but not rude.
  2. Don’t scold him but avoid interacting with your ACD after he has nipped or bitten. In this way, you can let him know that you disapprove of his undesirable behavior.
  3. Make sure you have a crate for him, where he can seek solace if kids chase him even in pursuit of play. Sometimes, agonized dogs don’t have a place to take shelter and bite whoever is present then.

Leash:  Make them used to wear a leash since their puppyhood, keeping their chasing and nipping instincts in mind, lest it would be a challenge to take them out.


These energetic dogs need their dose of high-quality dog food, be it homemade or store-bought. When buying commercially manufactured foods, always choose those rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins and lacking artificial ingredients.

Interesting Facts

  • Oakley, an ACD, was recently in the news,  rescued after eight months of going missing.
  • Sophie , an ACD has lived up to the breed’s temperamental characteristic of being brave, after the daring survival act she displayed.  When travelling by ship with her family she fell off the boat near northern Queensland’s Mackay coast. Despite several attempts her family couldn’t find her anywhere. However, the brave dog swam up to five miles and reached St. Bees Island, staying there for a while, feeding on baby goats she hunted. Finally, the local ranchers captured here, uniting Sophie with her family.


Q. What is the difference between the Australian Cattle dog and the Blue Heeler?

Both are the same, though the blue heeler is a color variant of the ACD. Those with a red coat are referred to as red heeler.

Q. How does the Australian Cattle dog differ from the Blue Heeler?

Both are herding dogs with blue or red merle coloration, with visible differences. While the ACD evolved in Australia, the Australian shepherd dog developed in the United States, deriving its lineage from the collies and other dogs brought from New Zealand and Australia. The Australian Shepherd dog is also bigger, with a fluffier coat against the ACD’s short, fine hair.

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