The Australian Cattle Dog was developed very deliberately by stockmen in Australia as far back as 1830.
The records show an original cross between a dog called the Smithfield with the feral dog of Australia, the dingo.
Meanwhile, the dogs the settlers had brought from Europe, called Smithfield and the Old Smooth Collie (not the Smooth Collie known today), were found to not be able to handle the long distances and inhospitable climate of the new continent, and weren't working out well herding on the new Continent. Also, the Smithfield was known to be quite a 'barker' which was unwelcome for herding cattle.
So they bred the Smithfield dog to the smooth Blue-Merle collies, also brought from Scotland, which brought some better characteristics but did not eliminate the excessive barking. Next step....to add some Dalmation and Kelpie and the Queensland Heeler emerged as a quiet, controllable, non-biting herding dog that became a great partner and the incredibly intelligent breed that today we call the Australian Cattle Dog.
The Australian Cattle Dog was developed by pioneer settlers in the 1800s by crossing Dingo-Blue Merle Collies to Dalmatians and black and tan Kelpies. Some sources say the Bull Terrier breed may have been added as well. The result was dogs that were excellent workers, herding cattle on large ranches. The dogs worked the stock quietly yet forcefully, willing and able to drive cattle across vast distances under harsh, hot dusty conditions.
With superior stamina, it was well suited to Queensland. Both its guarding and herding instincts are very strong. In 1893 a man named Robert Kaleski wrote a standard for the breed. In 1903 the standard was approved in Australia.
It wasn't until 1980 that the breed became recognized by the AKC.
The Australian Cattle Dog has also been known as the Australian Heeler, Hall's Heeler, Queensland Heeler and Blue Heeler.
"Heeler" refers to its herding skill of snapping and biting cattle's heels. Its talents are retrieving, herding, guarding, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks.
• High energy, extremely active, both physically and mentally.
• Very intelligent ~ considered brilliant ~ and therefore needs to be given lots of work to do. This is a breed not suited for sitting around in their home all day.
• Better suited for country living vs. city apartment, condo lifestyles.
• Nipping and biting is a natural instinct for this breed.
• This is a dog that becomes devoted to their owner and prefers to ‘shadow’ them, be with them, work with them every waking minute.
• This is a Breed that also prefers to be the only pet in the ‘pack’. They do get along with other dogs and children if introduced to and socialized from puppyhood.
• This breed is generally friendly, but can be protective of their family and home turf and wary of strangers.
• Tough ~ this breed was bred to work in hot climates, rough terrain and over long distances on huge ranches.
• Very focused the Australian Cattle dog is known to work even when they get injured, doesn’t know when to stop and protect himself, always working for their masters to complete the job.
• Excels in dog sports including obedience, agility, flyball and flying disc competitions.
ACDs are usually reserved with strangers and fiercely protective if they perceive their property and/or people are being threatened. Hard headed and stubborn, once an ACD has taken a shine to you, they are your friend for life. Make no mistake about it though this friendship must be earned. ACDs are also affectionately referred to as Velcro or shadow dogs because they are stuck to you like glue. Anywhere you go they are dogging your footsteps.
These dogs are very loyal, protective and alert and make excellent guard dogs. They are also brave and trustworthy. They can make some serious points in the obedience ring and in herding and agility.
The ACD needs to be handled firmly yet fairly, and it is totally loyal and obedient to its master, and it's a one-person dog. They can suspicious of people and dogs they don't know and can be very dog aggressive, because they are very dominant.
This is not a good dog with children unless it has known the children since puppyhood. Many tend to nip at people's heels in an attempt to herd them. Avoid strictly working lines if you are looking for just a pet, as these dogs are too active and intense for home life.
Australian Cattle Dogs are very easy to train due to their high level of intelligence. The puppies are born white (inherited from Dalmatian crosses), but adult colors are seen in the paw pads.
Australian Cattle Dogs are generally a quite hardy breed, but do have some medical conditions to be aware of:
Progressive Retinal Atrophy: manifests as night blindness, slowly progresses to total blindness.
hip dysplasia - a hereditary disease that can cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.
Deafness - scientists are not sure if the mode of inheritance of Deafness in ACDs is the same as that in Dalmatians (which are reported to have been used in the development of the breed).
The Australian Cattle Dog with its short hair and highly weather resistant coat, needs very little grooming and coat maintenance. If you brush it regularly with a firm bristle brush and they receive good nutrition, the coats will stay healthy.
There seems to be some differences of opinion on how often to bath your ACD - some saying regular baths won't hurt and others insisting they only be bathed when they really need to be. It often boils down to a matter of what is right and works for YOUR dog.
Those who prefer to wash often say regular bathing won't harm your dog's coat but make sure you a good quality dog (not human) shampoo that doesn't dry the coat. An oatmeal shampoo or tea tree oil shampoo works wonders. Often called the wash and wear breed, it tends to clean up really well.
Those who only bathe the dog when it's necessary suggest brushing once a week.
Since these are herding dogs, their feet really important. Their nails should be kept short to maintain their strength and the pads inspected regularly for cuts or bruises and other foreign matter. Keep the ears clean as well. The ACD sheds up to twice a year (depending on sex and geography).
Since the ACD is such an active breed an owner/handler must make a firm commitment to exercise frequently. ACDs are great running or biking companions but don't over exert the young dog or it will ruin its joints.
Due to their high intelligence, they make great obedience prospects. Be aware this very intelligence can also be a drawback as this dog is not beyond manipulating you to get what it wants. ACDs are also outstanding in Dog Sports - like Flyball, Agility and Frisbee. Many also like to holler at things that fly and have been known to chase birds up and down the yard, barking at them to smarten up and fly right.
Sponges for affection, these dogs will sit and grin at you when you take the time to talk to them and play games with them.
Due to their intelligence, the ACD is easy to train, however they are hard-headed and stubborn. Meaning, they would be less compliant than some other breeds. To have a well trained ACD you need to have the dog's respect, and vice versa.
Keep things interesting while you are training your ACD. While this breed learns fast it can get easily bored with repetition. Firm but fair training methods are best. You must be the pack leader or Alpha dog. At home, you are the dog's pack and if you don't set yourself up to be the leader your ACD will take the role over, and usually with some disastrous results. Being a pack leader isn't about being big and mean and scary. It is an attitude, an air of authority. Your dog must learn you have the power to handle him, and that handling will not lead to any harm. Your dog must trust you completely.
Your ACD won't learn if he isn't paying attention. Make sure any stimulus is strong enough to get him to give you eye contact. Working with signals only is a good way to teach your dog to keep one eye on you at all times.
Use positive, not negative reinforcement to train. Positive reinforcement is something your dog perceives as a good result. Negative reinforcement is any result that doesn't please him. Remember any inappropriate behaviors cannot be eliminated overnight. Good behaviors take time to develop.