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What is the Temperament of the Blue Heeler? Challenges with Australian Cattle Dogs

Updated on May 5, 2013

Australian Cattle Dogs, sometimes called Blue Heelers, can make wonderful family pets. They are energetic, smart, and pleasant dogs, who have very specific needs. Potential owners need to realize how to handle the Blue Heeler’s temperament in order to have a positive experience. Blue Heelers were originally bred to be working dogs, and they are still commonly found on farms, as herding dogs. Since Blue Heelers still retain many of their herding traits, you will need to provide them with opportunities to express these instincts.

Behavior Challenges

Many people choose Heelers for their energetic and clever personality, but some pet owners may not be prepared for the level of aggression present in some Blue Heelers. As working dogs, heelers are known for being excellent herders of livestock. Blue Heelers can deal with even the most challenging livestock. Potential pet owners should be aware that aggression can be an issue, even with the right training. Blue Heelers often yearn to chase and herd things, which can be very problematic if yours gets out of the yard and wants to chase cars. Blue Heelers may also try to “herd” young children.

If your family is active and full of energy, the Blue Heeler will make a great pet. The most important thing to remember about this breed is that they love to work. Both physical and mental stimulation are imperative for the dog to be happy. If your family cannot provide regular exercise, your dog will probably develop behavior issues such as digging, chewing, and running away. Authorities on the breed state that Blue Heelers, “Must have something to do. If they aren't given a job, then they will make one.” Heelers will try to herd just about anything, and they are most satisfied when doing this type of work.

Just one way you can give a Blue Heeler a job no matter where you live

The Best Environment for a Blue Heeler

You don’t have to live on a ranch to own a Blue Heeler, but there are certain environmental considerations that should be made. Your home must have enough space for the dog to explore and express their physical needs. If you try to make a Blue Heeler into an apartment dog, you will get terrible results. It is likely that without the proper space, your dog will put all its energy into destroying your home. If you plan on adding this type of dog to your family, you must have a large home, with plenty of backyard space.

Intelligent dogs are easily bored, so mental stimulation is critical for the success of your Blue Heeler. If you don’t have time to play with the dog, then this breed is not for you. Blue Heeler owners should play with the dog frequently, give it access to new spaces to explore, and provide it with new and interesting toys. If your dog gets bored, expect to see this aggression in the form of bad behavior.

Properly training your Blue Heeler is very important. Your dog must understand that you are in charge. It will be very difficult to retrain the dog once bad habits have been established.

Owning a Blue Heeler can be demanding, but it is well-worth the effort. If you can meet the needs of this unique breed, then you will have a fantastic pet for your family. This breed is full of energy and incredibly smart. Make sure you give your Blue Heeler plenty of space and lots of exercise. If you care for your dog correctly, you will be very satisfied with this adventurous breed.

A look at the energy level of a Blue Heeler puppy

A great overview on Blue Heeler history and temperament


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    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      My husband once bred Blue Heelers, or was a partner in the business. Our Izzy, officially "Hilltop's Living on top of the Moment" was a champion and her pups beautiful. We personally had two Heelers, who were quite affectionate and loyal. Izzy favored my husband and Cruzer favored me. They did "herd" our children and playmates, but gently. Quite comical, actually. The breed is quite strong, and I agree completely - they are intelligent, and in need of exercise, play and attention.

      Good hub. Voted up & interesting.

      Best regards~

    • wychic profile image

      Rebecca Mikulin 6 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      Agreed, I come from a very similar perspective. I have great respect for this breed, the dogs are generally very intelligent and they're excellent working dogs. Having been raised around working dogs, it's simple -- give them something to do, or they will FIND something to do and you probably won't like the results.

      The primary inspiration for writing this article is the shelter where I volunteer. Because we are in a ranching community, the shelter often gets aged heelers, or ones with genetic abnormalities or other issues that make them unfit for work. There are some fairly stringent adoption rules for them, and a LOT of people get irritated about it because they can't understand why the shelter really doesn't want to adopt these dogs out as family pets. While they can fit into non-working homes, they must go to people who are experienced with dogs and who lead an active lifestyle in which their dog can participate.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Being a farm girl, I understand the value of this animal.

      But, I confess, that I find nothing about this dog to be attractive.

      If your are considering a family dog,.......research and choose carefully. ( what aspects and qualities do you expect from a dog)

      Whatever your choice..........PLEASE be a responsilby minded pet owe it to your dog, your family, and to your neighborhood.