The Blue Heeler is actually another breed of dog called the Australian Cattle Dog. The name “Blue Heeler” is a nickname derived from the coloring of the dog, as well as its way of nipping at the heels of cattle in order to herd them together or drive them to a different location.
This breed was first developed by a farmer and rancher named Thomas Hall in Australia. He realized he needing a reliable herding dog after he lost about 200 cattle in a scrub (shrub land). Originally, Hall had imported several of what is believed to be the Old English Sheepdog, and later cross bred them with domesticated dingoes.
By 1840, Hall had successfully cross bred his sheepdogs and dingoes, thus creating the Halls Heeler. Over the course of about 30 years, these dogs were bred, but only used by the Hall family. Upon Hall’s death in 1870, all of his properties and animals were auctioned off. Therefore, this was the first time in history that the Halls Heeler became freely available to non-associated people of the public.
During the 1890’s, the term “Australian Cattle Dog” was adopted by the Cattle Dog Club of Sydney. Robert Kaleski, an associate of a well known breeder, had drawn up a standard for the breed. Then, during the year 1903, the first breed standard was officially published.
During the mid 1900’s, in the United States, many people were cross-breeding dogs in order to attempt to create or pass off these dogs as the Australian Cattle Dog, or Blue Heeler. It was not until September of 1980 that the breed was fully recognized in this country. It was also during the 1980’s that the breed was recognized in other nations, such as Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Blue Heeler is a medium sized dog, with a sturdy, muscular, and compact body. Its neck and shoulders are also very strong and muscular. These features also make the dog a very strong and agile breed. Females are slightly smaller than males, measuring approximately 17 to 19 inches at the withers. Males should measure between 18 and 20 inches. Depending upon gender, the Blue Heeler usually weighs in between 33 and 49 pounds.
The Blue Heeler has a broad and flat skull that comes to a stop between the eyes, which are oval and dark. It has muscular cheeks and a medium length muzzle. Lastly, the Blue Heeler has pricked ears that are small to medium in size and set widely apart.
Australian Cattle Dogs come in many different colors, however the Blue Heeler only has a few variations. The Blue Heeler’s base color will always be either blue, blue mottle, or blue speckle. They can also have, although they may not always, black, tan, and/or white markings and spotting. Blue Heelers, specifically, also have a black mask (color patch) around both eyes. Oddly enough, all Australian Cattle Dogs are born pure white, with possibly some color on the face. The color grows into the white as they age.
The Blue Heeler’s tail is naturally long, set moderately low, and has a slight curve. Their tails will usually be a solid color with or without a white tip.
The average litter size of the Blue Heeler is 5 puppies. Average life span is 15 years.
Like many other breeds of working class dogs, and especially those who were originally bred for farm and ranch work, the Blue Heeler is very energetic and playful. This dog can often be found running around, jumping, or making other games for itself. These dogs are also very active and love to work, no matter what that may mean.
These dogs can also become very affectionate if socialized early on. Although, it can be reserved and cautious around strangers, it is usually not overly aggressive. These qualities also help to make it an excellent guard dog. Besides being affectionate, though, the Blue Heeler is a very independent creature. It is not hard for them to entertain themselves and they will not experience separation anxiety like many other breeds. Of course, they do need attention for exercise, training, and socialization, but owners need not worry about letting them alone for a few hours or letting them play by themselves. These dogs do need a pretty decent amount of exercise and activity each day, though.
These dogs are also easily trainable and very obedient. Their working class nature gives them excellent listening skills and they are willing to please. As long as the training begins early in life, owners will be able to train this dog proper household, social, working, etc. behaviors.
Unfortunately, though, this breed does have some downsides. One of the biggest drawbacks to this breed is its need to be dominant. Usually, this would not be a huge problem, since all dogs will naturally want to be the alpha in any group. However, the Blue Heeler does worse in dog packs than many other breeds. Furthermore, while it can be calm, gentle, and playful towards dogs that it is very familiar with, the Blue Heeler has a tendency to be very aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs. Aggression can also occur when numerous dogs are present. This breed has also been involved in more attacks than many other breeds.
However, as long as they are trained and socialized properly, there should not be any major problems with this dog.
Blue Heelers nowadays are generally just used as companion animals. However, while they can do well in households with other pets, it is best to just keep them as a solo pet. The same goes for families with children; they can do well with them, but due to their aggressive tendencies, caution is advised.
Blue Heelers are also often entered into obedience or herding trials by their owners. Their trainability and athleticism make them one of the better breeds for these competitions.
Lastly, while this is not the sole purpose for owning these dogs anymore, some farmers and/or ranchers still use these dogs for general farm work, herding, or guarding animals.