* *Breed History
     * *Proceed with Caution
     * *Rescue

     * *ACDCA: ACD Parent Organization
     * *American Kennel Club Standard
     * *Working Standard

Breed History

Australian cattle dogs are a relatively recent breed. They were developed in Australia during the 1800s to deal with the rough, feral to semi-feral cattle in large cattle operations. They are characterized by a rather tough, no-nonsense working style suitable for cattle as well as by their color and moderate yet sturdy athletic build. They are natural heel biters and the breed is also known as, variably: Heelers, Queensland Heelers or Blue (or Red) Heelers.

You can read more about the history of the breed at these websites:


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Proceed with Caution

Australian cattle dogs are active. They like to run around a lot. They need a lot of exercise. They were bred to be silent workers but they are happy to yap at other times. They shed. A lot.

Like all herding dogs, they desire to control movement — like the movement of cars, motorcycles, bikes, joggers, running children, etc. They were bred to bite cows so they like to use their mouths — on cars, motorcycles, bikes, joggers, running children, chairs, clothes, arms, legs, other dogs, anything.

They require training. The breed has a tendency to not like strangers. They require training and socialization. A lot. And exercise.

They are manipulative. They like to get their own way and they like it even more when they can trick you into thinking you agree with them — later on you will discover you don't but then it is too late.

They bonk things with their noses. No one really knows why. They nose bonk things. They nose bonk people. They nose bonk other dogs.

They are almost always very food and toy motivated. Training them to do something is easy — then they like to try out variations and improvements on the theme. Consistency can be more difficult to achieve.

If you are foolish enough to introduce them to the tennis ball, be prepared to throw it. A lot. They are persistent. They need a lot of exercise — mental and physical.

They are strong minded. They can be convinced but rarely forced. Frequently they have stronger wills than their owners. Keep them tired! Teach them things!

Consider "Nothing In Life Is Free" as a way of life:

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There are many worthy Australian cattle dogs in shelters and rescue organizations throughout the country. Please consider adopting a rescue dog. Here is a non-comprehensive list of rescue organizations specific to ACDs.


ACDs in shelters can also be found through www.petfinder.org

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The ACDCA: Parent Organization for ACDs

The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America is the AKC parent club for the breed (www.acdca.org). The ACDCA has a Code of Ethics for breeders: http://www.acdca.org/breeders_coe.html. I am a member of the ACDCA and Code of Ethics breeder.

The AKC breed standard for the Australian cattle dog is as follows (from http://www.acdca.org/acd_breed_standards.html):

American Kennel Club Standard for the Australian Cattle Dog

General Appearance
The general appearance is that of a strong compact, symmetrically built working dog, with the ability and willingness to carry out his allotted task however arduous. Its combination of substance, power, balance and hard muscular condition must convey the impression of great agility, strength and endurance. Any tendency to grossness or weediness is a serious fault.

As the name implies the dog's prime function, and one in which he has no peer, is the control and movement of cattle in both wide open and confined areas. Always alert, extremely intelligent, watchful, courageous and trustworthy, with an implicit devotion to duty making it an ideal dog.

The Cattle Dog's loyalty and protective instincts make it a self-appointed guardian to the Stockman, his herd and his property. Whilst naturally suspicious of strangers, must be amenable to handling, particularly in the Show ring. Any feature of temperament or structure foreign to a working dog must be regarded as a serious fault.

Head and Skull
The head is strong and must be in balance with other proportions of the dog and in keeping with its general conformation. The broad skull is slightly curved between the ears, flattening to a slight but definite stop. The cheeks muscular, neither coarse nor prominent with the underjaw strong, deep and well developed. The foreface is broad and well filled in under the eyes, tapering gradually to form a medium length, deep, powerful muzzle with the skull and muzzle on parallel planes. The lips are tight and clean. Nose black.

The eyes should be of oval shape and medium size, neither prominent nor sunken and must express alertness and intelligence. A warning or suspicious glint is characteristic when approached by strangers. Eye color, dark brown.

The ears should be of moderate size, preferably small rather than large, broad at the base, muscular, pricked and moderately pointed neither spoon nor bat eared. The ears are set wide apart on the skull, inclining outwards, sensitive in their use and pricked when alert, the leather should be thick in texture and the inside of the ear fairly well furnished with hair.

The teeth, sound, strong and evenly spaced, gripping with a scissor-bite, the lower incisors close behind and just touching the upper. As the dog is required to move difficult cattle by heeling or biting, teeth which are sound and strong are very important.

The neck is extremely strong, muscular, and of medium length broadening to blend into the body and free from throatiness.

The shoulders are strong, sloping, muscular and well angulated to the upper arm and should not be too closely set at the point of the withers. The forelegs have strong, round bone, extending to the feet and should be straight and parallel when viewed from the front, but the pasterns should show flexibility with a slight angle to the forearm when viewed from the side. Although the shoulders are muscular and the bone is strong, loaded shoulders and heavy fronts will hamper correct movement and limit working ability.

The length of the body from the point of the breast bone, in a straight line to the buttocks, is greater than the height at the withers, as 10 is to 9. The topline is level, back strong with ribs well sprung and carried well back not barrel ribbed. The chest is deep, muscular and moderately broad with the loins broad, strong and muscular and the flanks deep. The dog is strongly coupled.

The hindquarters are broad, strong and muscular. The croup is rather long and sloping, thighs long, broad and well developed, the stifles well turned and the hocks strong and well let down. When viewed from behind, the hind legs, from the hocks to the feet, are straight and placed parallel, neither close nor too wide apart.

The feet should be round and the toes short, strong, well arched and held close together. The pads are hard and deep, and the nails must be short and strong.

The set on of tail is moderately low, following the contours of the sloping croup and of length to reach approximately to the hock. At rest it should hang in a very slight curve. During movement or excitement the tail may be raised, but under no circumstances should any part of the tail be carried past a vertical line drawn through the root. The tail should carry a good brush.

The action is true, free, supple and tireless and the movement of the shoulders and forelegs is in unison with the powerful thrust of the hindquarters. The capability of quick and sudden movement is essential. Soundness is of paramount importance and stiltiness, loaded or slack shoulders, straight shoulder placement, weakness at elbows, pasterns or feet, straight stifles, cow or bow hocks, must be regarded as serious faults. When trotting the feet tend to come closer together at ground level as speed increases, but when the dog comes to rest he should stand four square.

The coat is smooth, a double coat with a short dense undercoat. The outer-coat is close, each hair straight, hard, and lying flat, so that it is rain-resisting. Under the body, to behind the legs, the coat is longer and forms near the thigh a mild form of breeching. On the head (including the inside of the ears), to the front of the legs and feet, the hair is short. Along the neck it is longer and thicker. A coat either too long or too short is a fault. As an average, the hairs on the body should be from 2.5 to 4 cms (approx. 1-1.5 ins) in length.

Color (Blue)
The color should be blue, blue-mottled or blue speckled with or without other markings. The permissible markings are black, blue or tan markings on the head, evenly distributed for preference. The forelegs tan midway up the legs and extending up the front to breast and throat, with tan on jaws; the hindquarters tan on inside of hindlegs, and inside of thighs, showing down the front of the stifles and broadening out to the outside of the hindlegs from hock to toes. Tan undercoat is permissible on the body providing it does not show through the blue outer coat. Black markings on the body are not desirable.

Color (Red Speckle)
The color should be of good even red speckle all over, including the undercoat, (neither white nor cream), with or without darker red markings on the head. Even head markings are desirable. Red markings on the body are permissible but not desirable.

Size - Height
• Dogs 46-51 cms (approx. 18-20 inches) at withers
• Bitches 43-48 cms (approx. 17-19 inches) at withers.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Working Standard

The Working standard for the breed, as adopted by the ACDCA, is as follows (from http://www.acdca.org/acd_breed_standards.html)


The Working Australian Cattle Dog: Introduction
The Australian Cattle Dog was developed to control wild cattle in groups of several hundred on drives through the inhospitable wilderness of Australia. These drives sometimes lasted weeks and crossed from the vast grazing lands of the outback, over the pass in the great dividing range, and through the streets of Sydney to the stockyards. The wild cattle and extremely harsh conditions were such that traditional working breeds were of no use. By crossing smooth-coated blue merle Scottish highland collies to selected dingoes in the 1840's; a drover named Thomas Hall developed a cattle dog that combined the hardiness of the dingo type, and the herding abilities of the highland collie. This cross reinforced the heeling instinct of the collie and eliminated their tendency to bark at the head. About 1860 some of these dogs were brought to the Homebush sale yards in Sydney by a butcher named Alexander Davis, where they "attracted much attention" and were taken by various drovers and butchers. Two brothers, Jack and Harry Bagust purchased some of these dogs and continued to improve on the breed, introducing select Dalmatian bloodlines and later, black and tan Kelpies. They succeeded in "advancing their working ability to intelligent controllable workers whilst retaining the silent biting of the animals heels."

The Australian Cattle Dog is an independent thinker and once trained, is capable of carrying out routine tasks without supervision. They are highly intelligent, making them self directed workers capable of complex problem solving. They are adept at picking out and punishing trouble makers, while at the same time they can be gentle with calves, lambs or ducks. It is this rating ability that makes the Australian cattle dog versatile enough for different classes of cattle as well as trial or farm work with sheep, hogs and fowl.

The Australian Cattle Dog can be trained to perform various functions on the farm or ranch. They possess high trainability coupled with a strong desire to please. Most Cattle Dogs can perform routine jobs after just a few exposures. A well trained Cattle Dog can replace two to three good men on horseback.

The Australian Cattle Dog is considered an upright breed. The head is carried at shoulder level while working, enabling the dog to read the stock and to easily slip in and heel. When confronting stubborn animals at the head, some individuals drop to a crouch, preparing to nose bite, while others raise their heads to challenge and come straight on. Most dogs will experiment with different postures or approaches to win stand-offs with stubborn stock. The Cattle Dog's perfect combination of size, angulation, balance, agility and instinct enables him to continuously heel low and avoid being kicked.

The Australian Cattle Dog's approach to stock is calculated and deliberate, and directed at the animal or animals to be moved. He naturally wears on larger groups of stock, but can walk straight in at the balance point on singles or smaller groups of cattle or sheep. Whether an individual dog predominately fetches or drives is due not only to heritage, but can be affected by the dog's age, training technique, and the livestock the dog is started on. Cattle Dogs that fetch usually exhibit very keen natural balance. Regardless of individual style, the Australian Cattle Dog is considered a close worker. There is however variation, with some dogs working and flanking very close and others working and flanking moderately wide and closing the distance to heel. Most can be taught to work wider if required.

Australian Cattle Dogs are a loose to medium eyed breed. When heading, turning or otherwise challenging stubborn livestock, some individuals exhibit moderately strong eye, but return to a looser approach once the challenge is won. This loose approach enables the Cattle Dog to see and react to a herd of hundreds of cattle and give attention to just those requiring it, allowing him to work effectively, day in and day out.

The Australian Cattle Dog is best known as a "heeler" because of his instinctive grip. This is done in various ways depending on the livestock and rate of travel. Stubborn or wild stock may require a forceful hard biter until trained, whereas dairy cattle may just require a dog's presence. The typical technique is for the dog to time the grip to occur on the foot of the weight bearing leg, and to duck to miss the ensuing kick. The correct "heel" is low on the leg at the fetlock or coronet. The Australian Cattle Dog should not only heel, but use force at the head when turning or stopping livestock. All gripping should be quick with an immediate release. Gripping should be appropriate and not excessive.

The Australian Cattle Dog was developed as a silent worker. Force barking when heading or otherwise challenging stubborn livestock is acceptable if it is not excessive. Continuous barking, barking while working at the heels or more than just a few force barks is undesirable.

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