Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes. They all have different needs and different temperaments. Just like us humans, what suits one may not suit another. Whilst we can voice our opinions and make our own choices our canine companions rely on us undertaking our due diligence to ensure that their specific needs are met.
We are taking the liberty of assuming you are here because you have fallen in love with the Blue Heeler but don’t know if you’re accommodation is going to cut the mustard for him.
Stay with us to learn more about the Blue Heeler, what the best living options for him are and how you can best accommodate his needs.
The Blue Heeler, or any Australian Cattle Dog, is not suitable for apartment living. Most complexes will have rules which don’t allow dogs off leash and Blue Heelers need space to run and play in order to meet their high-energy physical and mental needs.
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What is a Blue Heeler?
The Blue Heeler is actually the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD). The term Blue Heeler simply relates to his color, just like his opposite, the Red Heeler. The expression Heeler refers to how they would, and do, encourage unwilling cattle to conform. By nipping at their heels!
Blue Heelers were first bred in Australia in the 19th century when the herding Collie, taken over by British settlers, was unable to handle the rugged terrain of his new environment. Combining these Collies with the native Dingo eventually gave cattle farmers an intelligent, lithe, and muscular working dog who was wholly suited to the weathered Australian farmland.
Originally used to herd cattle from the farmlands of Queensland thousands of miles south to the Sydney Cattle Markets these athletic and robust dogs showed remarkable stamina through the foothills and bleak scrubland of outback Australia.
Today, the Australian Cattle Dog is still used as a working dog. He has a strong genetic disposition to work and to this day, he completes his job with the utmost pride and diligence.
The Blue Heeler may still be a working dog, but he is also a loveable and protective family pet in the modern world. However, in order for him to always be living his best life he needs to be placed with a high-energy and active family.
Other names: The Blue Heeler is also known as the Australian Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog, Halls Heeler, and the Queensland Heeler.
What is the Difference Between the Blue Heeler and the Red Heeler?
The only difference between these two dogs is the color. They are both, as defined by the AKC (American Kennel Club) the Australian Cattle Dog.
Interestingly both Blue and Red Hellers are born predominantly white. The red, or black hairs, which give them their mottled or speckled look responsible for their name, don’t start to grow in until about four weeks of age.
Both Blue and Red Heelers were deliberately developed with their colors in mind. The Blue Heeler is a nighttime master of disguise with his color making him almost invisible after dusk. This prevents the cattle from being startled in the event of any late herding being required.
Conversely, the Red Heeler’s color made him distinguishable from the wild Dingo preventing him from being shot in its place!
How Big is the Blue Heeler?
The Blue Heeler is considered to be a medium-sized dog. He is solid and muscular and should be longer than he is tall.
He stands between 18” and 20” tall at the withers (shoulder). His female counterpart is slightly smaller at 17” to 19”.
Both a healthy male and the female Blue Heeler will weigh in somewhere between 35lbs and 50lbs.
He alludes agility and power from his appearance alone with his breed standard dictating that he should be “symmetrical and balanced”. A delicate or weighty ACD is limited when it comes to the dexterity and stamina required of a working dog.
Is a Blue Heeler High Maintenance?
Looking after any dog involves consideration of multiple aspects. Some of which may be more arduous than others.
Overall, based on his high energy levels, intelligence, and necessity to work, the Australian Cattle Dog should be considered high maintenance.
The Australian Cattle Dog is up there with the best of them when it comes to intelligence, although he can be stubborn with an independent streak.
He bonds firmly with his master and will struggle to leave his side. This doesn’t mean he won’t be loving, loyal, and protective over the rest of the family although is likely to be wary of strangers.
He may not always be the best to be around smaller children and other dogs whom he doesn’t know as his inherent want to herd can result in him literally nipping at their heels.
That said, children and other pets can live happily alongside the ACD, but it is advised they are socialized early and brought up with him from puppyhood.
His strong prey drive directs him to chase squirrels, cats, and other small animals. Any outside of his own ‘pack’ is likely to be considered a target.
The Blue Heeler doesn’t need a demanding grooming schedule. He is double coated with a short, straight weatherproof outer coat and a dense undercoat.
He doesn’t tend to be an all-year-round shedder but will ‘blow’ his coat twice a year during shedding season. He will need more attention during this time requiring a brush every couple of days to remove the dead hair. Outside of shedding seasons, a weekly brush to remove dirt and distribute his natural oils should be sufficient.
Bath time can be as and when required. So when he becomes a bit stinky and grimy. His teeth should be brushed frequently starting from when he is a puppy to acclimatize him to the process.
His nails may wear down naturally depending on the type of ground he frequents the most but if you can hear them tap tap tapping, they will need a trim. Be careful not to cut them too short as dogs’ nails have blood vessels and bleed lots if caught. This may result in him not being as cooperative the next time his nails need a trim.
The Blue Heeler needs lots of exercise! He was bred to work and a hard worker he has always been. If this inherent need to be on the move and kept busy isn’t embraced, he is likely to become destructive and possibly even aggressive.
He will enjoy walking, running, and swimming alongside lots of playful activities such as fetch and frisbee. Working trials, agility or obstacle courses, and breed-appropriate toys are all ways to keep your ACD happy and stimulated.
Is a Blue Heeler an Active Breed?
The complete polar opposite of a lap dog the Blue Heeler is extremely active. He will not respond well to lounging around the house for the biggest part of the day and needs to be running, walking, working, or playing to tire him out and keep him out of trouble.
If you don’t find him a job, he is likely to find his own and that is never going to end well. He will become destructive, anxious, and potentially even aggressive over time if he is not kept physically and mentally stimulated.
Meet his needs and you really will have your best friend beside you but if you are a couch potato then he is most certainly not the dog for you.
How Much Exercise Does a Blue Heeler Need?
You have probably gathered by now that the Blue Heeler needs a lot of exercise, you always need to remember that they were bred to work hard all day long. On top of approximately 2 hours per day of physical activity, he is going to need mental stimulation and some playtime.
Puppies will need less exercise and you will need to be careful what extra activities you offer on top of their daily walk. You don’t want to be putting undue stress on those growing joints and bones.
Senior dogs’ exercise needs will also reduce. Listen to your dog and follow his lead as he ages. He will need enough exercise to keep him healthy and happy. If ever in any doubt speak with your vet.
The Blue Heeler makes a willing and competent running and cycling buddy so if that’s your bag you have your company figured out! He will happily run alongside you as you perform your own daily exercise, fulfilling both his exercise requirements and his need to be by the side of his master.
As previously mentioned, agility courses and working trials are some ways to engage your Australian Cattle Dog in activities that will keep him busy and expend his energy.
An obstacle course in the backyard is a great idea for keeping him busy. This doesn’t have to break the bank as with a little imagination you can utilize household objects along the course. Weaving, hurdles, jumps, platforms, tunnels, and hoops can all be used along the course. Use them all. Just use some. Mix them up. This will give your Blue Heeler a different course each time.
As a herding breed, your Blue Heeler needs a purpose to keep him happy. Toys that couple exercise and brain power will provide enrichment by giving him a job to do. It is important to keep his brain as active as his muscles to avoid bad and destructive behavior.
Puzzle games are one way to keep him thinking. There are many available in the local pet stores and online. Your Blue Heeler will enjoy trying to figure out how to get the treat from the puzzle toy.
Herding balls can be used to embrace your Blue Heelers’ natural herding instincts, and many are virtually indestructible. They are available in a variety of sizes, can be filled with sand to add resistance for a heartier workout, and even float on water. Here is an Amazon example of a herding ball perfect for your ACD.
Sniffing is a dog’s primary sense, and not only does he use it to determine male or female friend or foe, healthy or harmful it is another way for him to apply his energy. Nose work is a wonderful example of sensory enrichment and scenting games will provide him with a purposeful activity.
Take a few minutes to review the following YouTube link to learn more about the mental stimulation you can offer your Blue Heeler.
Are Blue Heelers Hard to Raise?
If you have the time and the knowledge then your Blue Heeler isn’t going to be hard to raise from puppyhood into a well-rounded, happy, and sociable adult pooch.
He’s not the best match for a first-time doggy parent or someone with little knowledge of canine training or the breed itself so if that’s you it may be time for a rethink.
He is intelligent but he can have a stubborn streak and it’s not unknown for them to outsmart their owners. Ensuring that you start obedience training as a puppy and are consistent will mean that you are able to allow your Blue Heeler off the leash with the confidence that he will return to you once called. This is crucial for his exercise needs.
His intelligence and his working history will, for the most part, assure you of an obedient and easy-to-train dog.
Are Blue Heelers Crazy?
A Blue Heeler may be incredibly high energy but crazy will only factor if his needs do not get met.
There are many traits that can fall into the crazy category but are they necessarily part of the ACD’s makeup?
Australian Cattle Dog’s aren’t known to be extreme barkers. In fact, they are generally a quiet breed and would only bark to alert you to danger or gain your attention. If your Blue Heeler is excessively barky then you may need to look at his lifestyle ensuring that he isn’t becoming bored and/or anxious.
Again, the Blue Heeler isn’t known for being destructive. However, his mind is continually at work and this needs to be channeled. Without jobs to do, games to play, or walks to explore you may find that your home and its contents become the focus of his attention. And not in a good way!
Not only might you find him chewing your prized possessions but digging and even attempting to escape to find his own entertainment are a huge risk with a bored Australian Cattle Dog.
Whilst nipping at the ankles is a risk due to his herding background the Blue Heeler is considered to be a superb fit for families with children. However, this will require early socialization, consistent training, and ongoing physical and mental stimulation.
If he is allowed to become bored, then alongside noisy, and destructive behavior becoming an outlet, aggression can also be a risk.
Does a Blue Heeler Need to be Around Other Dogs?
Dogs are social creatures by nature and the Australian Cattle Dog is no exception. However, he does have the capacity to be dominant with other dogs that he doesn’t know. His herding instincts may come into play, and he will need time to familiarize himself with any new canine friends.
Early socialization and efficient training is always the key to ensuring that his active and social nature is embraced to the full and secure bonds are made.
So, now we have learned all about the Blue Heeler, his lineage, and his personality we can confidently answer the question that has brought you here. That answer is a resounding no, apartment living is not suitable for the Blue Heeler.
High Energy Cattle dogs need space. If you are hoping to keep an ACD as a pet, then homes with back yards that can be accessed alongside a robust exercise regime are the most desirable.
Advice on Apartment Living for a Blue Heeler
Whilst we highly recommend NOT keeping a Blue Heeler in an apartment should you find yourself in this situation here are a few ideas to mitigate the risks of not being able to provide all that he needs in this environment.
Doggy Day Care
Check out your local area for suitable Doggy Day Care or Doggy Day Camps. This will cost you but may go some way to provide the kind of environment more suited to Blue Heelers.
Along with the space that he requires to exercise some Doggy Day Cares also offer swimming pools and the opportunity to socialize.
Again, research what is available to you locally. Agility classes or working trials can offer the space needed for your Australian Cattle Dog to exercise and play. Start by looking at the AKC (American Kennel Club) for classes and competitions in your area.
Problem-solving toys will go some way to keeping your Blue Heeler occupied. However, they will come with their own problems. His intelligence is likely to mean that he will soon remember how to figure out how to get to the treat, so you will need a significant number of toys that you can use on a rotational basis to prevent him from becoming bored.
Most puzzle toys will reward the user with a treat. Whist treats are certainly not off the menu for most dogs, you need to ensure that you are not overfeeding your pooch whilst attempting to keep him entertained.
Running / Cycling / Skating
It is possible to be active and live in an apartment. If you are a runner, a cyclist, or even a skateboarder you can take your Blue Heller along with you in order to satisfy his exercise needs alongside your own.
A daily run can burn enough energy to significantly reduce the risk of destructive behavior when living in an apartment.
Whilst some apartment complexes have onsite dog parks this is not likely to be the best option for the Blue Heeler. Their inherent prey drive and herding instinct are likely to bring behaviors that may not be welcomed by other dogs who he isn’t familiar with.
If, as a Blue Heeler owner, have found yourself living in an apartment with an onsite dog park our advice would be to use it only with extreme caution and fully monitored.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Blue Heelers Live in the City?
Yes, of course, a Blue Heeler can live in the city although it is best avoided if you live in an apartment. Steps need to be taken to ensure that he is given the opportunity to access outdoor spaces other than his backyard in the form of running or hiking.
Pet walking companies may offer an out-of-city, off-leash walking service. In order to thrive best in the city, the Blue Heeler will need an owner who is devoted and attentive to his high-energy needs.
Do Blue Heelers Like to be Alone?
Cattle Dogs were bred to work alongside their masters and as such need human interaction. They do not do so well with solitude and their high energy and constant ticking minds make it hard for them to not have something to do.
They crave the attention of the human they have bonded with and are at their happiest when by their side. Whilst you do not need to be with your Blue Heeler 100% of the time it is recommended that if you do leave them it is only for short periods.