The Red Heeler, perhaps better known as the Australian Cattle Dog, is a herding dog from New South Wales, Australia.
Their nickname of “Heeler” comes from their peculiar method of herding cattle by nipping at their heels.
What is there to know about this cattle dog? Where did they come from? How much exercise do they need? How easy are they to train? Where can you purchase purebred puppies from?
This ultimate guide will provide you with all the answers you need, read on to find out more.
|Red Heeler Dog Breed Info|
|Size||Males 19-20″ / Females 17-19″|
|Weight||33 to 45lb|
|Lifespan||11 – 15 years|
|Breed Type||Herding Dog|
|Suitable For||Active Adults or Farmers|
|Color Variations||Brown and White Which Gives a Red Appearance|
|Temperament||Clever, Brave, Agile, Smart, Alert|
|Other Names||Australian Cattle Dog, Cattle Dog, Queensland Heeler, Australischer Treibhund|
Red Heeler Dog
The Red Heeler first appeared in the 19th Century when Thomas Hall (a cattle farmer from New South Wales, Australia) bred his herding dogs with tamed dingos to create the first Heelers.
He named this dog Hall’s Heelers.
Upon his death, the breed slowly disappeared, becoming unavailable for purchase. However, a fan of the breed, Robert Kaleski, stepped in and saved them, writing the first known breed standard.
It is unknown when Australian Cattle Dogs first arrived in the United States, but, it is guessed to be around the mid-20th Century.
The Red Heeler is recognized by most major kennel clubs, since 1893 the Heeler has been included in the American Kennel Club’s herding classification.
These dogs are primarily still used as working dogs on cattle ranches across the world; however, they can make excellent family pets too – as long as they are well exercised.
They do not like staying at home without exercise, rather, they love to be active (you can read more about this in our exercise section below).
Red Heeler Puppy
There is a large variability in price of these dogs, with Red Heeler Puppies costing anywhere between $250 and $2,500 USD. The price difference is based on the parent’s pedigree.
A pedigree dog, is a dog which has pedigree parents (dating back four generations or more) all of whom are registered with a kennel club.
On average, a litter will have between 5 and 7 puppies, but a healthy dam can have up to 9 puppies in a litter.
This breed is known to have fertility problems and there are a lot of false pregnancies within this breed group.
Below is an approximate growth chart for your puppy, a couple pounds either side is not a massive cause for concern, however, if your dog massively deviates from the suggested height or weight; a visit to a veterinarian could be a good idea.
Red Heeler Temperament
|Ease of Care|
The Australian Cattle Dog is known for its independence and aloofness, they are not a massive fan of cuddling on the sofa.
Despite this, they are incredibly loyal dogs, known to be incredibly protective of their herd, which includes their family.
Their naturally alert nature makes them excellent guard dogs, as they can be very unfriendly with strangers. Beyond alerting you to a stranger on your property with a few low-pitched barks, Red Heelers are not massive barkers.
Red Heelers are known to be naturally destructive dogs, with many undesirable behaviors including barking, chewing, chasing, digging and nipping at heels.
These behaviors can be the result of understimulation or being bored, so be sure to exercise your dog, both physically and mentally.
Is This a Good Family Dog?
When bored, they may attempt to “heard” family members, especially children.
This consists of nipping people heels and chasing them about the house. This undesirable behavior can be stopped with training. However, a Heeler needs a job, they are a working dog, so you shouldn’t expect them to be a stay-at-home family dog; there are plenty of great family breeds.
These dogs do better when housed with older children as they have a bad habit of herding smaller children, nipping at their heels.
Caring For A Red Heeler (Feeding, Exercise & Training)
Due to their active nature, Red Heeler dogs are not suitable for owners who are not active.
They need a rigorous exercise regime to stimulate them in both mind and body, a cattle dog should also have access to your garden (when old enough) so they can self-exercise.
Food and Diet Requirements
|Daily Food Consumption|
|Calories||1,000 to 1,500|
|Cups of Kibble|
An ideal diet will contain around 18% protein and 5% fat.
When they are a puppy, they have slightly higher macronutrient requirements; requiring 22% fat and 8% protein in their diet until they are around two years old.
As they are very active dogs, they require around 30 to 35 calories per pound of body weight.
This means that if you have a dog weighing 40lb, then that dog would need between 1,200 and 1,400 calories daily. This should be split into at least two meals to reduce the risk of bloat.
Working dogs do well on a wet diet, these high protein diets promote excellent muscle growth as well as an excellent coat.
Be sure to check the label on your dog’s food, pick a grain free food and that has meat in its top three ingredients.
|Daily Exercise Requirements|
This is a dog with a high exercise drive so will require a lot of exercise.
If you don’t entertain them through exercise they will start to make their own fun in the form of undesirable behaviors, such a barking and chewing.
As a result of this drive the Red Heeler needs around 90 minutes of exercise daily.
These dogs are happiest when they have a job to do, so try getting your dog involved with activities such as flyball or obedience training.
When exercising this dog, it is best to keep them on a long leash. When left to their own devices they can run for miles and they may disappear into the distance unless you have excellent recall.
If you are looking to exercise your dog in an alternative way, that doesn’t involve as much walking, try agility training.
Red Heelers are naturally quick and light on their feet, so these dogs make excellent agility dogs.
Red Heelers are known for how well they respond to training.
Ever loyal pets, these dogs are always keen to learn new things as well as brush up on old skills. Because of their working heritage, these dogs are quick learners.
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but, with the Australian Cattle Dog that is just not true!
These dogs have an incredible drive for learning and remain intelligent throughout their years.
Responding very well to positive reinforcement.
You will find using a method of training such as clicker training will be very beneficial. The sound of the clicker can be heard across the room and is a clear marker of the desired behavior.
In the same way the Red Heelers are suited to agility, they are just as well suited to obedience trials.
Their ability to learn and quickly pick up tricks on the fly means they make first class obedience champions when trained well.
This dog is known to develop an incredibly rare condition known as hereditary polioencephalomyelopathy; a condition affecting the central nervous system of the dog, causing seizures.
As the name indicates, this condition is hereditary so can be tested for in the parents, this is why purebred heritage is very important with this breed.
They may also develop a relatively uncommon condition known as Oesteochondritis Dissecans.
This a developmental inflammatory condition that arises due to cartilage issues, where the cartilage in the joint separates from the bone. This can be in any of the joints in the body but is most commonly seen in the shoulder.
With milder cases, they can be managed with medication, but more severe cases will require surgery to correct.
Hip dysplasia is an uncommon condition in this breed, unless they are used for breeding stock.
These cattle dogs do have a chance of developing blindness, however, this may have a genetic component so it may be possible to test for progressive retinal atrophy in breeding stock.
Red Heeler Color, Appearance, Coat and Grooming
An easily recognizable dog, with its brown hair distributed evenly through a white coat, gives the red appearance.
This breed has a straight, stiff upper coat, with a thick undercoat densely packed with hairs.
When they are puppies Red Heelers are pure white with their brown hairs growing in over time to give them their signature “red” look.
You also get Blue Heelers, who have white coats flecked with gray, giving them a blue appearance.
These dogs are known for their strong quiet demeanour, defined by a muscular, well built body. They have triangular ears, a mesocephalic face and a stocky tail.
The tail is occasionally docked if the animal is working to help prevent accidents.
Grooming a Cattle Dog
These dogs are not year-round shedders, instead having yearly “blow outs” where the seasonal coat comes in causing the other coat to fall out.
Males blow out their coat once yearly and females blow out their coats twice yearly, usually with their heat cycles.
These dogs do not usually require clipping. They may need the occasional bath when they have been running around in the mud but beyond that they have an impeccably easy coat to maintain.
This dog will remain loyal their whole life, loving nothing more to be working by your side.
The key to their happiness is exercise and work, as the Red Heeler does not do well with being bored, they need to be outside working to be content with life.
If you are looking for an active herding dog, then this is a great dog.
However, if you live in the city or are looking for a family dog and do not have the time do dedicate to this dog’s exercise schedule, then it is advisable to choose a lower maintenance breed.
Do you have a Red Heeler at home? Are you thinking about getting one? Just a fan of the breed? Tell us your thoughts on this incredible dog in the comments.