Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog is sprightly and robust working dog with a sharp mind. Created by Australian ranchers and farmers to manage flocks of sheep it’s still widely utilised as a herder and drover of a livestock. At the same time multiple breed’s enthusiasts attest that its staunch and protective personality makes it a fabulous family pet.
At the dawn of the XIX century Australian cattlemen began to develop new vast pastures to the West of the Sydney area. Soon they had to face the problem of handling domestic animals in these incredibly prosperous but still difficult terrains. Moreover in such conditions formerly well-behaved cattle went almost feral and hardly controllable. Foreign herding canine varieties that helped ranchers previously coped poorly with necessity of operating effectively for hours on end in torrid Australian climate and barely passable terrain. It became rather evident for early Australian cattle-breeders that they required a tough and clever dog that would be able to handle wayward cattle without injuring or frightening it.
A stock-breeder named Timmins was the first who tried to implement this ambitious goal. In the 30s of the XIX century he mated a local Dingo with the Smithfield and received red dogs with diminutive tails. Despite the fact that this initial hybrid (so-called «Timmon’s Biter») remained silent while working with animals, it managed them by brutally snapping instead of mildly nipping at their heels.
Nearly ten years later Thomas Hall, an Australian landowner, performed another, more successful breeding experiment of crossing the Dingo with the Scottish Blue-Merle Smooth Collie. The resulting dog became known as a Hall’s Helleres and deserved the reputation of an efficient and quiet cattle drover. Hereafter it was crossbred with the Timmon’s Biter, Black-and-Tan Kelpie Sheepdog and Dalmatian. By 1893 the Australian Cattle Dog acquired in its hallmark red or blue speckled colouration as well as its spectacular talents in ruling the wilful cattle.
It’s worth to mention that blue-speckled specimens of the Australian Cattle Dog enjoyed much greater popularity, than their red-speckled brothers, and were nicknamed the «Blue Heeler» or the «Queensland Heeler». A breeder named Robert Kaleski entered the show ring with the first Queensland Heeler as early as in 1897. Originally referred as the Australian Heeler in the course of time it was finally granted with its current name.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognised the Australian Cattle Dog in 1980. Modern-day specimens didn’t lose their good repute as a capable herding dog and trustworthy guardian of both human and his domains. They are also highly competitive in various canine sports, especially in herding trials and agility contests.
The Australian Cattle Dog is often described as one of the most work-driven and hardiest of all canine varieties and it certainly reflects on its personality. This dog is appreciated for its unwavering loyalty and affectionate nature but it strives to be on an equal footing with its masters and expects to be treated as a full-fledged family member. The breed is usually ok with those older children who respect its right for private space. Because of its strong tendency to herd every moving object its interaction with small kids requires constant supervision.
On the whole the Australian Cattle Dog is unfriendly with new people. Make sure to put sufficient amount of work into socialisation of your pet otherwise its mere detachment in the presence of strangers may turn into an outright animosity. Thanks to its sharp senses and permanent vigilance this dog does extremely well as a watcher. It can’t be called ferocious but it will never shrink in the face immediate confrontation with an intruder and will defend its special people and territory tooth and nail.
Being an inborn leader the Australian Cattle Dog is prone to come up against other dogs. The situation is also worsened by the well-developed territorial and possessive instincts of this dog so it’s rather better suited for a one-dog home. It’s also worth to know that the primitive urge to chase and kill small creatures is still alive in this breed so it’s very dangerous for homeless cats and other small animals. Naturally this breed can be kept together with those individual pets with which it has been raised in the same household since a young age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· bilateral/unilateral deafness;
· canine hip dysplasia;
· elbow dysplasia;
· eye problems;
· portosystemic shunt;
· cysteine urolithiasis.
The Australian Cattle Dog has very basic grooming requirements. Weekly brushing will be more than enough to keep its coat tidy and tangles-free. Bathe your dog occasionally, perhaps only when it gets really dirty or smelly.
Besides that the breeds’ maintenance should include regular nail trimming and weekly teeth brushing. Clean the dog’s ears from time to time in order to prevent some nasty infections from developing. The vast majority of these dogs are seasonal shedders, which means that you pet would displace its entire coat once or twice a year. So to say the Australian Cattle Dog won’t make an ideal pet for people who hate cleaning up dog’s hair or for allergic sufferers.
The intellect of the Australian Cattle Dog was sharpened by centuries of handling the skittish cattle so it commonly makes a fast learner. At the same time this dog mostly lacks typical desire to please its master and it should be trained only by the person whose dominant position it accepts.
Many Australian Cattle Dogs grow into obstinate and independent animals and submit only to the will of a patient and confident trainer with consistent approach. The most severe difficulty for lots of its owners is holding interest of their pets during training sessions. The thing is that the breed can’t stand repetitive or dull tasks so try to motivate it not only with tasty treats and praise but also with diverse and exciting assignments.
There are very few breeds that match vitality and stamina of the Australian Cattle Dog. As a bare minimum this dog should receive from 2 to 3 hours of highly strenuous exercise every single day. In general even long and brisk walk won’t be enough to keep it happy and well-behaved indoors. So it’s vital to carefully assess your resources and willingness to devote your pet several hours a day before adopting this breed.
On the other hand this dog will become a wonderful companion for fans of such extreme activities as skiing, surfing, and climbing. In any case the Australian Cattle Dog whose needs for vigorous exercise are ignored has all prospects of turning into restless, destructive and unpredictably aggressive animal.