Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) Training Tips

The Blue Heeler is a breed of Australian cattle dog that was originally produced for the purpose of helping farmers drive their herds of cattle across long distances, especially those involving rough terrain.

This breed was first developed in 1840 from a mix of native Australian Dingos with a variation of herding dogs (including Highland Collies). They were highly popular among Australian ranchers and cattleherders who loved their reliable work ethic and their hardiness.

Other Names Queensland Heeler, Australian Heeler, Hall’s Heeler, Red Heeler, Australian Cattle Dog
Life Expectancy 10-13.5 years
Height 17-20″ (43-50 cm)
Weight 35-45 lb (15-20 kg)

Blue Heeler Personality and Disposition

Heelers are commonly known for their protective, energetic dispositions. They do not tend to be physically affectionate and require little physical interaction such as snuggling.

They respond well to positive reactions and have a tendency to be a single person dog. With proper training these dogs are obedient and extremely loyal despite their independent and tough exterior.

Brave, tough and resolute, they tend to be very wary and cautious, making them an ideal choice for a watchdog.

Despite being very good protectors of their home and owners, they are not prone to excessive barking and are very loving and friendly companions.

Due to their inherent herding instincts, they can at times tend to nip at heels or ‘herd’ members of their family when they are attempting to communicate that they want something.

Space and Exercise Requirements

Heelers are not content with extensive low key, indoor lounging. They need to be mentally and physically challenged daily.

They are not suited to apartment living or center city housing unless you have easy and frequent access to a spacious park that allows pets to roam.

Without plenty of room and jobs to keep their attention, they can be easily prone to mischief and destruction as a result of boredom and frustration.

When taking your Heeler to areas where it is dangerous or against regulations for them to run free, be sure to keep them securely leashed as they are extremely curious and love nothing more than to run, roam and explore.

Also be cautious around other pets, as they can tend to not react well to other dogs that they don’t know well.

1. Training Using Food

blue heeler puppyBy eating first and then feeding your dog directly after you, it will teach your dog that you and the other humans in the household are alpha because they control the food.

Once your pup knows a few basic commands, use them before handing him food. Rewarding obedience with food is very effective training.

When he obeys, praise him while rewarding him with a treat. If he won’t obey then hold back for a few minutes before trying again.

Hand feeding your dog is a great way to let him know that you rank higher than he does. It will teach him that other humans are allowed to handle his food.

2. Leash Training

Several things can be accomplished by attaching your puppy to your belt with a leash.

  • Supervision is made easy by always having him with you and it will be easier to keep your puppy out of trouble.
  • You will teach him that by your side is an enjoyable and preferred place to be.
  • You teach him that you control which direction you walk.
    If he tries to lead in one direction, simply turn and walk the other directions. He will quickly learn to watch you for directions.

3. Eye contact

Dogs are experts at reading our facial expressions, and its important to establish eye contact with your dog.

Praise or reward your cattle dog when you notice him looking at you. The heeler is always looking for something to do, and its important that he looks to you.

4. Handling

If you intend to have your dog around children, it is important that they respond appropriately to being touched all over their body.

This training is best started from a very young age.

Pet your puppy all over his body, praising him when he reacts positively or even if he just ignores you.

Be  lavish with your praises and the handing out of treats to teach him that petting is a pleasant thing.

Also, while petting your dog with one hand in a way that he already enjoys or is used to, use your other hand to handle a new or more sensitive spot such as the paws or stomach.

5. Dealing With Biting and Nipping

Because the Blue Heeler is a herding dog, it has a strong tendency to nip – particularly during puppyhood. The dog is trying to ’round’ you up

The best way to deal with nipping is by ignoring it:

  • Stop moving.
  • Turn your body around to stop face away from the pup.
  • Keep your hands still and behind your back.
  • When the dog calms down, turn and face them and praise them.

Doing this repeatedly give the Heeler the message that nipping you will result in zero attention.

Waving your hands around, pushing the dog away, shouting – will only reinforce that nipping brings attention.

If you are looking for a comprehensive manual on training your dog, please see the Blue Heeler Training Book at Amazon.