Blue Heelers are famed for their unparalleled herding and guarding instincts. Many pet fanciers agree that Heelers are also among the cutest-looking dog breeds.
However, if you’re planning to bring a Blue Heeler home, it’s natural to wonder whether the dog will get along with your kids and other household members. That’s especially considering that Heelers were bred for herding and may, therefore, exhibit some domineering behaviors. But are Blue Heelers good with kids?
Blue Heelers are generally good with kids. The dogs possess several characteristics that make them kid-friendly. However, certain scenarios may cause Heelers not to get along with your children. For instance, these dogs are generally unideal for younger children (below ten years) who cannot control their movements. Older kids who’re more aware of their body language are better equipped to coexist with Blue Heelers.
If you’re considering adopting a Blue Heeler but are wondering whether the dog will coexist with your kids, this article is for you.
Read on as we shed more light on the kid-friendliness of Blue Heelers. First off, let’s begin easy by familiarizing ourselves with this dog breed.
What Are Blue Heelers?
Blue Heeler is the most common nickname for The Australian Cattle Dog (typically abbreviated as ACD and simply known as Cattle Dog), a medium-sized dog breed developed for herding cattle.
Another nickname for the Cattle Dog is the Red Heeler. The nicknames are based on the breed’s coloring and its herding tendency to nip at the heels of reluctant cattle.
Quick Facts About The Blue Heeler
|Official Name:||The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD)|
|Nicknames:||Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, and Queensland Heeler|
|Place Developed:||New South Wales in Australia|
|Period Developed:||In the 1840s|
|Breed Classification:||Working Dog|
|Height at the Withers:||18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 centimeters) for dogs and 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 centimeters) for bitches|
|Weight:||33 to 49 pounds (15 to 22 kilograms)|
|Coat Characteristics:||Short, double coat|
|Coat Color:||Blue, Blue Speckled, Blue Mottled, Red Speckled, and Red Mottled|
|Temperament:||Intelligent, Alert, Energetic, and Independent|
|Common Health Problems:||Progressive retinal atrophy, Hip dysplasia, Elbow dysplasia, Spondylosis, Arthritis, Hereditary polioencephalomyelopathy, and Congenital hereditary deafness|
|Average Lifespan:||12 to 16 Years|
|Year Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC):||1980|
The Australian Cattle Dog was developed in the 1840s in New South Wales, Australia, by Thomas Hall. The dog was originally bred for droving cattle over long distances across rough terrains.
Blue Heelers’ original ancestors remain unknown, considering that the parent breeds were generally described by their job and not their specific breeds.
For several years after their creation, the Halls Heelers (as these dogs were initially known) were almost exclusively associated with the Hall family. It was not until the death of Thomas Hall in 1870 that the dogs became freely available following the auctioning of the deceased’s properties.
About two decades after Thomas Hall’s death, the Halls Heelers gained the attention of a Sydney-based group of dog fanciers known as the Cattle Dog Club of Sydney. It’s this group that named the dog ‘Australian Cattle Dog.’
Blue Heeler’s popularity continued to surge within and beyond Australian borders. The breed was eventually recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1980.
True to its nickname – Blue Heeler – the Australian Cattle Dog herded cattle by nipping at their heels. And although no longer kept exclusively for herding, Blue Heelers have retained their biting characteristics. These dogs are notorious for nipping running children.
The Australian Cattle Dog features a muscular and compact body which gives them the impression of strength and agility.
The dogs have a fairly broad skull that flattens between the ears. Their cheeks and muzzles are muscular too.
Cattle Dog ears are small-to-medium, pricked, and reasonably set wide apart. Their un-docked tails are also relatively long compared to that of many dog breeds.
Blue Heelers measure between 17 and 20 inches (43 and 51 centimeters) at the withers and weigh 33 to 49 pounds (15 to 22 kilograms). The dogs have a short, double coat that sheds moderately. They sport a variety of coat colors, ranging from blue and blue speckled to blue mottled, red mottled, and red speckled.
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Are Australian Cattle Dogs Good with Children? A Look at the Breed’s Temperament and Personality
Physical features may be a significant consideration when looking for a dog to adopt. However, temperament and personality play the biggest role in determining whether the animal will get along with your kids, other pets, and pretty much every member of the household.
Bearing that in mind, are Blue Heelers good with babies?
Well, the best way to answer that question is to start by looking at a Heeler’s personality traits and how those attributes may determine the dog’s kid-friendliness.
1. Heelers Are Intelligent
The Australian Cattle Dog may not be the most intelligent dog breed (that reputation goes to border collies). However, Cattle Dogs score reasonably high on the intelligence scale.
These dogs are smart enough to tell tender children apart from mature adults. So, while they can often be rough and rambunctious around children, most Blue Heelers will be intelligent to handle your little ones with kid gloves.
Intelligence is also a plus point when it comes to training and socialization. Smart dogs like Blue Heelers are generally easy to train and socialize. Ease of training and socialization comes in handy when trying to stop or redirect aggressive canine behavior, such as children-targeted hostility.
2. Heelers Are Energetic
You should consider adopting an Australian Cattle Dog if you can keep up with the breed’s high energy levels. Heelers are more comfortable in families where they can receive sufficient physical and mental stimulation.
Thankfully, that shouldn’t be a problem for families with young kids. Since children are typically playful, your Blue Heeler will feel at home even in households with no other pets.
3. Heelers Are Curious
Blue Heelers are also curious dogs.
Curiosity may not always be an admirable trait in dogs, considering that it may cause your pooch to venture into potentially dangerous situations. But on the flipside, curious dogs are generally eager to discover and learn new things.
Coupled with a Heeler’s ease of training and socialization, the dog’s curious nature can be a resourceful trait while training the animal to become more pleasant around children.
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4. Heelers Are Cautious and Alert
Having been bred primarily for herding, the Australian Cattle Dog had to be alert and cautious always. The dogs had to constantly keep vigilant, watching out for predatory animals like wolves and coyotes.
Heightened situational awareness makes the Blue Heeler a great option for children. The dog can instinctively discern danger and protect your little ones from harm while you’re gone. Whether it’s a burglar or a kidnapper, no sinister activity in your home will escape the prying eyes of your Australian Cattle Dog.
5. Heelers Are Protective and Affectionate
Protectiveness goes hand in hand with alertness.
Not only are Blue Heelers aware of their surroundings. These dogs are also protective of their owners and will not hesitate to go on the offensive at the slightest signs of danger.
Due to their protectiveness and affectionateness, Heelers are especially perfect for children living with a disability or those who cannot otherwise defend themselves in the face of danger.
Perhaps you’ve always wondered, are Blue Heelers protective of babies?
As we’ve just pointed out, Blue Heelers are reasonably protective of their owners. That makes them equally protective of babies, hence a great option if looking for a guard dog for your children.
6. Heelers Don’t Bark a Lot
The Australian Cattle Dog typically works in silence. The dog won’t bark or make other noticeable vocalizations unless when he wishes to sound alarm bells.
A Heeler may also bark as a sign of boredom and frustration or as attention-seeking behavior.
The fact that Blue Heelers don’t bark a lot makes them excellent for kids who’re sensitive to loud noises.
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So, Are Blue Heelers Safe Around Kids?
We’ve gone over several personality attributes that make Australian Cattle Dogs potentially good with children. But maybe you’re still wondering, are Blue Heelers kid-friendly?
The most definite answer to this question is that Australian Cattle Dogs are incredibly good with some children but potentially troublesome with others. As we mentioned at the beginning, Blue Heelers generally get along with kids over ten years who can keep their movements in check.
Remember that Australian Cattle Dogs controlled livestock by nipping at their heels. And while Heelers are no longer bred primarily for herding, these dogs have retained their nipping instincts.
Kids below ten years can be a little unpredictable in their movements. They may run without warning or even climb over a Blue Heeler. Such erratic movements can cause your Heeler’s nipping instincts to kick in. Although the dogs did not inflict any damage to cattle by biting at their heels, the case can be a lot different when it comes to little children with fairly tender skin.
It’s also important to remember that Australian Cattle Dogs are highly protective. As such, the dogs may misconstrue normal kid squabbles as a threat and attack the unfamiliar children in the area. So, always keep this in mind when leaving your kids in the company of your neighbor’s children, an on-and-off babysitter, or anyone else whom the dog may consider a stranger.
Besides, little kids tend to be noisy. High-pitched shrieking sounds can make your Heeler uncomfortable, causing him to vent on the boisterous child.
Other Factors That Affect a Blue Heeler’s Relationship With Children
1. The Dog’s Age
Puppies are more likely to tolerate small kids and toddlers than older dogs. That underscores the importance of introducing a Blue Heeler to your kids while the dog is still fairly young.
2. The Dog’s Personality
Certain Australian Cattle Dog personality traits, coupled with the fact that each dog is unique, may affect how well your Blue Heeler gets along with your kids.
For starters, Blue Heelers are generally obedient and loyal. However, these dogs are self-sufficient and may often exhibit obstinate tendencies, which make it difficult for them to get along with children.
Blue Heelers are also controlling and love to be in charge. Unless the dog understands who comes first in the family pecking order, he may behave in a domineering manner in the company of young kids.
It’s also worth noting that like any dog, the Australian Cattle Dog is an attention-seeking breed. That means your Heeler may occasionally become jealous of your kids if the dog believes that you’re being overly nice to your babies and not giving him his deserved attention. Ultimately, this could cause the animal to become hostile to your children.
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Maybe you’ve always wondered, do Blue Heelers get jealous of babies?
Yes, they do. And when that happens, your Heeler can develop undue aggression toward your kids.
But perhaps the biggest issue with Blue Heelers is their chasing and nipping tendencies. Heelers have an innate desire to chase and bite anything that moves. While this is mainly a problem for younger kids with erratic movement patterns, it can also be an issue for older children playing boisterously.
3. Your Children’s Behavior and Personality
Just like dogs, kids have unique personalities. Some are calm and laid-back whereas others are hyperactive.
The manner in which your children interact with your Australian Cattle Dog determines the dog’s response and behavior towards your kids.
4. Training and Socialization
Even the best-behaved Blue Heelers require early training and socialization to get along with kids. Ideally, the dog should be socialized while he’s still a puppy.
Part of socializing your Blue Heeler includes introducing him properly to your children. And that begs the question, how do I introduce my Blue Heeler to my baby?
The best way to introduce an Australian Cattle Dog to your kids is to take it slow. Always monitor your babies and Heelers when they’re close together. Also, ensure the dog understands his position in the family pecking order.
And in case you’re bringing home a mature Blue Heeler, be sure to train the dog the ‘no nipping’ command. Regular exercise and mental nourishment using dog toys may also go a long way in making your Blue Heeler less bothersome to your kids.
How Are Blue Heelers Around Children?
Blue Heelers are generally great with kids over ten years who’ve better control of their movements. However, with proper training and socialization, Heelers can get along with children of any age.
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