(Frequently Asked Questions)

This club is primarily a social club and as such we try to encourage new members or new owners of ACDs who have any questions about the breed to ask questions and not feel they are being ostracized by older members who have heard it all before.

Older members were once new members and their age should not have impaired their memory to the extent that they do not remember what it was like when they got their first ACD and knew nothing about the breed.

All the so-called experts (and we all know the definition of an expert) had to acquire their knowledge somewhere, and where do you think 99% of that knowledge came from? ....Yes, from previous experts!

We will endeavour to answer any questions you may have but might not wish to ask. This section will de updated regularly and we encourage members and non-members who feel they can add something they feel might be helpful for others, to submit it to the Secretary/webmaster for inclusion in this segment.

If you are new to ACD's then there are a few things you must know. Firstly, this is not a fluffy little dog to be cuddled all day, although some ACD puppies really enjoy that sort of thing to a certain extent. They were bred to work and the working end is where the mouth and teeth are. This instinct to work is still as strong in the dog in the suburban back yard as it is in the dog working for his living on a property beyond the black stump ! The difference is that the working dog knows what is wanted of him.

The point I want to make is that the ACD will try to find things to do to take the place of work. Ducks, chickens, fowls, kids, cats (here I have to admit that in most cases the herding can get somewhat misdirected), motor mowers, push bikes and, unfortunately, motor vehicles are all at risk here. This is a problem that has to be curtailed immediately or you will have a problem dog on your hands.

Biting or nipping at the ankle or heel whilst following these herding instincts is a natural thing for a cattle dog. You will have to find an alternative outlet for this behaviour. Fetching a ball is one way that uses the same instincts.

The ACD is a dog. As such he is a pack animal. In any pack there is always a leader or Alpha figure. If you donít ensure you become the alpha then you will have big problems.

You will notice in a pack of wild dogs the alpha dog always eats first. Now I am not suggesting you get down on all fours and eat from your dogs bowl before he does. I am suggesting that you take a piece of fruit or a biscuit or any edible material that you can make out has come from his bowl and make sure he sees you supposedly remove it from his bowl and eat that first before you place the food bowl in front of him. The same thing applies with water. If you have had him out for exercise and you are both thirsty, then you always drink first, even if it means tipping the water out of his bowl before you go for the exercise.

Another thing to watch for as the alpha figure is never step over your dog. If he is in the way then make him move. Growl at him and physically push him out of the way. Alpha dogs do not walk around or over their underlings. When you have to scold your dog for any reason, remember what a bitch does to a naughty pup. She mouths it around the neck and holds it down in the submissive attitude (on its back with its belly, the most vulnerable part of its anatomy, exposed). Emulate this action when scolding your dog. Hold his cheek flaps and shake him and hold him down in the submissive attitude until he stops trying to get out of the situation. Growl at him as his mother would do. Learn from the actions of the pack animals themselves.-


Q:  "What's the difference between a heeler and an ACD?"
A:  Heelers, Red Heelers, Blue Heelers (often spelt "Healers"),Queensland Heelers, Queenslands, Merlins and Australian Cattle Dogs are all the same breed of dog. "The Australian Cattle Dog" is the official, country of origin breed name.

Q:   "Is the ACD the same as an Australian Shepherd?"
A:  NO. Although the name suggests The Australian Shepherd is from Australia, it developed in the Western United States by immigrant Basque shepherds. They are similar to the Border Collie without a tail. They look nothing like the Australian Cattle Dog.

Q:  "Why do some ACD's have their tails docked?"
A:   This practice is not acceptable in Australia. Dogs working livestock have naturally long tails because the tail is used as a "rudder" and helps a working dog make tight turns at speed. The ANKC breed standard calls for an intact tail, held low, reaching to the hocks.

Q:  "Why are ACDs called heelers?"
A:  Their natural instinct is to nip at the heels of cattle and then drop out of the way of the kick that follows in order to move cattle in the direction wanted. They have no "healing" powers as suggested by the title, "Healers".

Q:"Do ACDs work sheep?"
You will not find many ACDs working sheep in Australia, although they can. Heelers have a more forceful or "physical" style of herding than the typical sheep-herding breeds like Border Collies, Kelpies and Australian Shepherds.

Q:  "Why do they look so aggressive?"
A:  They are descended from Dingos, the "Wild Dog" of Australia, that lives by his hunting ability and cunning. The "aggressive" look is probably better described more as a wary look.

Q:  "Do they need lots of exercise?"
A:   THEY NEED LOTS OF EXERCISE! Both mentally and physically to take the place of natural energy expenditure when working. Basic obedience is essential, and most ACDs enjoy jumpers, agility, advanced obedience, tracking and other physically and mentally challenging activities. A tired dog is a good dog.

Q:  "Are they good with kids?"
A:  Australian Cattle Dogs are bred to work very rough cattle and therefore are likely to be more "hard" with children. They can also be very good with children because they are naturally protective. Because they are herding dogs and herd by nipping and biting, they can be frightening to children unused to active, assertive dogs. Heelers can become very excited by running children and may try to "herd" them by nipping at hands and heels. Like all dogs, Heelers need to be supervised with children and the children need to be taught that the dog is to be treated correctly and not abused.

Q:  "My pup ears don't stand up"
A:  Time is the governing equation here. Some pups will take longer than others. Some are born with erect ears. Don't panic. Very rarely is veterinary assistance required.

Q:  "Should my bitch have pups?"
A:  A bitch does not need to have a litter to become physically mature or physchologically fulfilled. You should consider the time, effort and expense in breeding your bitch. Irresponsible breeding leads to many unwanted pups and overworked rescue services.

Q:  When to mate?
A:  This is covered in an article at Breeding Your Bitch

Q:  Why does my dog eat grass?
A:  This may occur due to a couple of things. It may indicate an imbalance in diet, or it may be inherited from the dogs wild ancestors that would gorge on whatever prey they killed then vomit in order to regurgitate the food for its pups. Eating grass will induce vomiting.

Q:  If I feed my dog raw meat will it make him savage?
A:   There is no evidence to support this. Remember that meat alone does not constitute a balanced diet. Stress is more likely to make dogs savage.

Q:  What weight should my Australian Cattle Dog be?
A:   A good healthy weight should range from 23 to 27 kg's. It is better to have your dog closer to the lower weight range. An overweight dog will have health problems.

Submitted by John Chandler

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