The Australian cattle dog, also known as the ACD, blue heeler and heeler, is a strong and energetic member of the herding group, always ready for challenging work on the farm or an energetic walk with his owner. Originally bred to herd cattle, this intelligent, brave dog is happiest with a loving owner who understands his high energy level and need for much daily activity. He is best suited for a rural environment with space to run and work to do. When an owner provides the exercise the Australian cattle dog must have to thrive, other necessary care is relatively routine.
Exercise your Australian cattle dog well and often. This is a working dog. Cooping up this breed in a house or apartment for long hours is likely to create behavior problems such as the tendency to destroy things. If your Australian cattle dog will not be herding, and you do not have access to wide-open spaces where he can run, it is vital that you take him on long, vigorous, daily walks.
Train your Australian cattle dog. Because the breed is strong-willed and very intelligent, your dog will need guidance to channel his focus and energy. Using commands in a firm voice will help set boundaries for your pet. Teaching your dog obedience will stimulate his mind.
Use a collar and leash when you walk your dog to keep him safe and under control and to teach him proper manners when he's around other people or animals.
Consistent outdoor breaks will result in easy housebreaking. When he's not on a leash, your dog should be safely behind a fence in your yard. Because the Australian cattle dog is very energetic, a fence that is at least 5 feet high is needed to help prevent him from escaping.
Socialize your Australian cattle dog well with other animals and children as early in his life as possible. Because the breed has an instinct to lead, he could try to display dominant behavior with other animals and children. Making your dog part of the family and letting him go places with you and meet new people and animals from an early age will give you the opportunity to teach him acceptable behavior in social situations.
Enroll your dog in obedience or agility classes to fulfill his need to be active and your need to have an obedient dog. Not only will training your dog with the guidance of an expert help him learn commands and manners, but it will also give him work to do that will stimulate his mind.
Feed your Australian cattle dog a high-quality dog food that is formulated especially for active dogs. Follow feeding recommendations on the package. Keep an eye on your dog's weight, and adjust feed quantities as needed. You should not be able to see the dog's ribs, but you should readily feel them. If you can't, the dog has too much fat covering his ribs. To prevent digestive disturbances and problems such as bloat and gastric torsion, It is best to divide your adult Australian cattle dog's ration into at least two feedings per day, and three is better. Puppies should be fed three times per day. Provide your Australian cattle dog fresh water at all times.
Take your Australian cattle dog to your veterinarian for routine checkups and basic health maintenance such as routine vaccinations and heartworm and parasite checks. Although the breed is typically robust and healthy, it is subject to genetic diseases such as deafness; hip dysplasia, in which the hip joint deteriorates; and progressive retinal atrophy, which may result in blindness. Regular veterinarian visits will help to catch any health problems as early as possible.
Keep your Australian cattle dog on a regular regimen of flea and tick control and heartworm preventative to protect him from these parasites.
Bathe your dog as needed. The Australian cattle dog generally doesn't need a bath more often than every four to six weeks; bathing more often washes away needed oils and can cause skin problems. However, if your dog likes to engage in activities that get his coat dirty, you may need to bathe him more frequently.
Brush your Australian cattle dog once a week. This will help keep his coat clean, distribute natural oils in his coat and eliminate loose hair. This breed has a medium-length double coat, consisting of a soft undercoat and a smooth, rainproof overcoat. Australian cattle dogs do not shed much during most of the year, but generally blow their coats twice a year, in spring and fall. Unspayed females blow their coats at the end of their heat cycles. Bathing your dog in grooming him frequently will expedite the shedding process and reduce the quantity of loose hair around your home.
Trim your Australian cattle dog's nails as needed. If you are not an expert in trimming a dog's nails, take him to a professional groomer or your veterinarian to have the nails trimmed. It is easy for an inexpert person to cut into a dog's quick when trimming the nails, causing pain and bleeding. If your dog is active, his nails may stay worn down naturally; trimming is required only if the nails grow long or uneven. A less active dog's nails may need to be trimmed monthly.
Clean your dog's teeth regularly with a soft-bristle toothbrush and a toothpaste formulated for dogs, to help prevent plaque buildup and the development of dental problems. As your Australian cattle dog ages, have your veterinarian evaluate his teeth regularly to determine the need for a professional cleaning.