Standard Heelers or Australian Cattle Dogs, are loyal, intelligent, and energetic herding dogs. Mini Blue Heelers, with their name based on their most popular coloring, only differ from Standard Heelers in size.
We’ve gathered enough information about Australian Cattle Dogs to separate fact from fiction. And since Mini Heelers are a relatively new breed, you should be extra careful where you get your information from.
So let’s go over Australian Cattle Dogs of both standard and miniature sizes to find out more about their:
- Common Health Issues
First off, let’s address the names “Blue Heeler/Red Heeler” and why we call Australian Cattle Dogs that.
ACDs usually have a blue or red solid, speckled, or mottled coat. The “heeler” part came about because these cattle dogs were bred to herd livestock. They would often use a firm nip to the cattle’s heels to coax them in any direction, so the name stuck.
The origin of the Australian Cattle Dog is as interesting as the dogs themselves. They were the result of mixing the English Blue Merle Border Collie with a wild dog called the dingo.
Thomas Simpson Hall took on this job in the early 19th century. He saw that the English dogs couldn’t tolerate Australia’s harsh weather and terrain. That’s why the Australian dingo was the perfect mix.
This resulted in generations of dogs that he kept crossing for the perfect mix. The resulting “Hall’s Heelers” had excellent herding abilities. They also had the physical strength to remain healthy in the hot weather.
From there, many others tried to refine the breed. Yet, you shouldn’t trust most information about Australian Cattle Dogs having Dalmatian or Kelpie ancestors.
As for Mini Blue Heelers, they appeared fairly recently.
It’s common knowledge that Blue Heelers vary widely in size. So, some breeders choose to breed the smaller Heelers together to get Minis. They can also get Minis by mixing Heelers with smaller breeds, like Dachshunds.
There’s also another way to breed Mini Heelers, which is both unethical and has unpleasant results. Some breeders introduce the dwarfism gene to their litters to get a small size and cute features. This can cause multiple health problems down the line and isn’t recommended.
Here are the most important traits for both Standard and Mini Heelers:
The biggest difference between Standard Heelers and Mini Blue Heelers is size.
Standard Heelers are usually 17–20 inches in height and 35–50 lbs. in weight. There’s a slight difference in height between males and females, with males being 18–20 inches and females 17–19 inches.
As for Mini Blue Heelers, they usually stand at 11–15 inches in height and 12–25 lbs. in weight. This is almost half the size of a Standard Heeler.
When it comes to color, breed standards exist for full-size Heelers but not for the minis
A Blue Heeler will have a solid blue, blue-mottled, or blue-speckled coat. They might have black or tan markings on their heads. And while tan markings on the body are okay, black markings make the Blue Heeler less desirable. The undercoat can be either blue or tan.
A Red Heeler will have a red-speckled coat with some tan or even white markings on his head. Some dark red markings on the head are okay but less desirable on the rest of the body. The undercoat can be red-speckled or tan, but not white or cream.
That makes sense for Standard Heelers since they’re purebred. However, Mini Blue Heelers can be mixed with other breeds to get a smaller size. This leads to a wider variety of colors, markings, and even appearances.
Although they’re known as Mini “Blue” Heelers, there can be Mini Red Heelers. They can also be mostly tan or whitish in color.
The physical appearance of Standard Heelers reflects their status as working dogs.
They’re strong, muscular, and compact. They also have upturned ears that are slightly apart with small tufts of hair.
Mini Heelers can look exactly the same but smaller, or they can have traits from the other breed they’re mixed with. For example, Heeler x Dachshund mixes might have shorter legs compared to their body size.
Standard Heelers are some of the most intelligent, protective, and energetic breeds out there. Generations of selective breeding gave them the superlative qualities of a herding dog. And the same goes for the miniature version.
Let’s break down the temperament of the two breeds:
Australian Cattle dogs are very loyal to their owners and go to great lengths to protect them. However, they seem to bond with a few people at a time, and so can be very wary of strangers.
The Mini Heeler has the same qualities and will be very fierce if faced with danger. Just know that a toy-sized dog won’t be as intimidating as a medium-sized one.
Standard Heelers are incredibly smart dogs and so they try to outsmart their humans sometimes. This makes training them super easy, but also offers some challenges.
Smart dogs can get bored and frustrated easily if they’re not mentally stimulated enough. This seems to be a problem both the full-size and miniature breeds share.
If you’re looking for a couch potato, the Blue Heeler isn’t the dog for you! Although very loving and loyal, Australian Cattle Dogs aren’t much for cuddling.
A Blue Heeler is a ball of energy that needs exercise for both physical and mental well-being. Short walks aren’t going to cut it, they need much more rigorous exercise routines.
Runs, agility training, and puzzles all help maintain your dog’s physical shape, while also keeping him busy and excited about life.
If they don’t spend their energy somewhere productive, they become destructive to their environment. That’s why they’re not suited for apartment living and require larger spaces to run.
The Mini Blue Heeler also shares this trait, but it’s easier to tire them out thanks to their smaller size. Just make sure your backyard is secure because both breeds tend to roam around.
Now that you know what to expect in terms of temperament, here’s how to train your Australian Cattle Dog:
Standard Heelers and Mini Heelers are super intelligent and responsive breeds. This makes them ideal candidates for positive reinforcement training.
Just bring some treats and encourage your dog to do the same command, rewarding him each time. You shouldn’t worry too much about giving your Heeler too many treats, though! He will probably respond before you’ve asked for the 5th time.
Although they’re fiercely loyal, Heeler dogs tend to also be independent and with a mind of their own. This requires you to establish dominance and prevent your dog from thinking he’s the alpha around the house.
You can do that by being consistent with your training, as well as correcting bad behavior as soon as it happens.
For example, when your Heeler starts nipping people or other animals at the heel, leave the room immediately and don’t engage. This will stop the dog in his tracks so he realizes that his behavior was unacceptable.
An important aspect of training a Blue Heeler is overcoming their fear of strangers. This trait is good if you need him as a guard dog, but can cause trouble in a normal domestic setting.
You can achieve great results if you start training your puppy by introducing him to as many people as possible. Positive reinforcement of good behavior will link rewards with behaving around strangers.
If you have children or other pets, it’s important to supervise any interactions with your Blue Heeler. Unfortunately, he might think of anything smaller as prey when his instincts kick in, and you wouldn’t want any injuries!
These points stand with Standard Heelers as well as Mini Heelers. Smaller dogs might look less scary, but they’re just as fast and ferocious!
Standard and Mini Heelers are famous for their beautiful, shiny coats. This is largely thanks to the natural oils their skin produces that give their fur a waterproof quality.
To keep the coat clean and shiny, brush your Heeler once a week with a comb or medium-hardness brush. This will get rid of any undercoat shedding and redistribute the natural oils throughout their fur.
Australian Cattle Dogs shed their undercoat twice a year, once in the spring and another time in the fall. During these times, brush your dog at least three times a week to remove the shed hair and prevent matting.
Baths and nail-trimming once a month keep your dog feeling clean and comfortable. You should also brush his teeth every couple of days to avoid tooth decay.
Standard Heelers are usually very sturdy and maintain good health throughout their lives. In fact, most vet visits for elderly Australian Cattle Dogs are because of injuries rather than disease.
That said, there seem to be a few genetic diseases that affect Standard and Mini Heelers, like:
Deafness is fairly common in Australian Cattle Dogs. In fact, a study found that about 14% of participating ACDs were deaf in one ear, and 2.8% were deaf in both ears.
Another study tested the prevalence of deafness in dogs of different breeds. The results found that some Heelers with white pigmentation are more prone to genetic deafness.
This is a disease that affects the eyes and causes the cells that see light and color to deteriorate. In senior dogs, this can cause complete or partial blindness.
This disease causes the malformation of joints and their frequent dislocation, which can be very painful. It’s not common among ACDs, but there’s enough of a precedent that you should ask your breeder to check for it before buying a Heeler puppy.
Mini Blue Heelers that were bred via the dwarfism method can suffer from many side effects because of that genetic anomaly. It can cause bowed forelimbs, crooked teeth, short noses, and large heads.
The world’s longest-lived dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog called Bluey. She lived till the ripe age of 29 years and 5 months. Many other people report their Heelers living longer than usual, but these are probably isolated incidents.
On average, Standard Heelers live anywhere between 13–15 years. This is a little longer than other dogs of the same size, thanks to their superior health.
Mini Blue Heelers live 10–13 years, significantly less than the Standard size. This is mainly due to the short lifespan of Minis born with dwarfism. Their inclusion in the data skews it to the lower end.
Comparing Mini Blue Heeler vs. Standard Heeler dogs reveals that they’re not so different. Aside from the size, where Standard Heelers are far bigger, the two breeds are very similar. Both breeds are loyal, intelligent, independent, and energetic. Perfect traits for a herding dog.
While the breed standard for Australian Cattle Dogs requires them to be either blue or red, Mini Blue Heelers aren’t just blue! You can find Minis in red or blue, speckled and mottled with tan, black, and white markings.
To keep your Standard or Mini Heeler happy, make sure he’s getting enough exercise. It’s also important to check with your vet or breeder for any genetic abnormalities so your ACD can live a long, happy life.
Australian Cattle Dogs will bring you lots of happiness and make for amazing family members. Just remember to keep your dog entertained and preoccupied. Have patience and dedicate enough time to spend with your furry friend and it’ll all pay off!