Red Heeler: 9 Things You NEED To Know Before Getting One

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Red heelers, they are an outstanding breed that are not actually very well known by this name.

Usually, Red Heelers are called Australian Cattle Dogs, however, Red Heeler, as well as Blue Heeler, are nicknames they picked up over time.

As you might have guessed the nicknames Red Heeler and Blue Heeler come from the color of the dog, but are not a separate breed from the Australian Cattle Dog.

These dogs are a relatively low maintenance dog breed when it comes to grooming, however, they love activity and have a very high energy level.

Why are they so energetic? Because it’s in their genetics of course!

Here are 9 things you need to know about Red Heelers before you buy them.

9. What Is The Story Behind The Red Heeler?

It all began in the 1800s when a family man named George Hall moved from their home in England to a new home in Australia.

George Hall was a very smart businessman and was able to establish two cattle stations in the Upper Hunter Valley with plans to expand north.

In a way, Mr. Hall was suffering from his success as he had thousands of cattle to move along thousands of kilometers to make it to the Sydney markets to make his money.

Keep in mind that being the 1800s, the roads were underdeveloped and the path was very arduous. He would go through mountains, bushes, and everything in between.

There are records of the anger expressed by Thomas Hall when they lost 200 cattle in the brush on their journey.

So how does a man manage thousands of cattle on a long journey to Sydney? He gets help from man’s best friend!

However, you can’t use just any dog to herd cattle, you need special droving or herding dogs. Being such a long distance the go-to droving dog the Old English Sheepdog was unable to help in this instance.

Old English Sheepdogs were better used for property work and short distance trips. If they wanted to succeed in this mission they would have to find a lesser-known breed to do the job.

That’s where George Hall’s son, Thomas Hall, had the idea of bringing in a breed of droving dogs from their home back in Northumberland, England.

Unfortunately, these dogs had the same problem the Old English Sheepdogs had as they could only travel short distances.

That’s when Thomas Hall had decided to create the Australian Cattle Dog, or as we know it, the Red Heeler. How did he do it?

He crossed the breed he brought from back home, with domesticated dingoes. Thus creating the dog they needed to travel long distances and giving them a competitive advantage over all the other cattle breeders.

In order to keep this advantage, they never distributed these unique dogs to anyone outside of the family.

It wasn’t until Thomas Hall’s death in the 1870s that the Australian Cattle Dog was brought to people outside the family.

This was because the Hall Properties went up for auction and “Halls Heelers” their famous exotic dogs, were brought to people outside of their family.

After that, the popularity of the breed started increasing tremendously and by 1903 the first breed standard was published.

There was a lot of historical confusion as we go through the early 1900s, the man who wrote the standard eventually started putting out information that was later discovered as wrong.

a closeup picture of a Red Heeler from the side

Now we have arrived in the 1940s when then the breed made first notable contact with the United States. This is actually thanks to a cattle rancher from California named Greg Lougher.

While he was stationed in Australia during World War 2, he discovered the breed and imported several of them into the United States.

Many other soldiers stationed in Australia also decided to bring Red Heelers home.

Then in the 1950s, a veterinarian in California named Jack Woolsey began importing and breeding these dogs.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) would only put the breed in the misc category during the 1930s due to a technicality.

The technicality was that the breed needed a parent club to get full breed recognition.

Flash forward to 1967, people finally began the process of creating the parent club the Australian Cattle Dogs needed.

Two years later, they were given the instruction from the AKC and were told they needed to start keeping a registry of all the dogs and that it would need to be connected to the dogs in the Australian registry.

Finally, more than 10 years later the AKC fully recognized the breed.

For a lesser-known dog breed, they are very impressive dogs with an incredible history!

Now that you know the full history behind these dogs, let’s move onto physical traits.

8. What Do Red Heelers Look Like?

As you can imagine, these dogs have a powerful, medium-sized build that allows them to be very athletic.

They typically have a unique orange and white coat with speckles of color and solid markings scattered across their face and body.

Of course, they also have those adorable perky triangle ears and a very muscular build.

How Big Do Red Heelers Get

Height

On average, the female Red Heelers are 17 – 19 inches tall and the male Red Heelers are 18 – 20 inches tall. They are rather short dogs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. They fit quite a bit of muscle into their medium-sized frame.

Weight

On average, the female Red Heelers are 31 – 35 pounds and the male Red Heelers are 33 – 35 pounds. This is a good amount of weight for their frame, but still quite lightweight.

7. What Are Red Heelers Like?

This breed is best described as a loyal, loving dog that has tons of energy and will often want to play with you. If you are looking for a breed that will be with you at all times the Red Heeler is exactly that.

In fact, they are often called a velcro breed due to their extremely clingy personality. Thanks to their very active history you should make sure that you let them run by your side as well.

These cattle dogs are going to need tons of exercise to burn off that energy. Otherwise, it will lead to a very destructive behavior at home.

They are known to be friendly, but of course, a lot of this behavior comes down to socialization and proper training.

As far as barking tendencies, this breed isn’t known to be an excessive barker. This is a nice benefit especially for people with close neighbors.

As you might expect, these dogs are very intelligent and are said to be one of the most intelligent dogs. This makes them a fantastic dog when it comes to training, but we will talk more about that later.

Red Heelers are also suspicious of strangers which makes them a good guard dog if you need them to be.

They also have more of a biting tendency which will need to be trained out of them so they don’t carry this into their older years as a stronger, bigger dog.

Are Red Heelers Good Family Dogs?

a red heeler with a merle coat

I would wait on introducing them to young children though as they are quite energetic and they have herding behavior that may be incompatible with young children.

Before you train this behavior out of them, they will most likely circle you and try to herd you. This includes nipping, which isn’t actually an aggressive behavior although you don’t want them doing it.

Are Red Heelers Good With Cats?

No, Red Heelers are fantastic dogs for cat households because they have a strong prey drive. It is worth mentioning that if raised with cats they can learn to live with them.

However, there are no guarantees and with their instinctual strong prey drive, it may not be an easy task.

6. How Much Care Do Red Heelers Need?

Do Red Heelers Shed?

Yes, Red Heelers will shed heavily twice a year which makes them less than ideal for prospective dog owners with allergies.

If you want a dog that has little to no shedding then you should consider a hypoallergenic dog breed.

How Often Should You Brush And Bathe A Red Heeler?

Assuming you are taking your Red Heeler outside multiple times every day on walks and extra playtime you should probably bathe your dog monthly.

This is also recommended by Petco because it is long enough to keep them clean, but also keep their coat rich with the essential oils they need.

If you wash your dog too often you could risk getting rid of your dog’s essential oils in their coat and skin. This could then lead to irritated, itchy skin as well as dandruff.

As far as bruising your dog’s coat you should do this at least twice a week, however, it is recommended by the Animal Humane Society that you brush your dog every two days regardless of what their coat is.

Brushing your dog’s coat is very beneficial for your dog because it spreads the essential oils across your dog’s coat and removes dead skin and hair.

How Much Exercise Do Red Heelers Need?

Red Heelers need at least 90 minutes per day, this could like like a big hike or several short walks. It depends on works best for your schedule and what you can repeat routinely.

If you create an exercise schedule that you can repeat easily every day, you will most likely be able to keep up with your dog.

Remember that you are also going on a walk with your dog and get the same exercise. So make sure you choose exercises that fit what both of you need.

Don’t allow this to make you lax, as you need to get your dog the 90 minutes they need every day or you will have a very excited dog tearing up the house.

Another way to exercise your dog that is pretty fun is agility courses. It stimulates their mind and body, as well as, gives them a place to run free off-leash in a structured format.

There is a lot more to organizing agility course activities which you can learn about here.

How Often Should I Trim My Red Heeler’s Nails?

The general rule of thumb is that if when your dog stands and their nails touch the ground they need to be trimmed.

About once every month is how often you will be trimming their nails. But, if your dog naturally wears them down enough it won’t be necessary to trim that often.

5. Are Red Heelers Easy To Train?

a Red Heeler standing in snow in a forest

Yes, Red Heelers are very easy to train for a couple of different reasons.

First off, Red Heelers have a need to please their owner. This makes them eager to learn things during training and positive reinforcement is very pleasing to them.

Second, Red Heelers are in the top 10 smartest dog breeds rankings out of more than 100 dogs. They have the tools to learn and retain the training and it is your job to make it routine and engaging so they learn what you’re teaching them.

Remember that training your Red Heeler requires a lot of work on your part. Your Red Heeler has everything it needs and more to learn tricks.

It’s on you to create good routines and reward your dog’s training. Part of the training is also socialization so remember to get them as much of that as possible.

A great way to socialize your puppy is by getting them into puppy classes. Your dog gets to meet WAY MORE people and dogs of all varieties than other puppies.

4. Are Red Heelers Good Apartment Dogs?

Yes, Red Heelers can be great apartment dogs, however, you need to find them a place to exercise every day for at least 90 minutes.

Red Heelers are better suited to homes because there is typically a back yard where they can scamper around to burn off energy between walks.

3. What Potential Health Risks Do Red Heelers Have?

Every breed is going to have health problems that their specific breed is prone to. For the Red Heeler, they have three primary health problems, they are:

It is very important that you buy from a reputable breeder as it can help you avoid many unfortunate and expensive vet visits down the road.

Buying from a breeder that doesn’t responsibly breed and disclose information about their dogs can cost people thousands of dollars in vet bills.

2. How Much Do Red Heelers Cost?

There is a very wide range of costs when it comes to Red Heeler puppies. The range is anywhere from $250 to $2,500 but it depends on the pedigree of the parents.

On average, a Red Heeler will cost around $1200. Don’t opt for the cheaper dog because it works better for your budget.

If you are planning on getting a Red Heeler you should do your research, find the best breeder for you, and do even more research about that breeder to make sure they can get you the dog you deserve.

In addition to the cost of the Red Heeler puppy, you will have travel and transport costs. Because you should visit your dog first, and depending on how far you are from a Red Heeler puppy the cost may vary.

Lastly, you will have to buy several things to get your puppy started. Things like collars, toys, a leash, food, treats, and other things we list out in our puppy checklist.

There are also expenses that will vary such as vet visits and your puppy vaccinations.

1. How To Get A Red Heeler

a Red Heeler sitting in scattered leaves

If you have reached this point and are convinced the Red Heeler is exactly what you are looking for then congratulations.

Now that you may have found the breed you want it is time to step into the next stage of getting a dog and this one isn’t easy (or quick).

We will do a quick summary of each process of getting a Red Heeler, both adoption and buying from a breeder.

Adopting A Red Heeler

When adopting you should get the full history of the dog you want to adopt. As well as an explanation of their personality from the shelter.

Make sure the dog you are looking to get fits your situation, you might not want to get a dog with aggressive tendencies as your family dog.

You should also make sure the shelter is doing their service to their best ability. This includes accurately reporting the dogs personality, temperament, and history as well as other factors.

Check out this resource for a complete guide to find the right shelter dog for you.

Buying A Red Heeler

When looking to buy any breed you need to make sure you are buying from a responsible breeder. One that breeds healthy puppies and allows the puppies to develop naturally amongst their litter and parents.

You should also avoid puppy mills, which are facilities that make several litters of puppies at a time with the goal of making a maximum profit with no regard for the dogs and puppies well-being.

Unfortunately this is a very common thing in the United States, there are as many as 10,000 estimated puppy mills in the US which have sold around 2.15 Million puppies so far.

Some basic ways to avoid puppy mills are: not buying puppies online, avoid breeders that won’t let you visit the facility and not buying from newspaper ads, flea markets, or pet stores.

Puppy mills often produce dogs with health issues that can cost dog owners a lot of money in vet bills down the line.

Make sure you buy from a breeder you can visit that has all healthy puppies that interact with their parents well and often.

Puppies learn some early behaviors by interacting with their littermates and mother especially.

A responsible breeder should also have medical history for the parents of the puppy with extra information on common health problems for the breed in general.

All that health information can make you more informed on what problems you should look out for in the future.

Responsible breeders also keep the environment clean and show care for the puppies. A caring breeder will want to make sure you are right for their puppies as much as you want to make sure they are a good breeder.

Red Heeler Mixes

Here is a little bonus for those of you that prefer mixed breeds and want an even more exotic version of this lesser known breed.

Since technically a Red Heeler is just an Australian Cattle Dog we will list off the known mixes of the regular Australian Cattle Dog.

Keep in mind though, not all of these dogs may end up with red coats. A lot of that depends on what the parents look like.

  1. Texas Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Shepherd Mix)
  2. Basset Heeler (Basset Hound Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  3. Bernese Cattle Dog (Bernese Mountain Dog And Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  4. Box Heeler (Boxer Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  5. Cattle Collie Dog (Australian Cattle Dog Collie Mix)
  6. Dalmatian Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog Dalmatian Mix)
  7. Corgi Cattle Dog (Pembroke Welsh Corgi And Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  8. Sheltie Heeler (Shetland Sheepdog Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  9. Ausky (Australian Cattle Dog Siberian Husky Mix)
  10. Labraheeler (Labrador Retriever Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  11. Doxie Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog Dachshund Mix)
  12. Heeler Pei (Australian Cattle Dog Shar-Pei Mix)
  13. Boston Cattle Dog (Boston Terrier Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  14. Border Heeler (Border Collie Australian Cattle Dog Mix)
  15. Aussimo (Australian Cattle Dog American Eskimo Dog Mix)

Is The Red Heeler Right For You?

With all this new information from the conception of the breed to personality to the best places for them to live hopefully, this can help you get a better grasp on this breed.

I also encourage you to look into this breed more so you can make the best decision for your situation.

Not all dogs are good for all people, this dog being very energetic isn’t great for relaxed people that don’t want to exercise often.

Also, these are just breed generalizations based on our research online, every dog is an individual that is heavily impacted by training and socialization. As well as their own history and how they have been treated.

Resources:

https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/australian-cattle-dog/

https://www.allthingsdogs.com/red-heeler/

https://petcentral.chewy.com/behavior-breeds-10-dog-breeds-that-do-not-get-along-well-with-cats/

https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/lifestyle/how-to-choose-the-best-shelter-dog-for-your-family/

https://www.petfinder.com/helping-pets/puppy-mills/animal-cruelty-puppy-mills/

https://www.cesarsway.com/how-to-avoid-puppy-mills/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/9-tips-finding-working-responsible-breeder/