When it comes to the Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog there is a lot to consider. If you are a social family with young children, then the Australian Shepherd may be the best choice for you. They are easier to train than the Cattle Dog or Blue Heeler, and get along well with kids, strangers as well as other pets. On the other hand, if you enjoy a challenge, have older or no children, and are not new to dog behaviors and dog training, then the Australian Cattle Dog may be a perfect fit.
- Similar working origins
- Differences in appearance
- Temperament and training
- Grooming requirements vary
- Comparing health and lifespan
Although there are some differences between Australian Shepherds and Cattle Dogs, they are both historically working, herding breeds. They both need plenty of exercise and will be happiest when given lots of doggy jobs to perform. They are amazing to train and work with, and bond strongly to their main handler. Either of these pups can make fun and clever companions for the right person.
Similar Working Histories
Based on their names, one would assume that the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog share a similar origin, but names can be deceiving. For example, the Australian Shepherd is actually considered an American dog. And although the Aussie does have early ties to Australia, this all-American breed is most renowned for his success as a herding dog in the Wild West!
The Australian Cattle Dog, on the other hand, comes from where his name implies. Commonly known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is related to the wild Dingo of Australia, and boy does he look the part!
Bred for his clever and pleasant nature, the Australian Cattle Dog spent his early days herding livestock across the Australian countryside. But of course, there is more than just geography that separates these two breeds. Let’s discuss appearance.
Australian Cattle Dog vs Australian Shepherd Appearance
If you really want a showstopper when it comes to appearance, you may want to take a look at the Australian Shepherd. The Australian Shepherd is a breed known for his gorgeous, medium-length coat, which can come in a number of unique colors and pattern types. He has shorter, floppy ears, and can be born with a bobbed or long tail. Sometimes owners choose to dock their Aussie’s tail if it is long. The Australian Shepherd may even have blue eyes, although they can also be brown, or even blue and brown.
The Blue Heeler is related to Australian’s wild Dingo, and he’s got a rogue, wild beauty to prove it! With his short coat, erect ears, and unique markings, there is a reason this pretty pup is called the Blue Heeler.
That short, smooth coat of his, which can come in both tan and blue, will often take on a bluish tinge thanks to the grayish hairs peeking up from the dog’s outer coat.
The Australian Cattle Dog also has a naturally long tail that is fuller than the rest of his coat.
Which Breed Is Bigger?
The Australian Shepherd tends to stand taller and weigh more than his Australian Cattle Dog counterpart, but not by much. For example, the Aussie can weigh anywhere from 40-65 pounds and grow between 18 and 23 inches tall.
The Australian Cattle Dog, on the other hand, weighs 35-50 pounds and can grow between 18 and 20 inches.
Different Temperament Traits
The Aussie and the Blue Heeler both make excellent pets for the right person. But the Australian Shepherd is best suited for families. Still, the Aussie is a herding dog at heart and may try and herd children, seeing them as a part of his drove. Luckily, training beginning in puppyhood can keep stem this undesirable trait.
While the Australian Cattle Dog does well with older children, he may not tolerate the noisy chaos little ones bring. He can also be standoffish with strangers if not properly socialized at an early age.
Regardless of which breed you pick, it is important to note that both the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are working breeds. They are happiest when they are given doggy jobs to perform.
Exercise The Same Way
When comparing the Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog, keep in mind they are both highly active breeds. So they will need lots of exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
They will also require early socialization and obedience training beginning in puppyhood.
Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog Training
When it comes to brainy dogs, the Aussie and the Blue Heeler may find themselves competing to be top of the class. But an intelligent dog does not always mean an easily trainable dog.
While the Aussie is highly trainable and will enjoy learning new tricks to please you, the Australian Cattle Dog’s is also quite stubborn.
In fact, the Australian Cattle Dog has a reputation for consistently outsmarting his owners. For this reason, he will do best in homes with an experienced owner who has plenty of time and patience to train him.
Grooming and General Care
Both the Blue Heeler and Australian Shepherd shed and they shed most two times a year, during shedding season. The Aussie does need weekly brushing to keep his long hair healthy and knot-free. The Blue Heeler simply needs an occasional bath or brush down, mostly during shedding season.
Both breeds will need their nails trimmed regularly to keep them from cracking. They will also need their ears checked and cleaned consistently to keep moisture, debris, and wax from causing ear infections.
Health and Lifespan
Both the Australian Cattle Dog Australian Shepherd have similar lifespans. Like all purebred dogs, the Aussie and the Blue Heeler are susceptible to certain genetic health issues you should be aware of.
With a lifespan of 12-15 years, the Aussie can be susceptible to a number of genetic health issues. These issues include:
- hip and elbow dysplasia
- Collie Eye Anomaly
- progressive retinal atrophy
- drug sensitivity
- autoimmune diseases
- heart disease
- von Willebrand’s disease
- ear infections
The Australian Cattle can live from 12-16 years and can be prone to:
- progressive retinal atrophy
- hip and elbow dysplasia
- osteochondrosis dissecans
I have an AS male who is almost 8 now. He is very loving to the people he knows and everyone else is the enemy. He has bitten people that he felt were a threat which could be anyone any age. I am his person and love him beyond words. It just makes it so difficult when hebwantsbtonkill anyone walking by or that comes over for a visit. That is the only time he does not listen and mind what I say. What can I do to help him distinguish good strangers from not so good? To be accepting of other animals and people?
Since there is not a lot of Aussie representation here I will just state that mine is awesome. He wants nothing more than to please his people. He’s had 2 levels of obedience and agility. The trainer said he’s one of the best dogs she has ever worked with. My husband had an accident on our farm and I would never had discovered him without the dog. I had passed by him in the woods and the dog herded me back to where he lay. He never bumped me so I knew he was trying to stop me. He also protected me from an aggressive coyote. If something happened to me I have at least 5 people ( including the UPS man) who would adopt him.
Gary Mulconery says
Just adopted this dog that sounds like a blue healer. I can tell he’s smart, and a hand full doesn’t even start to describe him. Less than a year old is all I know. Tail is bobbed. Chews on anything, everything all the time. Loves to run. Haven’t been to the lake yet to see if he likes to swim, but fireworks booming right over our heads didn’t bother Freddy in the least New Years Eve. Very affectionate licking my wife and I consistantly non stop all the time. No kids grown and gone but being retired Him & I go everywhere together. He lives for the forest.
I owned both these breeds and enjoyed both tremendously. The best dog i ever owned was the queensland heeler, got him early ’90’s. my kids were in 4h and at a fair their goats got out on the midway; and it was always hell putting them in the trailer so i told the wife we’re getting a dog. we got ripley as a pup in the autumn after fair season so he had about 8 months of time with the goats before he had to “heel” them properly. he wasn’t even a year old and i never had an issue with the goats again. he was a natural. i had 4 kids so he had plenty of exercise and he loved to play. he attacked water for some reason if we were watering he’d always bite at the stream. my youngest was about 7 so no real small kids but he ever seemed overly concerned about noise. he was definitely my dog. he went where i went. i had him try to corral a pig once; that didn’t go so well and he made sure to let me know he’d never do that again.
When I adopted my three-year old female Australian Cattle dog I did a little research so I was expecting a smart, energetic and maybe even stubborn friend… But Layla had her own lifestyle! She is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had, with best manners than most people, shy and lazy…
Of course I’ve learned to respect and love the way she is and I’ve just confirmed that experts are not always right… But I love my sweet Layla!
Valerie Vee says
We just got a DNA test back on our dog and she came back Aussie Shepherd / Blue Heeler mix! She is just over a year old and she is a handful, but so living and affectionate at times. Any resources or suggestions on training her? The basic Petsmart obedience training barely scratched the surface with her.
So you have a Texas Heeler, when Australian Shepherd and Australian Heeler make Texas Heeler. That is what I have.
I just adopted a 12 year old Australian cattle dog from the local humane society he definitely has a personality I feel like I walk him endless miles a day he is a looker and loves everyone and if I have a hotdog in my hand outside he won’t leave my side.
I rescued a beautiful 12 week female Australian Cattle Dog -mix?, color is sable (golden/black/white and brindel) with the softest fur I love to snuggle up to. I wasn’t looking for a new pet as I just lost my dog of 14 years and was still morning until I passed an adoption going on at our local Petsmart. I saw her in the back of the room jumping up and so excited I had to go pick her up, she smothered me in kisses and love and the rest is history. She looks just like the Blue Heeler as far as having a short coat and physical appearance. The information on here fits her to a tee and now I know what I’m up against too. She is feisty, stubborn, smart as a whip, fast runner, can get wild with energy, but then jumps up to get me to pick her up and give her love, stays with me at all times or within eye sight, very trainable and wants to please you (treats help too). When she’s calm, she has the sweetest expression and when she’s in her wild mood, she has that mischievous expression and dare devil. She is a handful and yet the sweetest loving loyal mate too. I make her homemade dog food diet of cooked lean Chicken/Turkey 75%, Chic livers/gizzard organ meat 5% all ground, along with some steamed finely chopped carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes 20% and a very small amount of cooked rice rinsed of starch (3 tbsp per serving) with canine calcium and salmon oil supplements for Omegas added at meal time….she loves it and I know she is getting a healthy diet and cheaper too (no commercial foods and or the dreaded pancreatitis for her).
She sounds wonderful… I just adopted a 10 week old puppy and I believe she’s got some Australian Shepherd / Cattle Dog / Lab etc. in her. She is white with an eye patch and some tan spotting on her feet with black freckles on her nose with tannish ears and a brown spot on her back and sounds like your puppy. I was wondering for the cooked lean chicken/turkey what do you use? I used to make my dog who passed in April at 16 1/2 years food with either chicken tenders or chicken thighs plus vegetables. Also which Salmon oil / calcium supplement do you like? Wishing you and your new pup lots of fun, joy & love!
I have a 7 year old Blue Heeler. Ms. Daisy is the second Heeler we have owned. My first girl Cheyenne died when she was14. These dogs are very special. So so very smart, so smart it’s scary. One thing about this breed is they love their people more than any other breed but, they will pick one person in the family and that is their person. Both of my Heelers bonded with me. Cheyenne was a sweet heart, she never grawled or showed agression toward anyone. She didn’t like strange animals in her yard. Daisy, well Daisy is just the oppisite. If you are not me, my wife, or one of our two kids she can be aggressive. She is very pertective. They are the most loving breed I have ever owned. If my wife would let our 80 acre mountain farm would have Blue Heelers all over it!
kilo gee says
I have a 5yo Texas heeler (heeler-aussie combo). she is definitely a 50/50 of both breeds in looks, intelligence, energy, and habits, but I think she got both coats layered on top of each other bc omg does she shed. She was rescued from a reservation 4yrs ago and was part of a large feral pack there (they knew which dogs she came from= the male was an owned aussie and the female was a recent runaway heeler). She picked up domestic life so fast that the rescuers were amazed, but she did keep some of the positive pack habits (interactions with other dogs, training and protecting the pack pups). She is so energetic and intelligent (she does keep me fit and constantly having to outwit her) but thankfully she has never been destructive to anything but her toys.
I had always wanted either an aussie or a heeler, but she is the best of both worlds. But I grew up around a lot of dogs, and had family who had both breeds, so I knew what I was getting into. They are both great as companions, as long as you are prepared for the work that comes along 🙂
We have both Aussies breeds!
They are just about perfect!Your personality descriptions were exactly correct. They both love a day at the ranch. The shepherd bearded the cattle on his first trip- from one side to the other about every other hour if we let him. Both are Very loyal and affectionate to the people they know- but watch out strangers! They are wonderful watchdogs and guard dogs! Hope they live together forever with us!
Megan Walker says
I have a Blue Heeler that just turned 4 and OMG he is by far the most intelligent dog I have ever had! He is full of energy and loves attention, but keep away if you are a stranger. He was trained at a young age to protect his home and boy oh boy does he ever! He loves kids and other animals but as for adults, if he has never met you, beware! He is the most loving and well behaved pet I’ve ever had and I love him more than life itself! I would do anything for my boy and I KNOW he would jump mountains for me! I’m getting emotional just thinking about him. You never know true love til you have a Blue Heeler.
I spent 12 years being outsmarted by a beautiful cattle dog and miss her every day since. She herded 3 cats to protect HER cat, trained the puppy I got her, guarded the grands, even from their parents, and protected me from any man getting between us. She’d been abused by a male and vetted any male who came near. Luckily I decided not to date anymore. I ended up with bike locks on outside gates to keep her in, locked rooms from the outside since door knobs were easy to open and every cabinet had baby proof locks.
I had an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) for almost 10 years and what a DELIGHTFUL creature he was (thanks to his happy attitude and cleverness). He was exactly as you describe, intelligent to a fault. He figured out nearly every secret we tried to keep, figured out the meaning of words we spelled, and found all hidden toys in the house (even those put up high in the closet). I believe his sheer determination to not be outwitted by us played the biggest part. He was extremely obedient and learned new tricks into his later years with ease.
He definitely herded my children (but they found it hysterical), and he was “cheeky” when given a command he didn’t want to do. Mind you, he did all commands, but sometimes he would grumble under his breath if he didn’t feel like doing it. He followed all commands just by them being spoken (not demanded). I could easily slip a command into a sentence, “I would like it if you got off the couch, please,” and he would do it without question. He was the type of dog that you could gently speak to or motion your hand and he responded with ease (though again, he did sometimes talk back).
He was excellent with strangers, other dogs, and any animal – simply because he didn’t care anything about them! He avoided most dogs and animals, and was happy with all humans as long as they threw his stick for him. If they didn’t care to engage with him, he walked right on by. He always had a smile on his face, always was up for any time of game (we played probably 20 different games with him on a regular basis), and was a joy for not only adults, but children.
Remember, you HAVE to train them consistently for them to develop into a dog that is a blessing. I was given sage advice when I got him as a puppy, “Give him a job or he will find a job to do, and you won’t like the job he finds for himself.” 🙂 I spent the first year with him daily (for hours) teaching him commands and tricks (but truly, I could see he had learned the basic commands within moments at a very young age).
He was a breeze to groom, never overate his food, and was never snappy.
So if you train a heeler correct, he won’t don’t be overly protecting. Did you take him to dog parks to get used to other dogs and people or how do you train them to be a friendly dog to everything? I have neighbors so I don’t want him barking all the time. How do I prevent that?