Although they’re both medium-sized herding breeds, the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd are very different dogs. One is native to Australia and related to the Dingo, and the other is a breed developed on ranches in the U.S. So, what are the differences between these breeds? Which one is better for family life?
We’ll review the similarities and differences between the two breeds so you can find the best herding dog for your lifestyle. Scroll down to see our comparison of the Blue Heeler vs Australian Shepherd.
At A Glance
Australian Cattle Dog
If you like your dog to be nearly as intelligent as you are, you might be interested in owning an Australian Cattle Dog. These clever dogs are known to outsmart their owners and be accomplished escape-artists.
The Australian Cattle Dog came from British herding dogs crossed with Dingoes to form a compact, muscular dog who is resilient and hard-working. The Australian Cattle Dog is also known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler.
The Australian Cattle Dog isn’t that large, but it can get the job done, even when herding much larger animals like cattle!
Height and Weight
The Australian Cattle Dog is born with a white coat that later turns blue-gray or red. Both coat varieties feature distinctive mottled or speckled patterns.
The Australian Cattle Dog loves to work. This breed does well when they have a job like herding, hunting, or other high-energy activities. If you enjoy running, the Australian Cattle Dog has the boundless energy to make an ideal running partner. These loyal dogs are intelligent, alert, and wary of strangers. If they don’t have something constructive to do, they get into mischief easily.
Australian Cattle Dog Care
When it comes to training and exercise, Australian Cattle Dogs can be considered high maintenance. They need a great deal of daily activity, but you’re in luck if you’re not big on dogs that require excessive grooming.
The Australian Cattle Dog has a smooth, double-layer coat that only needs a quick brushing once a week and the occasional bath. They shed their undercoat twice a year, but they don’t shed much daily.
For a happy and healthy Australian Cattle Dog, your pup needs to have a job. This breed is ideally suited for a working farm where they can use their intelligence to herd other animals all day. If you’re a runner, biker, or hiker and can bring your dog with you every day, the exercise will provide an excellent outlet for the dog’s energy. Dog sports like agility or obedience are another way to keep your Australian Cattle Dog active and engaged.
Because Australian Cattle Dogs are so intelligent and energetic, they must learn obedience and have early socialization. If they’re not well-trained and kept busy, they can quickly become bored. Bored, intelligent, energetic dogs often become destructive!
Because Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and energetic, there are special considerations to think about before you welcome one of these pups into your home.
If you raise your Australian Cattle Dog alongside cats, rabbits, hamsters, or other small pets, your dog will likely learn that the small animal is a part of the family. They have a strong prey drive, however. If you bring a small animal into the house, the dog will likely give chase and possibly injure them.
The Australian Cattle Dog does best in wide-open spaces. If you have an active lifestyle where you run, bike, or hike for long distances daily, they might tolerate living in a smaller space. In general, they can be destructive if kept in an apartment.
The Australian Cattle Dog can be a great family dog, but they do best if raised alongside children from the beginning. In these cases, they are quite playful and protective. One thing to note is that they instinctually nip or even bite, which is a herding method and not necessarily because of aggression. Either way, it can be a problem with children.
Most Australian Cattle Dogs become devoted to one family member, and they might feel jealous of other dogs or children in the home. However, in general, the Australian Cattle Dog gets along well with other dogs if they’re raised alongside them from the beginning.
The Australian Shepherd is another highly intelligent dog with boundless energy and a strong work drive. Despite their name, however, the breed was developed in the U.S. on California ranches. They are descended from a herding breed of dog used by the Basques in Australia before immigrating to California in the 1800s.
The Australian Shepherd is a little bigger than an Australian Cattle Dog in height and weight, and they have a fuller, thicker coat. Their tail is usually docked. This began as a way to help them avoid injury when working on farms and ranches and has remained part of their breed standard, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Height and Weight
The Australian Shepherd has four coat colors, including black, blue merle, red, and red merle. The blue merle coloring is a marbling of gray and black, which creates a more bluish tone to the coat. Red can be any color from cinnamon to liver. Red merle is a marbling of red and gray.
Australian Shepherds are loyal, affectionate, and hard workers. Like Australian Cattle Dogs, they’re intelligent and energetic, so they need to be kept busy. They become dedicated to their family and will follow you all over the house to stay by your side. They make great family dogs and do well working on farms and ranches.
Australian Shepherd Care
Australian Shepherds have similar exercise needs to Australian Cattle Dogs. Both are high-energy dogs who are intelligent and crave having a job to do, even if it’s just going on a daily hike or run. The Australian Shepherd requires more care regarding grooming because of their thick coat.
The Australian Shepherd has a waterproof, double-layer coat that requires weekly brushing. During the shedding season, daily brushing is recommended.
Like the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Shepherd is a high-energy, athletic dog that enjoys completing a job. They need a great deal of exercise every day. Australian Shepherds love to be with their people, so if you enjoy running and hiking, they will gladly accompany you! The happiest Australian Shepherds work on a farm or ranch, watch over children, or participate in doggie sports such as obedience or agility.
Australian Shepherds do best with early socialization and obedience training. Several are surrendered to shelters or rescues because their owners couldn’t give them a healthy outlet for their boundless energy.
Australian Shepherds bond strongly with their families, and they can be territorial and overprotective if they aren’t properly trained. They can also become destructive if left alone for too long. On the positive side, they are eager to please, alert, and responsive.
Australian Shepherds are intelligent and energetic and love being with their humans. Because of that, there are special considerations to think about before you welcome one of these pups into your home.
Australian Shepherds require plenty of room to run. Therefore, they’re not the best fit for apartment living.
The Australian Shepherd is an active, easy-going dog that loves their family and children. They are kid-friendly and playful.
Other Dogs and Pets
The Australian Shepherd gets along well with other pets, especially if they are raised alongside them from the beginning. But even if the pet is a new addition, the Australian Shepherd is so eager to please their humans that they will happily tolerate other animals.
The Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are highly intelligent, energetic, and hard workers. They love to have an important job to do, such as working on a farm or ranch. Both breeds have a similar height and weight, though Australian Shepherds are slightly bigger.
Regarding the best family dog, Australian Shepherds have an advantage in that they are friendlier with children and other pets. They also are less likely to escape because they are devoted and loyal to their families. If you’re looking for the best working dog, the Australian Cattle Dog might be a better fit because of their strong work ethic and endurance.
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