When 19th century English settlers in Australia herded the cattle that they brought to the country, they had a problem. The English herding dogs that they also brought with them just could not hack the Australian weather. The days can be sweltering and hot, and nights in the outback can dip below freezing. Some of the settlers had a plan. They had become familiar with the wild dogs of Australia, the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) and thought that if they could tame a dingo, perhaps they could breed one with a domestic English herding dog. They succeeded in their mission. The result is a resilient, compact, all-weather, willing-to-please dog known today as the Australian Cattle Dog (affectionately called ACD or “heeler”).
The name “heeler” comes from the physical job that ACDs do when there are used for herding cattle. They move cattle by nipping the cows on their “heels” (actually, they probably nip their fetlocks, to be anatomically correct). Unfortunately, some of them still do this, only to people! Luckily, the nip is not one that injures. But, it certainly gets your attention and makes you move.
ACDs come in red and blue varieties. Both colors include gray with some brown and then either black (blue heelers) or lighter brown (red heelers). ACDs are frequently called velcro dogs due to their tendency to stay right by their owners. While some dogs need to be trained in order to get them to walk properly on a leash, some ACDs start off by being angels on the leash. Some will walk right by your side without any reminders. This also means that they may not be the best dogs for people that like their own space!
The reason I am writing about ACDs is that my girlfriend and I just acquired a 2-year-old male neutered Red Heeler from the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association. We named him Boon. So far, he has lived up to every ACD characteristic, including intelligence, athleticism, being a “velcro dog,” and also being totally in love with his owners. He is settling in with his new family nicely. He is a little skeptical of strangers, but we are using food to teach him that most people he meets should be his friend. He is also a great running, cross-country ski, and cuddle buddy. He was rescued from a bad situation in North Carolina and is proof that every dog deserves a second chance.