Posted by: Nancy H | September 28, 2011

Interested in Heelers? What to Expect From any Dog.

Our Blue Heelers, Pluto (back)and Matilda (front)


Well… Let me start by saying that we were pretty sure that we were not going to have any more litters…that remains to be seen! We get so many requests and did have a litter this spring because people were putting deposits down before we even knew we would have a litter. Yesterday I had two more emails from people wanting a pup.

Having a litter comes with a great deal of expense, time and dedication. I would not have it ay other way of course which is why we have become hesitant about breeding again. It’s not just having puppies and dispensing them out into the world. The expense is the biggest challenge…there is the care and feeding of the parents, most especially the mom in her pregnancy and nursing stages. Then the proper care, feeding vet checks (some times after hours emergency charges feeding and training of the puppies who stay with us until at the very least 8 weeks which is usually 10-12 weeks. Then there’s the after calls and emails about training issues that come up with the ‘new’ parents, which by the way, I strongly encourage and wholly support. And truthfully if I didn’t need to have a REAL job… Oh what fun I could have!! 🙂

Heelers are by nature just that, Heelers. Bred to chase and nip the heels of cattle to get them to go in the direction they want them to go in. They are bred to work, bred to be physically tired at the end of the day. And you know they MUST have a healthy serving of dominance and stamina to be able to chase around a 600-3000 pound animal and have the nerve to actually bite it as well and MANY times!! But a Heeler can also be a very gentle, extremely loving and fiercely loyal pet! Hard working, they always love a challenge and have a huge need to be busy but will cuddle with you and kiss you and hug you. They do need to have a job even if it’s just bringing you your slippers in the evening.

Some people worry that a Heeler maybe one of those dogs that is dominant will have ‘prey drive’ and therefore may be aggressive, they want me to ensure them that their puppy will not have prey drive, will not be dominant and one that will definitely NOT be aggressive. So let me assure you, there is dominance in ANY and EVERY dog breed, even those little guys, a Chihuahua for example. But note, you will also find submissive dogs in say, the Great Dane breed. Heelers are no different. So in order to survive, in order for there to be order, every breed of dog must have dominant leaders AND submissive followers. The only thing any one can ensure when you get a dog is, that you ARE getting a dog! It is up to you to be the pack leader and reassure the pup/dog you are bringing home that YOU are in charge and all he has to do is have fun for the rest of his days. Not everyone can be a leader and if all were only submissive the pack would not survive. He must be taught that he will not have to protect you, you will protect him. He will not have to hunt for food, you will feed him. He will learn what ever it is you teach him. If that includes fear, uncertainty or the inability to show that you are capable of providing for ‘the pack’ then you will end up with issues! 

Aggression, it is not prey drive. As far as showing prey drive… every breed can show this…that’s what dogs do, in the wild they hunt for prey. Prey drive is an instinct, eat to survive.  Aggression which is most often born out of fear, is nothing more than a reaction to some sort of stimulus… Dog’s mind says: “If I act big and mean I can get out of this scary situation”.  Aggression can be seen as dominance but it is again actually fear: “Damn it…if you can’t take control of this fearful situation then I must OR the pack will NOT survive” and in this case the dog may even show “aggression”/dominance within the pack.. to YOU or a family member. In which instance training is what is needed. It is not necessarily only achieved with a pup either, you can teach old dogs new rules! This is achieved by being the dominant leader. Being firm, reprimanding bad behaviour and rewarding good behaviour. Basically taking charge and letting the dog know what is unacceptable behaviour. Training then is most important it’s not the dog it’s the people! As with any dog, a Heeler can be taught to be a GOOD “human”. He really only needs to be dominant IF he’s in charge or chasing cattle. If you give him neither of these jobs you’ll have a fine relationship.  A lot of our pups live on the mainland in Vancouver area and suburbs. As long as they are kept active, well exercised and given jobs to do they do just fine. The keys are… You MUST be the leader and you MUST be a bigger attraction to your dog than any DISTRACTION that comes along.

Our dogs are fine with some dogs, we have had 5 dogs both sexes at a time running around playing in the yard and other than a minor squabble here and there it’s been fine. There is another dog however that our male does not like and the feeling is quite mutual. Every time they see each other they fight, but yet our female is just fine with him. You could say, as in our world, not everyone gets along with every one else. There are some people who you just don’t like/ won’t tolerate. In the dog world it is fine to bite someone’s face. In our world not so much. But this too is a training issue. Dog’s need to be taught to live by our rules if they are to live in our society. 

I admit, our dogs are far from perfect but the fault lies with us not with the dog OR the breed. We live out of the city and our dogs ‘guard’ our property. They bark when someone/something goes by but that behaviour is our choice as we prefer to not have strangers wandering around. One dog will bark at a stranger going by, but see’s the neighbour outside and will grab the ball and take it over to the fence…’throw’ it through the wire and wait for the neighbour to throw the ball back…our female will bark nip if she has puppies and you come in the yard, but she will also wiggle and squirm and lick or bark and run like hell when she doesn’t…

Heelers can be fearless or fearful, brave or skittish and sometimes ALL the same time!! They can be quite a handful but like fine wine and grow better with age…they are boisterous loud fun and ‘soft’ but definitely, most definitely NOT a dog for the faint of heart!


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