What's the Difference Between a Blue Heeler and an ACD?

By Jackie Pickering
Published in Dogs in Canada
(Breedlines) - February 2001

"What kind of dog is that.....a Blue Heeler? Red Heeler? Queensland Heeler? One of those Dingo dogs? A Bluey?" I hear this question all the time.

The name Heeler (aka Blue Heeler) is usually given to a mixed-breed dog. While the dog may resemble an ACD and share some ACD ancestry, it is not a registered, purebred Australian Cattle Dog.

The "heeler" instinct is to bite to drive cattle. Those who breed only for this strong biting jaw often cross ACDs with breeds possessing similarly powerful bites, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, rarely focusing on temperament, which often results in very nasty little Blue Hellers with a poor public image.

Good temperament should be the first consideration for all breeders.

Studies have proven that genetics play heavily in determining temperament. Breeding stock that is doubtful should not be used. If a female/male Australian Cattle Dog seems overly spooky or skittish, it might not be ideal for breeding. Often we must remove from our breeding program dogs with extreme behaviours, such as dogs that are too "getty." They will get' the birds, get' the cat, get' the car, get' the leaves, get' anything that moves. They often can't or won't sit still for two seconds, or they're aggressive, or overly protective, working so hard that you can't pull them off a cow or other stock when herding.

I think this type of dog is suspect as a sound breeding prospect, since it may produce pups that can be out of control, with overly strong instincts to bite. My experience has been that too many Blue Heelers have gone this route because of the crossbreeding. Not all become bad dogs. Some are fine mixed-breed pets, but I think that too many of these dogs are pushing all acceptable boundaries.

Despite their similar appearance to the purebred ACD, Heelers cannot be as clearly defined, nor are they as predictable as ACDs. It is unfortunate for the ACD that they are now being referred to and categorized with some of the more problematic Blue Heelers.