Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Australian Cattle Dogs Are Monsters, You Don't Want One

Australian cattle dogs basically the worst breed ever. They are so bitey their urge to bite is wired to their spines somewhere before their brains so sometimes they short-circuit and just start biting whatever's in range. They have an unreal amount of energy, and working dogs will often run several miles behind a horse or vehicle just to get to the place they'll be working for the day. They are independent and freakishly intelligent, and will find problems to solve that you didn't even know existed. Cattle dogs are suspicious and often outright aggressive towards unfamiliar people and things, and treat everything as a potential threat. They bite people they don't like, they also bite people they do like. They bite out of affection. They bite when overstimulated. They bite. They bite. They bite.
Devils, I tell you.
Photo by Erin Koski

Why the Scare Tactics?

I was recently part of a dog breed discussion in which someone asked for breed recommendations that fit these criteria:
  • Moderate energy level
  • Intelligent and obedient
  • Agility competitor
  • Very low shedding
  • Neat/not slobbery
  • Great with children
Soon the breed recommendations were pouring in, mostly for very low-shedding breeds like poodles, schnauzers, and Chinese cresteds. However, a few people suggested border collies and Australian shepherds. When it was pointed out that these are, in fact, typically considered high-energy, moderate- to severe-shedding, child-herding breeds, some of these people stuck to their guns. Their logic was basically that their own dog doesn't shed that much, loves their kids, and is pretty mellow, and their friend's border collie is the same way so they sort of fit the criteria. Honestly, it was a bit like these people only saw "intelligent and obedient" and "agility competitor" on the list.

I am perplexed by this attitude, the same way I am perplexed when anyone instantly blurts out their favorite breed whenever someone asks for breed suggestions. There are a whole lot of different dog breeds out there, and no single breed is a perfect fit for everything.

I've found that most people who are very active in herding breed rescue tend to do the opposite, and try to scare people away from their favorite breed. When someone thinks they want a Queensland heeler, I want them to be prepared for the very worst of the breed. Sure, they're not all literally possessed by demons, but many are pretty awful compared to the common pet breeds. What I don't want is for someone to take the advice of a friend who owns an atypical fat, lazy, child-loving blue heeler, and end up with a turbo-charged, child-herding, perpetual motion machine.

Do Your Worst.

Herding dogs are not for everyone, particularly the most intense working breeds. A large number of the Australian cattle dogs that end up in rescue do so because they were a bad fit for their first home. They were destructive out of boredom. They bit the neighbor. They herd the children. The original owners and possibly even a succession of owners were expecting an average dog and ended up with an average ACD instead. I think the more we cattledog people play up their bad side, the fewer people will decide to bring one home in the first place. 


  1. The bitey description sounds just like my dog :-) She's a cattle dog X, possibly with a bit of dingo thrown in. We are very fond of her, but carefully manage her around strangers, and have been through a steep learning curve right from day one. She's super to train... Extremely focussed, intense, fanatically food motivated (but not hyper... she sleeps as soon as she's not "working") ... and she's very bush/snake wise and street smart, but due to her suspicious, bitey, no BS personality, I'm not sure where else she'd fit in if she wasn't with us

  2. Hahaha, I completely agree with your description of Australian cattle dogs. athena is our second one, we were fooled by our first one. He was a wonderful dog, active but calm at home, no barking, good with everybody.... so after he passed, we decided to adopt a second one.... oh boy, what were we thinking!. I never thought that a dog could make me cry of desperation. She is hyper with a really high prey instinct, stubborn as a mule... we say that she is 90%cow-10%dog. I play fetch with her constantly to keep her a little "calmer"at home. Walks, regular running is nothing for her, dog parKS either bc she doesn't like to play with other dogs... just her ball. She runs until she faints. Mental stimulation is good for her, but it doesn't have the magical effects that I have seen in other dogs. 2 min nap in the floor and she is ready for another round. Did I mention how stubborn she is? And bossy, always pushing, trying to be the alfa. We need to be really strict with her ( no free food, sofa/bed only for us...). She 'likes attention' but not in a cuddly way. Not everything is bad though, she is obedient and doesn't destroy anything in the house, just the cardboards that we let her. She is a velcro dog, She is protective and not a barker.she is fine with our cat, even though she chases him sometimes. If I could go back I think that I would have chosen another breed or we would have adopted an older dog that you can already see the personality. So if you really want one, make sure you are willing to deal with all the bad things of the breed, bc it's possible that you get one with.... all of them ;)

  3. Then you had the wrong dog. I am absolutely irritated on how you explained this breed. Every dog is different of course. I have my first Queensland and he is 7 months old. The most amazing dog I have ever had. Yes he bit my ankles when he was just a baby and yes his bark kills my ears. But he stopped nipping at the heels and is the most loving dog I've ever had. He is a joy and hilarious. I have a pit bull that is a rescue and I absolutely dont care for her. Though I dont disregard the breed, I never will have another pit bull. As for my Queensland, hes lazy with spurts of energy. Like i said every dog is different. I dont think you needed to be so harsh

    1. So it's been almost a month since your comment- have you entered the teenage phase with your ACD yet? Is he ignoring you? Pretending he doesn't know commands? Forgetting how to walk on a leash? Refusing to go on walks because he's also in his 2nd fear period and decided he's afraid of the dark?

      It's not about right dog or wrong dog. It's about expectations for people who haven't researched the breed and breed standards; cattle dogs were bred to herd by using their mouths. They're mouthy dogs. They're stubborn, mouthy, intelligent, independent, high-needs, amazing dogs that SHOULD NOT be in everyone's home.

      I don't think the author was trying to badmouth our beloved breed. I think she's trying to say hey- you can get an easy ACD, but they're the outlier. Here are all the possible 'bad' traits you could get as well, so be prepared.

      I can't tell you how many people see my well-behaved, calm, ACD out and ask what he is, and then say Ohhh he's so good, I might have to get one and I'm like OH NO MA'AM - and then I'm 'that person' explaining to a stranger how much time and training went into this 'good dog' because god forbid she goes out and gets one and it chews through her drywall, or tooth punches her and it'll be in the shelter before you can say boo.

  4. My acd is the walking depiction of “derp”. Literally an Australian cuddle dog. I’ve seen a flash of a nasty streak but I would never say she is aggressive nor would I discourage a family with young children from getting this breed. Treat your dogs proper and you’ll have a proper BFF

  5. I love cattle dog and would never be without one or two or three but you are right. They are not for everyone. Mine are working line cattle dogs and would give the average dog owner fits. They need structure, training, rules and consequences for bad behavior. And lordy the shedding never ends.

  6. I have one too. Her name is Luna. She’s all those things, but she barks at anything outside that’s slightly suspicious and she thinks everything is suspicious. She sheds and farts a lot...lol. She also difficult to take to the vet! Omg... she needs to be drugged to go. And we can’t board her. She doesn’t trust most people who dare try to separate her from her family. She’s a trip. As for the owner up there who owns a 7 month old pup.. come on. Dogs don’t start showing their true personalities til 18-24 months. Your fun has only just begun. Luna has changed so much since puppy age. Plus, you “don’t care much” for your pit? That sounds so cold. I hope I’m reading it wrong. All in all,... I love Looney Luna but she’s my first and last cattle dog.