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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. 

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