Your active and alert puppy was white at birth, but dark blue-tinged gray fur soon appeared to give him the distinct look the blue heeler is famous for. Also known as the Australian cattle dog, the blue heeler has natural instincts to herd and to watch over animal groups or even children. You have a loving and highly intelligent little dog on your hands, but he needs early training to help him develop positive behavioral habits.
Blue heelers are quick learners, so housebreaking need not be a struggle if you know effective training. By nature, your puppy doesn’t want to soil his bed, so keeping him confined to a dog crate, laundry room or sectioned-off space will discourage accidents. You must take a newly weaned puppy outside for potty breaks every two or three hours. Nature calls right after your puppy eats and after he awakens from a nap, so take him out immediately after both events. Feed him no closer to bedtime than two hours, and let him have a drink of water one hour before bedtime. Give him a final potty break right before bed. Praise successes and ignore mistakes. Your little blue will soon master housebreaking.
The blue heeler is fiercely loyal and thus naturally protective of his family and a little wary of strangers. Early socialization -- such as participation in puppy kindergarten classes, playing at the dog park, and interacting with other pets and their owners -- is essential. Schedule play dates and introduce him to other dogs and animals as often as possible. Blue heelers are good with children but they have a tendency to nip at their heels to guide them, and this behavior should be discouraged.
Your puppy has energy to spare and he needs vigorous daily exercise to help him develop into a happy, well-adjusted dog. Take him for brisk walks, jogs or long runs on the beach. Teach him to fetch -- and expect that you will tire of throwing the ball long before he tires of bringing it back to you.
A blue heeler needs a vet examination when you bring him home, and a series of vaccinations and deworming to keep him in top health. For the most part, this breed is healthy. Trips to the vet for the breed are more often involve injuries due to their excitable nature, rather than sickness. Ask your vet about switching your puppy to an adult dog food around 6 months of age to prevent too-rapid bone growth, which can increase the risk of joint disorders like hip dysplasia, a known health issue for blue heelers.
Your puppy will develop a dense undercoat as he nears adulthood; for this, twice-weekly brushing will prevent shed hair from getting anywhere besides the dog, the brush and the trash. Two times a year, the blue heeler undergoes seasonal shedding; during these periods, brush the dog daily. Unless he’s dirty, one or two baths a year, with a gentle dog shampoo, is sufficient. Trim his nails every six weeks, wipe his ears clean once a week and offer dental-type chew bones to help keep his teeth clean.
- "The Howell Book of Dogs – The Definitive Reference to 300 Breeds and Varieties"; Liz Palika
- AKC: Get to Know the Australian Cattle Dog
- Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images