The Australian Cattle Dog, also known by the names the Blue and Red Heeler depending on their coat coloring is a high-energy and extremely smart cattle herding breed. They are not big dogs compared to many other breeds used as guard dogs. So, can a Blue Heeler be a good guard dog?
Are Blue Heelers good guard dogs?
Yes, Australian Cattle Dogs can make an excellent watch and guard dog. They have many of the traits you would expect to find in a guard dog. These include
- They are naturally protective of their families and property.
- Australian Cattle Dogs are extremely loyal to their owners and family and will protect them with their life. For more on Blue Heelers as a pet for a family with kids see here.
- They can be suspicious of strangers and not easily fooled by someone with bad intentions trying to befriend them. A dog that is too friendly with strangers would be no good a guard dog obviously.
- Heelers are very alert and will bark to sound the alarm. They are generally not known as excessive barkers so when they do bark it is usually for a genuine reason.
- Blue Heelers are smart and real thinkers who are able to determine who is friend or foe. Learn just how smart the Australian Cattle Dog is.
- They are courageous and brave and will not back down in a confrontation.
- Blue Heelers are obedient to their owners but generally won’t take instructions from someone they don’t know or trust.
Are Blue Heelers protective of their owners and family?
Yes, Blue Heelers are extremely guarded and protective of their family members including children. They are usually gentle and caring with kids and make affectionate, loyal, and protective friends. It is not unusual to see the family Blue Heeler follow the children around keeping an eye on them. At times they may even herd the children which can be quite amusing to watch.
To learn more about the Blue Heeler as a family pet see here.
Australian Cattle Dogs are also territorial and will guard and protect the family home from intruders. An unwelcome visitor on the property can expect a good nip. If they don’t heed the warning an Australian Cattle Dog will stand their ground. Blue Heelers are not generally aggressive dogs but can be capable of inflicting damage if required. For more on Blue Heeler aggression see here.
Are Australian Cattle Dogs good livestock guardian dogs?
Yes, Australian Cattle Dogs are excellent livestock guardians. Their function was not purely to perform herding duties. They were also responsible for protecting the herd from possible threats.
Blue/Red Heelers were originally bred to herd cattle in the Australian outback on huge cattle stations. They are a particular type of herding dog. Firstly, they needed to be assertive to have an animal the size of a cow bend to their will. They certainly are not afraid to get right up close to the cattle and give them a nip on the hock if required.
Secondly, they are droving herding dogs. Droving, also referred to as heeling, is the job of moving livestock over long distances from one place to another. This task requires a level of independence and decision-making as they are less dependent on a handler who is behind the herd.
This is opposed to a breed like a Border Collie that is used more for fetching. This is the task of herding sheep or livestock towards the handler.
In addition to the job of herding or droving cattle, Blue Heelers were required to protect the herd from the potential threat of predators. In the case of the Australian outback, this was the Dingo (Australian wild dog). They also needed to be alert for other threats such as snakes.
How to train a Blue Heeler to be a guard dog
Australian Cattle Dogs already have the natural instinctive guarding ability and traits you would want in a good watch and guard dog for your home and family. The best type of dog to be a guard dog must be calm (for more on teaching calmness in a Blue Heeler see here), obedient, and loyal. It is important to take some steps to ensure your Blue Heeler is right for the job.
Training and obedience
All guard dogs should have a high level of basic obedience. This is important so you have control in any potential situation.
Teach impulse control
You want your Blue Heeler to be able to control themselves around wanted guests and strangers. You also want to have the ability to be able to call them off if required. This requires a good leave command. One of the best ways to teach impulse control in a dog is flirt pole training.
A flirt pole, often also called a flirt stick, is a pole with a bungee-type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. To use it, you move the toy along the ground in different directions as your Blue Heeler tries to chase it. The key is to teach your Blue Heeler to leave the toy on command.
View Flirt poles on Amazon.
Teach your Blue heeler the property boundaries
Teaching your Blue Heeler the boundaries of his territory is important for his training. Walk your Blue Heeler around the boundary line so over time they will understand what constitutes their territory.
Leave your Blue Heeler home alone
Condition your Blue Heeler to be left home alone so they know that they should be protecting the property. For more on leaving a Blue heeler home alone see here.
Test your Blue Heeler
Once you are confident in your Blue Heelers guarding ability, have a person they don’t know. The stranger should knock on the fence or door, and approach the area your Blue Heeler is. Your Heeler should bark and make their presence known. The stranger should act afraid and run off to signal to your dog they are doing a good job.
You can further test your Blue Heeler by having the stranger use distractions such as bribing them with treats or a toy. If your Blue Heeler is doing their job they will ignore the bribe and warn the stranger off.
Summary – Are Blue Heelers good guard dogs?
Yes, Australian Cattle Dogs can make excellent watch and guard dogs. They have a natural protective instinct due to their role as livestock protectors. They also have many of the traits you would expect in a good guard dog. They are smart, alert, brave, and loyal to their owners and family.