The Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler/Red Heeler) is a versatile working dog bred for the great outdoors. In our modern world more and more of us are living in cities with intensive housing and apartment living being part of the lifestyle. Does this mean that an Australian Cattle Dog would simply not be an option in these living circumstances? Not necessarily.
Can a Blue Heeler be an inside house dog?
Yes, an Australian Cattle Dog can be an excellent house dog as long as they have a dedicated owner who can provide for its need for exercise, both physical and mental. They are working dogs and need a job to do. As long as you can keep them busy and tire them they will adapt to the lifestyle.
Blue Heelers are very loyal and bond closely with their owners so the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with you inside will please them. Living in a house as opposed to an apartment also has the advantage of having easy access to an outside area.
Failure to provide for their physical and mental needs can turn into a bad situation if they are cooped up inside all day. They are likely to develop behavior issues such as destructive behavior, or barking. However, this is true for an Australian Cattle Dog living anywhere. They are a breed that requires an owner that is committed.
Blue Heelers are also a breed that does shed a fair amount. This means you are likely to have a lot of dog fur all over the house. You will need to do a lot of vacuuming to keep the house tidy. There are ways to reduce Blue Heeler shedding but you will never be able to stop it completely. For more on reducing Blue Heeler shedding see here.
Can you have a Blue Heeler in an apartment?
It is possible to keep a Blue Heeler in an apartment but it does require a huge amount of commitment and effort to make the situation work. Most Blue Heeler owners or experts would not recommend this type of living situation for a Blue Heeler.
More and more people are keeping dogs in apartments but the Blue Heeler would not be the most recommended breed. One of the biggest issues with having a dog in an apartment is barking. Blue Heelers are not known as excessive barkers but a frustrated and bored Blue Heeler can certainly develop a nuisance barking problem. For more on Blue Heeler nuisance barking solutions see here.
Many apartment buildings do cater to dog ownership and have outdoor areas or dog park facilities. It would be important if you are going to use these facilities that your Blue Heeler is well socialized and good with other dogs. For more on Blue Heelers and other dogs see here.
The issue of shedding with Blue Heeler also means you can expect dog fur everywhere. For more on Blue Heeler shedding see here.
Can a Blue Heeler be left home alone in a house or apartment?
Yes, a well-trained Blue Heeler can be left home alone inside as long as they are receiving sufficient exercise (physical and mental) and have been conditioned to spend time on their own. It would be best not to leave a Blue Heeler home alone for extended periods of time or too often as they are likely to become frustrated and bored or even develop separation anxiety. The result is coming home to a scene of destruction and possible complaints from the neighbors.
Alternatives to leaving your Blue Heeler home alone inside include doggie daycare or a dog walker taking them out for a few hours, taking them to work, or leaving them with friends or family.
For a full guide to leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
The importance of exercise for an inside house or apartment dwelling Blue Heeler
The biggest challenge with having an Australian Cattle Dog in an apartment or an inside house dog is ensuring that their daily exercise needs are met. Blue Heelers require around two hours of moderate to intensive exercise daily to release their pent-up energy. They wouldn’t say no to more. For a guide to Blue Heeler exercise with suggestions see here.
Lack of exercise can lead to a Blue Heeler that not only develops behavior issues but becomes hyper all the time. Having a hyperactive Blue Heeler in a small space such as inside or in an apartment can be chaotic. For more on calming a hyper Blue Heeler see here.
Blue Heelers are also extremely intelligent dogs (learn just how smart here) and need to receive plenty of mental stimulation to challenge and tire their minds. Mental exercise can help tire a dog just as much as physical exercise. For more on mental stimulation and enrichment for Blue Heelers see here.
How to exercise a Blue Heeler inside
There is no doubt that an Australian Cattle Dog living in an apartment or being an indoor house dog will need to be able to get outdoors for quality exercise time.
The daily walk is essential not only for the physical benefits. The walk provides the opportunity for mental stimulation and enrichment from the sights, sounds, and smells they come across. It also gives them the opportunity to go toilet. Many people that live in an apartment have facilities for their dogs to relieve themselves such as potty pads or a grass toilet for dogs. It is nice for your Blue Heeler to be able to relieve themselves and mark out in nature when possible.
However, there are many ways you can supplement their daily exercise needs inside. Some suggestions include –
Walking on a treadmill can be an excellent way for your Blue heeler to burn a little energy. However, it is not a substitute for going for real walks.
Tug of war
A game of tug of war doesn’t require a lot of space and can be a great energy burner. Also, a great walk to develop and condition the muscles, especially the rear end.
You won’t have the space for a full-on game of fetch but you can still get your Blue Heeler moving. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your Blue Heeler can play Fetch by themselves.
Build a simple obstacle course inside using items around the home like chairs or a broom. Alternatively, you can get agility-type obstacles like these. If you don’t have much space you can play a simple game of over and under. Have your Blue Heeler jump over an obstacle and then go under it the other way.
If you live in an apartment you will have access to stairs. Stair exercise is not only a great energy burner but is great for muscle conditioning and strengthening. There are two approaches to using stairs. Either have them run up the stairs quickly by throwing a ball up. Have them decent the stairs slowly to avoid injury.
Alternatively, have them walk up the stairs slowly one step at a time. This is a better exercise for developing muscle strength as they place their full weight on one leg at a time.
Moving dog toys
There is a great range of dog toys that move on their own. These are great to keep a Blue Heeler entertained and also cater to their natural herding instinct. One of my favorites especially for ball-mad Heelers is the Wicked Ball.
The Wicked Ball has several settings such as the Intelligent Companion mode. In this mode, the Wicked ball has 10 minutes of play and 30 minutes of rest. If your Blue Heeler pushes or hits the ball it starts the play cycle again. It also has three reaction modes (gentle, normal, and active) so you can set it to suit your dog’s mood. Due to its obstacle avoidance system (collision sensor), it doesn’t get stuck in tight spots.
View the Wicked Ball on Amazon.
Summary – Blue Heeler as a house or apartment dog
A Blue Heeler can be kept as a house dog or live in an apartment as long as its need for physical exercise and mental stimulation is met. It does require a real commitment and dedication from the owner to make this work. Most people would not recommend keeping a Blue heeler in an apartment for this reason.
Failure to meet these needs for a house or apartment dog can result in serious behavior issues such as destructive behavior and barking. If you do or are going to be keeping a Blue Heeler as a house dog or in an apartment you must be prepared and committed to making sure they get at least two hours a day of exercise and plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment.