Are behavior problems common in Blue Heelers?
Behavior problems can develop in Blue Heelers such as destructive behavior, nuisance barking, digging, and herding behavior. These usually come as the result of insufficient exercise and mental stimulation, inconsistency in providing rules, boundaries, and expectations, lack of socialization, and their natural herding drive.
Aggression in Australian Cattle Dogs
Usually, Australian Cattle Dogs are not an aggressive breed. They were bred to herd and control cattle and show no fear. This can often be perceived to be aggressive behavior when it is actually their instinctive herding drive and strong protective nature.
Every dog is an individual and some Australian Cattle Dogs can in fact be aggressive. This can be said about any dog breed. The reason an individual Blue Heeler may be aggressive is not so much a trait of the breed. A distinction needs to be made between what is actual aggression and behavior related to their instinctive herding drive.
To learn more about aggressive behavior in Blue Heelers see here.
Teach Your Herding Breed To Be A Great Companion Dog – From Obsessive To Outstanding. A MUST READ for all owners of a herding breed dog – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. View here.
Major causes of behavior problems in Blue Heelers
Insufficient exercise and mental stimulation
The Australian Cattle Dog is an extremely hard-working high-energy working dog. They require a good amount of daily exercise and physical activity to burn pent-up energy. Around two hours a day of energy-burning activity is recommended but they will not say no to more.
If you don’t provide sufficient exercise to meet this need they will look for other outlets. This includes problem behavior like barking, destructive behavior, and digging. For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise with suggestions see here.
Australian Cattle Dogs can be extremely hyper dogs if they don’t have an outlet for their physical and mental needs. For more on calming a hyper Blue Heeler see here.
Blue Heelers are very intelligent dogs (learn just how smart here) and require enrichment to challenge their minds. They require a good amount of mental stimulation and enrichment daily to prevent them from becoming bored and frustrated. Problem behavior can often be a game they have created to entertain themselves. For ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for a Blue Heeler see here.
Lack of exercise can also cause serious problems in Blue Heelers that are left home alone a lot. Blue Heelers require a reasonable amount of human interaction and attention. Couple that with excessive pent-up energy and it can be a recipe for serious behavior issues. For more a leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
Inconsistency in providing rules, boundaries, and expectations
Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to work alongside a human handler. This works well as long as they respect and understand that the human is the boss. They can be strong-willed and if they think they are in charge they will take over. It is crucial to be firm and consistent with the rules to be a good leader for a Blue Heeler.
Being firm does not mean punishing them if they do something wrong. It does mean correcting the unwanted behavior in a calm firm manner.
Often the simplest way to fix nipping behavior is to give them a firm “No” or Leave it” command when they go to nip.
Lack of socialization
Socialization of your Blue Heeler from a young age is crucial to have them behave with other dogs, animals, or people. They are social animals and will get along well with other animals and people if well trained and socialized. Even if you have an older Blue Heeler they can still be socialized. It just takes more time and patience.
If a Blue Heeler is not well socialized they may be timid or controlling of other animals and people. This can also lead to aggression.
Natural instinctive herding drive
The Blue Heeler is probably the best cattle herding breed in the world. This is the job they were bred to do and have a natural instinctive drive to herd. You can’t train an instinctive behavior out of a dog but you can manage or redirect the behavior.
Chances are you don’t have access to cattle for them to herd but using a herding ball is the next best thing. Blue Heelers were bred to chase and control moving objects. Teaching your Heeler to play herding games will actually reduce their desire to herd people and other dogs as herding breeds often do.
There are a couple of herding balls I recommend. Because Blue Heelers will nip the hock of cattle or in this case the ball you need a ball that is strong. They will ruin a softer ball in no time.
See here for recommended herding balls for Blue Heelers.
Common Blue Heeler behavior issues and recommendations
These are some potential behavior problems that a Blue Heeler can develop if their need for exercise, attention and human interaction, and lack of training are not met. The best way to deal with any problem behavior is to not allow it to develop in the first place.
Failing that, taking action before the problem behavior becomes a serious habit will usually result in the behavior being fixed quickly. If your Blue Heeler doesn’t understand that it is an unwanted behavior or what the wanted behavior is they are simply guessing.
Many Blue Heelers can be diggers. In most cases, this behavior is due to boredom and lack of stimulation, or in some situations, an attempt to escape and run away.
The best way to overcome a digging issue is to first determine the cause of the behavior. Once you have determined the root cause of your Blue Heeler’s digging behavior, the next step is to decide upon the best solution.
To learn more about stopping a Blue Heeler from digging see here.
Australian Cattle Dogs are not known to be excessive barkers in general. However, any dog can develop nuisance barking behavior due to anxiety, attention-seeking, boredom, overexcitement, or other possible causes.
Barking is a way of communicating for a dog. The best approach to solve a nuisance barking problem is to determine the cause of the barking. Once you know why they are barking you can select the best method to fix the behavior.
For more on training a Blue Heeler not to bark see here.
Blue Heelers are a high-energy breed and becoming overexcited and hyper can be common. The key to having a calmer Blue Heeler is to ensure they receive adequate physical exercise, mental stimulation, and enrichment, and learn to calm their minds.
For more on how to calm a hyper Blue Heeler see here.
A Blue Heeler or any dog can develop destructive and chewing behaviors. This is usually because they are not receiving adequate exercise and mental stimulation along with not receiving sufficient attention and interaction with people.
This type of behavior is often the result of being left home alone a lot. They can become anxious and frustrated and are looking for an outlet. For more on leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
For tips to fix Australian Cattle Dog destructive chewing see here.
Jumping up on people
Jumping up on you or other people can be a quite common behavior problem with Blue Heelers. This behavior can be frustrating for you and can cause you embarrassment when they jump up on other people.
Your Blue Heeler can also unintentionally cause harm or injury to you or someone else. If they are jumping up on small children or elderly people they can easily knock them over. If they do knock someone over they may think it is a game and get even more excited. They can also do real damage with their claws.
There are quite a few simple and effective methods you can use to show your Blue Heeler that the jumping up behavior is not wanted and to reward them for keeping all four paws on the ground.
For simple solutions to stop a Blue Heeler jumping up on people see here.
Pulling on walks
Pulling on the leash on walks can be a quite common issue for many Blue Heeler owners. Blue Heelers are curious and high energy and when they get excited they just want to go. They also have a very keen nose and will pull to get to a spot that has grabbed their attention.
The solution to leash pulling behavior is to train them to walk on a loose leash. Loose leash walking is when your Blue Heeler is walking on the leash without pulling it taut or trying to drag you along.
For a guide to loose leash walking a Blue Heeler see here.
Australian Cattle Dog can be real lickers. They will often lick your face, feet, or skin. This can be quite endearing but can become excessive and annoying. There can be many causes for this type of behavior including showing affection, wanting attention, or just plain boredom.
For more on the causes and solutions to excessive licking see here.
Many Blue Heelers, but not all, can be very food driven and obsessed. This can often lead to opportunistic behavior such as counter surfing, going through the trash, and looking in the cupboards for easy bounty.
This behavior is not purely about finding something to eat. The activity of foraging is very enriching for a dog.
For solutions to stop a Blue Heeler stealing food see here.
Summary – Blue Heeler behavior problems
The Australian Cattle Dog is a high-energy, extremely smart, herding dog. If their needs are not catered for they can develop behavior issues. These can include destructive behavior, nuisance barking, digging, and herding behavior.
These behavior problems can be avoided as long as they receive sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, strong leadership, consistency in providing rules and boundaries, and good socialization from a young age.
It is also important to understand that they have a strong instinctive herding drive which needs to be managed and redirected in a positive outlet.