How to socialize a Blue Heeler to be good with other dogs

Are Blue Heelers good with other dogs?

In general, an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler/Red Heeler) is social and friendly with other dogs. This is long as they are well socialized and trained on how to behave with other dogs. Every dog is an individual with a different personality and experience. There may be some Australian Cattle Dogs that don’t do well with other dogs and may even be aggressive towards them. For more on aggression in Blue Heelers see here.

Several factors will determine whether or not a particular Blue Heeler is social and not aggressive when in the company of other dogs. These include –

  • Socialization – how well a Blue Heeler is socialized is crucial in how they interact with another individual or group of dogs. It is best to socialize your Blue Heeler from a young age. If you have an older adult Blue Heeler it is still possible to socialize them. It may just take a little more time, patience, and consistency to achieve this goal. For more on how to socialize a Blue Heeler scroll down.
  • Herding instinct – Australian Cattle Dogs have a strong instinctive herding drive. This can lead to them wanting to herd and control other dogs and even children. For more on Blue Heelers and kids see here. Other dogs can find this herding behavior annoying and sometimes react. With consistent training, this issue can be corrected.
  • Protective nature – Blue Heelers were not other used as herding dogs, but also had the task of protecting and guarding the livestock. As a result, they have a very strong protective nature. For more on Australian Cattle Dogs as guard dogs see here. They may be very protective of other dogs especially if they are from the same home.
  • Nature of the other dog – How well a Blue Heeler gets along with another dog will also be affected by the temperament and behavior of the other dog. If the other dog shows aggression or dominant behavior towards a Blue Heeler they will not back down.
  • High energy – Blue Heelers are high-energy and smart working dogs. Some other dogs may find them a bit full-on and boisterous.

Are Blue Heelers good with small dogs?

Yes, a well-socialized and trained Australian Cattle Dog is fine with small dogs. They are likely to be gentle and friendly with a dog that is smaller and may even be protective of them. Some small dogs may find a Blue Heeler a little too boisterous and may be intimidated.

Why does my Blue Heeler not like other dogs?

There may be many reasons why an individual Australian Cattle Dogs doesn’t like other dogs. Blue Heelers bond very closely with other animals and people in their family and often to one person in particular. It may not be that they have an issue or show aggression towards other dogs. They simply have no interest in other people or dogs other than the ones they already know.

In some cases, they may be aggressive towards other dogs which is often referred to as reactive behavior. Reactive behavior is usually the result of insecurity and is based on fear. They may have been attacked by a dog in the past or they simply have not received the correct training and socialization.

Sometimes this reactive behavior can be caused by the owner. Blue Heelers are very protective of their family. If the owner is showing uncertainty and lacks confidence when approaching another dog, the Blue Heeler may sense they need to protect them.

What dogs get along with Blue Heelers?

A well-socialized and trained Australian Cattle Dog will get along with most dogs that are also well socialized. The most compatible dogs for a Blue Heeler are dogs that have similar energy levels. Other Australian Cattle Dogs would be the obvious choice. Other good choices would include –

Labrador
Golden Retriever
Australian Shepherd
Kelpie
Jack Russell
Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)
Border Collie
German Shepherd
Corgi

Dog-to-dog body language

When socializing your Blue Heeler with other dogs it is a good idea to have an understanding of dog body language and interaction cues. a dog’s body language communicates their emotional and mental state and their intentions to others around them.

When analyzing a dog’s body language it is important to look at a dog’s entire body from nose to tail including eye contact. No one body part or clue tells the whole story.

People assume that if a dog’s tail is wagging they are happy and friendly. However, a wagging tail can mean many different things depending on the type of wag. A swishing tail wag can indicate stress. A stiff wag with tension in the face and body actually means that dog is very agitated and aroused.

It is important to know what is friendly and good body language and what body language may become an issue. Some things to look out for include –

Correct way of greeting another dog

When two dogs greet each other they should be side on and nose to tail. This way they can sniff each other bottom. If two dogs approach each other head-on there is likely suspicion and uncertainty about each other. This situation could turn bad quickly so it is best to keep them separate.

Play bow

The play bow is a classic friendly posture that dogs do to invite another dog to play. They will have their front legs flat on the ground with their backside up in the air their tails wagging.

Signs of fear and stress

Dogs that are stressed, fearful, or uncertain in a particular situation will often use avoidance behavior. They may turn their head away, and avoid looking at whatever is upsetting them. They may also deflect or self-soothe by suddenly becoming very interested in sniffing the ground or licking themselves. Licking can be a way to relieve stress as it releases endorphins into the brain. For more on why Blue heelers lick see here.

An anxious dog may pace, cower, shake or tremble or even roll over on its back as a sign of submission. They may involuntarily urinate, or attempt to hide behind you to escape the situation.

Other signs of a frightened or stressed dog scared include yawning frequently. They may flatten their ears back against their head, and their tail may also be tucked tightly up between their rear legs.

Signs of aggression

Blue Heelers are not in general an aggressive breed of dog. However, any dog of any breed can become aggressive in a certain situation. A dog displaying aggressive body language will try to make itself bigger with its head raised above its shoulders. Their body will show tension and their weight will be balanced and centered so they can react and move instantly.

Signs of aggression can include –

  • Hackles on the back of the neck are up
  • Growling
  • Bearing their teeth
  • Tail above parallel stiff and possibly wagging
  • Hard stare with eyes
  • Ears up and forward
  • Tension in the face with wrinkles or ridges around the eyes and lips

How to socialize a Blue Heeler

Socializing an Australian Cattle Dog, or any dog is more than just getting to them to be friendly and play with other dogs. Socialization is exposing your Australian Cattle Dog to sights, sounds, and positive experiences of the world including other people and dogs.

This can be separated into two types –

  • Socialization – other people, dogs, and animals
  • Habituation – places, things, and experiences

Ideally, it is best to socialize your Blue Heeler with a young puppy. However, if you have an older adult Heeler it is not too late to socialize them. The key to socialization for both a puppy and an older dog is baby steps and consistency. Don’t expose them to too much at once and avoid overwhelming them. Build their confidence up gradually over time.

When socializing an Australian Cattle Dog puppy or even an adult dog it is important to make positive associations with new experiences. Reward them for engaging with the new experience, person, or animal. This can be by giving a treat, verbal praise, and pats.

Remember to be calm and confident when introducing new experiences to your Blue Heeler. Dogs are very good at reading human body language and emotions. If you are anxious they will think it is something to be wary of.

For a puppy, the ages of 8 to 16 weeks is a crucial time to meet as many new people and animals as possible and experience lots of different situations and environments.

It is important to make the approach to new people, animals, or situations slowly. If your Blue Heeler is showing concern over a situation they will likely stop where they are and just look. The worst thing to do in this situation is try to force them to get closer when they are not ready. The best thing you can do is nothing.

Allow your Blue Heeler the time to process the situation and decide if they want to proceed. Turning away and retreating from the situation is fine. It is better to avoid a negative experience. You can always try again later or on another day. As this nothing bad happened in this situation, the next time you try it they may be less concerned and be more comfortable getting closer.

When first teaching your Blue Heeler to be good with other dogs it is important to get the introduction right. On the first meeting with a new dog, they don’t have to get close or sniff each other’s bottoms. Just being in the same area as the other dog without any bad experiences is beneficial. If this goes well your Blue Heeler may decide to get closer and smell the other dog, but don’t be in a hurry to do this.

Summary – Blue Heelers and other dogs

Australian Cattle Dogs are usually friendly and good with other dogs as long as they are well socialized and trained. Socialization is the key to having your Blue Heeler interact well with other dogs. It is a good idea for you to have an understanding of dog body language so you can access the situation.

If your Blue Heeler or the other dog shows concern or even signs of aggression you don’t have to make them interact with the other dog. It is ok just to leave the situation.