The Australian Cattle Dog (Blue/Red Heeler) is a robust dog bred for the harsh outdoor conditions of the Australian outback. Are Blue Heelers that are kept as pets able to live outside or are they better suited to be indoor house dogs? To learn more about Blue Heelers as indoor or house dogs see here.
Can Blue Heelers live and sleep outside?
Yes, Australian Cattle Dogs can be kept and live outside depending on certain factors that need to be taken into consideration. This obviously includes the weather, climate, and temperature where you live. However, other factors that are just as important include whether they are receiving adequate social interaction, sufficient exercise (both physical and mental) to tire them, and other essentials to keep them safe and comfortable.
These other essentials include things like dry and warm shelter, access to water at all times, and a secure outdoor area that they can’t escape from. However, these psychological needs for social interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation and enrichment as just as crucial as the physical environment and conditions.
Failure to provide for these needs will lead to an Australian Cattle Dog that is frustrated and unhappy. This will result in behavior issues developing such as destructive behavior, barking and vocalizing, digging, and attempts to escape. It can even result in them displaying aggressive behavior.
We will look in more dept into all these factors (both physical and psychological) that you will need to consider if your Australian cattle Dog is going to or is living outside.
Weather and temperature
The Australian Cattle Dog is a hearty robust dog bred for the outdoors and is reasonably tolerant of both hot and cold temperatures. The minimum cold temperature range for a Blue Heeler that is living outside is 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celcius). Cooler temperatures between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 to 10 degrees Celcius) would still be OK but it is crucial they have a shelter that is warm and dry.
For more on Blue Heeler cold temperature tolerance and tips to keep them comfortable and safe see here.
The ideal temperature for this breed is around 55 to 70F (13 to 20 degrees) but they are fine in hotter weather as long as you take precautions. If the temperature is getting above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celcius) it is important to take precautions.
This can include providing a cool and shady area for them and ensuring they have access to water and stay hydrated. For more on dog hydration see here. Other things you can do to keep them safe and comfortable in the hot weather are providing a cooling aid like a cooling mat, sprinkler, or kiddie pool.
For more tips to keep a Blue heeler cool in hot weather see here.
Social interaction and companionship
Australian Cattle Dogs bond very closely to their family and require a reasonable amount of social interaction and time spent in your company. They thrive on human companionship. If your Blue Heeler is going to be living outside it is not a case of putting them in the yard and forgetting about them.
It is crucial to allow time to spend with your Blue Heeler. Even if they are not allowed in the house you need to still give them companionship. Otherwise, you will have a frustrated unhappy dog.
Many Australian Cattle Dog owners consider getting a second dog either of another breed or more often than not another Heeler. This is often to provide companionship to their existing Blue Heeler. They can entertain and engage with each other and be less reliant on human company. It doesn’t mean they don’t still need human companionship.
Whether getting a second Blue Heeler or dog is a good idea will depend on numerous factors. It is a serious decision with pros and cons. For more information on getting another dog see here.
Providing sufficient exercise
Many people think that if they have a large backyard the dog will exercise themselves. This is simply not true. A dog will generally not be that active in their yard and certainly not active enough for a breed like a Blue Heeler.
Australian Cattle Dogs require at least one to two hours a day of moderate to intensive physical activity. Providing regular walks preferably daily) is essential not only to release pent-up energy. The walk gives them the opportunity to leave the yard providing mental stimulation by way of the sights, sounds, and smells they come across. There is also the opportunity for social enrichment by spending time with you on an adventure and meeting other people and dogs along the way.
For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise with suggestions see here.
There are obviously ways you can provide exercise for your Blue Heeler in the yard including activities such as playing fetch or frisbee, or flirt pole exercise. In addition, you can give them self-playing toys such as a herding ball or setting up a spring pole.
Enriching the environment
The Australian Cattle Dog is highly intelligent (learn just how smart here) and requires plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge and tire their minds. Mental exercise can tire a dog just as much as physical activity.
The concept of environmental enrichment for animals originated from zoos. It describes how the environment of an animal can be changed to benefit them. In the case of a Blue Heeler living outside, this is their yard.
There are many ways you can make their environment more engaging and provide them will ways to entertain themselves. Chewing has many psychological benefits and is a great stress release. When a dog chews, it releases endorphins to its brain making them feel good and relaxed. Provide your Blue Heeler with chew toys and bones.
Providing scenting activities for your outside Blue Heeler is another great way to provide mental stimulation. Smell is a dog’s most powerful sense and gives the brain a lot of stimulation. There are many ways you can provide scenting games for them such as hiding treats around the property for them to find.
Another popular scenting activity is to make up a batch of beef or chicken stock and splash it around the area.
For more ideas for providing enrichment and mental stimulation see here.
Physical environment and needs
It is important for a Blue Heeler that is living outside to have a safe secure environment. This obviously includes having a fully fenced section to keep them contained. Blue Heelers are smart and can be real masters at escaping. You should also be aware of the potential of dog theft. This is more common they many people realize. Putting a padlock on gates is a good idea.
Another option for keeping your Blue Heeler outside is to use a kennel and run. This will obviously be a much smaller area for them. It is important for them to have the opportunity to spend as much time out of the kennel and run whenever possible.
Providing them with good shelter is essential for protection against the weather and having a secure space to sleep. This can be a dog kennel or access to a garage or shed. The best size for a dog kennel is big enough for them to be able to stand up and turn around. If it is too big they won’t feel secure and may not use it.
Place the kennel in an area where it is sheltered from the rain and wind and not in direct sunlight when the weather is hot. They will also need a comfortable bed and blankets for extra warmth and comfort.
It is crucial your Blue Heeler has access to fresh water at all times. A standard water bowl can be knocked only and they may be left with no water. It is a good idea to use a non-spill water bowl.
Finally, you need to provide your Blue heeler with toys and ways to entertain themselves. See here for recommended toys for Blue Heelers.