The Australian Cattle Dog (Blue/Red Heeler) is a robust energetic herding breed. They can be independent due to their background as droving dogs that herded cattle with little need for instruction from a handler. However, despite this independence, they require a lot of attention from their owners.
This desire for attention can lead to them becoming quite clingy which can become an issue if the behavior becomes an obsession. The root cause of the behavior can often result from a lack of confidence or an anxiety issue. For more on dealing with a Blue Heeler’s clingy behavior see here.
Do Blue Heelers attach to one person?
Yes, Australian Cattle Dogs (Blue/Red Heelers) bond very closely with their family and with a particular attachment to one person. This is the person they see as their pack leader. They will usually give this person extra attention and affection.
They are extremely loyal and protective of this person and their small group of pack members. This is why they are very good guard dogs. For more on Blue Heelers as guard dogs see here.
They can be suspicious of strangers and stay closely bonded to their families. It is often joked that a Blue Heeler already knows everybody they are interested in knowing at a young age. They couldn’t care less about anybody else.
They will show affection to their close group of people but rarely be interested in even acknowledging other people. With the people, they are bonded with they want and reward their affection and relish in receiving attention.
Do Blue Heelers like to cuddle?
A Blue Heeler that is closely bonded to a person does like to snuggle and receive lots of petting. Ultimately it comes down to the individual Blue Heeler and how much they trust and respect the person. They don’t want or need as much cuddling as some other dog breeds.
It is important to note the difference between cuddling and hugging. Many Blue Heelers will not like being held tight with your arms wrapped closely around them. This is a vulnerable position and they may feel threatened.
Cuddling and snuggling should be a calm relaxed activity with an exchange of affection and petting. The act of gentle rubbing and stroking releases endorphins into their brains giving them a feeling of feel-good relaxation. They will often lick you to return the affection.
Ways Australian Cattle Dogs show affection
These are some of the ways your Australian Cattle Dog may be communicating to you that they love and respect you. How many of these does your Blue Heeler do?
Nudging your hand with their nose
If your Blue Heeler pokes you with their nose they are wanting your attention. Most likely they want a head scratch or cuddles. It is showing they see you as their person and trust that you will give it to them.
Putting their head in your lap
When you Blue Heeler puts their head in your lap they are again indicating that they love and trust you. They are probably also looking up at you with love in their eyes begging for attention and some a pats.
Pawing at you for attention
Touch is a common way for a Blue Heeler to communicate with you and express their feelings. Pawing at your hand can also be a demand for attention. If they are pawing at your hand too much it may be necessary to reduce the behavior. When they are pawing at you correct them until they stop. Then reward them with praise.
Following you around
Blue Heelers are commonly referred to as “velcro” dogs because they are stuck to you like velcro. This following you around behavior is another sign that your Blue Heeler loves you and wants to be near you. Sometimes this behavior can become too much and you want some time without them or at less not be tripping over them.
For ways to reduce your Blue Heeler’s clingy following behavior see here.
In some cases, the constant following behavior can be an indication that your Blue Heeler lacks confidence or as some form of separation anxiety. For more on separation anxiety in your Blue Heeler see here.
Exposing their belly
Does your Blue Heeler sometimes sleep on its back with their belly exposed? Or maybe sometimes they are lying by your side and roll over on to their back. This may be an indication they are wanting a belly rub but it is a much bigger deal than that.
Exposing their belly in a calm state is a very vulnerable and submissive position that shows an extreme level of trust. Your Blue Heeler must really respect, trust, and love you to do this. However, if they urinate a little in this position it can be a sign of fear or anxiety.
Licking is one of the most common ways a dog shows affection. This behavior starts in puppyhood as the mother dog licks the newborn puppy to clean them and stimulate blood flow. She also licks her pups to show affection. The puppies will lick the mother dog when they want to suckle.
Licking can also be because they like the taste of your skin or it is calming for a dog in the same way chewing is. In most cases, it is a way to communicate that they love you.
Sometimes the excessive licking can become a bit too much and you may need to reduce the behavior. For more on why your Blue Heeler is licking you and ways to reduce licking behavior see here.
Soft eye contact
When your Blue Heeler is looking at you with soft eyes and slow blinking it is a sign of calmness, trust, and affection. A dog will never close its eyes even for a moment if it felt threatened. If you want to communicate back to your Blue Heeler that you love them too just give them a slow blink back.
Even without being an expert on canine body language, most people can recognize the loose posture and happy face of their Blue Heeler. Although it is not technically a smile it is a clear sign that your Blue Heeler is happy and showing your affection.
Leaning against you
Many Blue Heelers will lean against you when you are standing or sitting. They want to be close to you and are probably trying to snuggle up. Just be sure that it is affection they are communicating and they are not doing it as controlling herding behavior or trying to dominate you.
How many of these ways of showing affection and that they love you does your Blue Heeler do?