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Are Australian Cattle Dogs Good for First-time Dog Owners?

As an Australian Cattle dog owner, it was surprising to me how much energy this breed has and how much attention they need. ACDs require more overall time commitment compared to the average breed. I’m thrilled at how active and intelligent these dogs are, however, an Australian Cattle Dog may not be the right fit for new owners.

An Australian Cattle dog will be a good fit if first-time dog owners understand the breed’s exceptionally high energy levels, above-average intelligence, and intense mental and physical exercise needs.

If you are a new ACD owner or considering adopting one (or 2 like we did!), here are some breed traits, behaviors to consider, and some helpful links.

Bindi the Cattle Dog ready for daily frisbee throw

What to Know Before Getting an Australian Cattle Dog

First-time dog owners should expect to spend a great deal of their time exercising and training an Australian Cattle Dog.

If you work full-time or have a busy family life, a cattle dog may not be the best fit for your lifestyle, especially a puppy. Because of their strong will, they can often be independent and require consistent training. Like any breed, an ACD thrives with daily exercise and training. If an Australian Cattle dog is your first dog, be ready to give them ample attention and structure.

ACDs are not known to be big barkers, but their protective nature can trigger them to use their voice when they feel threatened by another person, dog, or sound. For the most part, though, they are relatively quiet as long as they are near those they love. If your ACD is barking more than the average dog, it may be due to frustration, excitement, fear, or play depending on what situation they are in. 

Herding or working dogs, like cattle dogs, are generally hard to manage in an apartment, but it may work if you have the time to spend exercising them outside. Keep in mind that ACDs were bred to spend their days herding cattle and covering large tracts of land. If you live in an apartment and are more sedentary you will quickly notice frustration in your ACD building potentially leading to behavioral issues.

One of the best qualities of Australian Cattle Dogs is their intelligence which makes them eager to please and quick to learn. Teaching them new tricks and giving them different outlets to express themselves will build a cattle dog’s confidence and bond. Check out the related post describing ACDs top 10 intelligence ranking.

If you want a bigger dog but one that isn’t going to take up your whole bed, Australian Cattle Dogs’ medium size will fit perfectly in your life. At full grown, they generally range anywhere from 35-pounds and stand at 17-20 inches making them the perfect fit for most households.

Australian Cattle Dogs have double coats with the top coat being slicker hair that wicks water away, while the undercoat is insulated. Be prepared for frequent grooming to aid their seasonal shedding. Brushing them frequently will remove any dead hair and reduce fur plumps from collecting on your furniture and clothes. Here are some great grooming brushes on Amazon.

Are Australian Cattle Dogs Good with Other Dogs?

Australian cattle dogs are generally good with other dogs when properly socialized, but you always want to supervise their play because of their high drive and herding instinct. 

With any herding breed, you want to start socialization with other dogs as soon as possible when they are puppies. After they have had their shots and the green light to interact with other dogs from their vet, you must begin introducing your cattle dog to other appropriate aged and tempered dogs.

A good way to start socializing your ACD is through a puppy class where you will not only take part in group training sessions but also allow your puppy to interact off-leash with other dogs their age. Every dog has their own personality, so you may have an ACD that is less work driven and more interested in playing or an ACD that has more working lines and less desire to interact.

Understanding your Australian Cattle Dogs’ boundaries and body language will set them up for success when they meet other dogs.

Due to their herding instincts, a dog park may not be the best option for them. Having many dogs sniff one dog at once can be overwhelming and lead to a negative reaction from your ACD. A large herd of dogs running and playing can likely overstimulate their working mind and lead to herding and grabbing other dogs’ heels. You will want to be especially cautious of any small animals or dogs because of their prey drive and reduce any chasing after them.

They are a naturally protective breed and used to work cattle so they often come off as standoffish and cautious of new dogs and people they are meeting for the first time. Move at your dogs’ pace when introducing them to new dogs and do so on neutral territory instead of indoors so there is plenty of room to spread out.

Once your ACD is familiar with certain dogs they are more likely to let loose and show their playful side more. For more information on socialization check out the post Are Australian Cattle Dogs Good with Other Dogs?

Possible Australian Cattle Dog Behavior Issues

Australian Cattle dogs’ behavior issues often stem from a lack of energy outlets to channel their high energy and above-average intelligence.

One of the biggest issues owners face with their ACD is herding. Often a cattle dog will herd other dogs or children by stalking and chasing their target and grabbing their heels. It’s how they got their name for doing the same to livestock.

If you have a high-drive cattle dog that’s herding all the time, you can see if any ranchers offer herding classes where your ACD can use their herding skills positively. If there is no option, opt for a dog sport like agility where they have a rewarding goal. This will tire them out physically, but most importantly mentally.

If not socialized properly, new people and dogs can be stressful for an ACD. A stressed cattle dog is likely to react negatively.

It is important you used high-value rewards for your ACD for positive interactions with a new dog or person. More importantly, remove them from the interaction if you notice their body language looking nervous or aggressive. There are many training and socializing classes you and your ACD can attend to build up their confidence with new interactions.

Lack of fulfillment of an ACDs need to work can lead to destructive behaviors when home alone. Chewing on furniture or shredding something up is a way for your dog to let their frustrations out and if they are doing so consistently then they need more energy outlets.

Final Thoughts

Australian Cattle Dogs can be a good fit for first-time dog owners who have researched this challenging breed and prepared themselves for the daily exercise commitment. Cattle dogs are highly intelligent dogs and have boundless energy that needs to be directed into positive outlets like training, herding, puzzle toys, and chew toys.

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