Are Australian Cattle Dogs Good with Other Dogs?

Cattle Dog Socialization

For those up-and-coming Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) owners hoping to get a new furry companion, it is always good to consider your favorite breed’s friendliness and compatibility as a top priority. Not only does this determine their overall temperament, but more importantly, it defines their social life as well. If you were wondering how ACDs fare with other furry friends, you’ve come to the right place.

Because Australian Cattle Dogs were initially bred to herd cattle, as their name suggests, they often like to take a dominant role in social situations. While ACDs are not considered to be “barkers”, they can appear quite fierce and protective. Without proper socialization and training, Cattle Dogs can be somewhat aggressive with other dogs.

However, it is not to say that Cattle Dogs won’t become friendly with other canines over time. If you are planning to adopt an Australian Cattle Dog, here are some temperament-related behaviors you should consider.

Are Cattle Dogs Good with Other Dogs?

To understand if Cattle Dogs are friendly with other dogs, let’s start with a brief history of their breed. ACDs have been around since the early 1800s, when British working dogs were brought to Australia to control livestock but were ill-equipped for the rough terrain and high temperatures. So local ranchers began breeding the working dogs with Dingoes to create a breed well-suited for herding livestock in the Outback, which became known as the Australian Cattle Dog.

Often, there were several Cattle Dogs on a ranch working together to control herds. ACDs are typical canines when it comes to being pack animals with a strong social structure, or hierarchy. When in a pack, an ACDs strong instinct to herd or group other dogs may cause conflict or annoyance. Outside of their pack, a Cattle Dog’s herding behavior towards other dogs can be aggressive and fierce, especially with the same sex. When socializing with other dogs, they can be determined to “be the boss” and are generally single-minded as they focus on their need to heel other dogs.

Heelers’ dominant behavior becomes more prevalent with smaller or younger dogs. In these cases, Heelers may try to control the other using herding and contact behaviors such as nipping at the heels of the other dogs. This heeling activity can extend to other small creatures such as cats, chickens, and even human children.

However, they generally do not exhibit aggressive behavior to smaller dogs unless there’s a threat or when approached. It is important to note, that a bigger issue arises if the other dog suffers from a superiority complex in which the smaller dog attempts to dominate a larger one. In these cases, be very careful! A Heeler may get annoyed and may try to defend itself. 

Are Heelers Good with Dogs of the Same Household?

Generally, Heelers are good with dogs of the same household; however, this is under the assumption that you take the right steps when introducing a new member of the family or when introducing the Heeler puppy to the family.

It is most important that you introduce your Heeler to the household slowly and under supervision, especially if you have other dogs, pets, or younger kids. Because of their herding behavior, they may lash out or become defensive if they are overstressed by their new environment.

Vice versa; if you plan to introduce a new pet or newborn to the family with a Heeler already present, give your Heeler time to adapt. Do not suddenly allow the new member of your family to interact with the Heeler for extended periods of time; let them get to know each other slowly.

This can simply be done by occasionally separating your Heeler from others. Think of it as a playdate. Introduce the new pet or child as a playmate for your ACD, with increasingly more frequent playdates. Once these playdates become a common occurrence, you can be confident that your Heeler is comfortable with all the members of your family.

However, if your Heeler is being raised as a puppy with other pets in the household (this even includes cats, hamsters, rabbits, etc.), you can rest assured that he/she harmoniously coexist with them. Note that the same cannot always be said for other types of animals.

A tip for smaller dogs… if you aim to have a Heeler live with a smaller dog, it is optimal if the smaller dog is older in age. This offsets some of the dominant behavior that your Heeler may exhibit. However, do note that because Heelers are extremely loyal and possessive dogs, jealousy may become an issue within a household of multiple pets.

How Can You Socialize Your Heeler?

After all, Heelers, like any other dog, are social animals. They do enjoy the company of and socialization with other dogs. Because of their nature, however, it is essential to begin training and socialization from a very young age.

Socializing a Young Heeler

The best time to begin interacting your ACD with other dogs is before the age of 12 weeks. However, remember that too much interaction can become an issue as well. Too much socialization may stress your Heeler and may lead to different issues in the future. Give your ACD puppy time to adapt to different settings, environments, and companions. There is no rush!

The best way to socialize your Heeler is through habituation; the process of exposing him/her to different things on a regular basis so she/he becomes more accustomed to the world around them. Here are some ways to socialize your ACD:

  1. Expose your puppy to a variety of different objects. This can range from foods, household items, and toys. A puppy is always curious and yearning to learn. They usually like to inspect everything around them.
  2. Expose your puppy to different textures. This includes, but is not limited to, carpets, tiling, grass, snow, cement, etc.
  3. Expose your puppy to travelling. If they seldom travel in cars at a young age, they can be prone to carsickness when they get older.
  4. Expose your puppy to different types of people. Expose your puppy to people of different ages and characters. This allows them to experience and come to accept anybody and everybody. For example, a younger child may be more aggressive or excited when interacting with your Heeler, while a senior will be more calm.
  5. Most importantly, expose your puppy to other animals or pets. A good way to expose your Heeler puppy to other animals is through either daycare, playdates, or classes. This gives them the opportunity to learn to interact with other animals, which will inevitably be a very common occurrence in the future.

In order to make these interactions effective, remember by rewarding your puppy. By giving them physical treats or verbal praises, they learn that they are doing the correct behavior.

Socializing an Adult Heeler

Fair warning: socializing and training an adult Heeler will take a lot more time and patience. The method, however, is the same as socializing a puppy. Your goal here is to help your Heeler build confidence through positive association and rewards for correct behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Although Heelers can be quite challenging to train and socialize with other dogs, it is far from impossible. With enough patience, determination and perseverance from both you and your dog, he/she can be the friendliest canine with other dogs and people. Just remember, your dog has emotions and character too. If they ever act out of order, it may not be their intent, but rather, their instinct. Allow your Cattle dog their own time and space when training. Sooner or later, socializing with other dogs will be a piece of cake!

Jacqueline Hamel

I’m a lifetime dog owner of several breeds and a recent Cattle Dog enthusiast after adopting two puppy siblings Bindi and Banjo. Now, I’m on a mission to better understand Heelers and other herding dogs. Hopefully, through this blog, I can share the joy and lessons learned from these intelligent, protective, loyal, athletic, and intelligent dogs.

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