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Are Australian Cattle Dogs Vocal?

Of all the other dogs that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, Australian Cattle Dogs have the most diverse vocabulary. I wanted to understand if all ACDs were as vocal as mine so I interviewed breeders and local cattle dog owners and here’s what I found out:

Australian Cattle Dogs are less frequent barkers compared to other breeds. Each dog will differ when it comes to how vocal they are, but for the most part, you can expect a cattle dog will only speak when they need something, during playtime, or as a protective instinct.

Turns out Australian Cattle Dogs have a variety of sounds for different purposes. Read on to discover the unique language of heelers.

Australian Cattle Dog barking
Australian Cattle Dog barking

What Noises Do Australian Cattle Dogs Make?

Heeler Barking

Like all breeds, Australian Cattle Dogs’ primary way of communicating is through barking. Barking can come from a variety of reasons such as excitement, frustration, and fear. If you can determine why they are barking, you will be able to fulfill their needs or redirect their attention to something more positive. 

Cattle dogs are known to bark out of excitement when they are playing or fetching a toy. It’s a way for them to release their excitement and energy, the same way they would use their voice if they were herding cattle. During play it is often a single bark paired with loose body language like tail wagging, ears slightly up, and relaxed eyes.

If your cattle dog is barking at you as you prepare their food or if they want a particular toy, this stems from frustration. The longer they have to wait, the more likely their bark will intensify. It is a good idea to teach your dog to “speak” and “quiet” so you can help them patiently wait for their desired item to combat any incessant barking before it becomes a habit.

Incessant barking is an extreme case of a frustrated Australian Cattle Dog that stems from a lack of energy outlets. Providing an ACD with enrichment, training, playtime, and exercise will help prevent any frustrating barking. 

Heeler Growling

An ACD will growl as a warning to an intruder, when another dog approaches in a threatening manner or to protect themselves if they are injured. Growling is your queue to step in and resolve the issue causing the growling. For more information on how to handle growling check out the American Kennel Club.

An ACD also growls when playing with a pack member or it’s human. The growling is usually accompanied by tail wagging or crouching down in a playful way. For example, our cattle dogs growl when playing tug of war with each other or with us.

Cattle dogs are intuitive protectors and their loyalty will often result in a quick series of low pitched barks, or baying, when they feel you are in danger. You can redirect this by teaching your dog that you have the situation handled and asking them to be quiet or to go to their bed.

A Cattle Dog’s Cocophony of Sounds

An ACD’s recent Dingo ancestry makes them naturally cautious of new environments, pets, and people so they will often express themselves with different types of sounds.

When Australian Cattle Dogs are unsure and fearful of a new person, dog, sound, or place they will often let out a high-pitched bark as a means to alert. Our cattle dogs also use this shrill, ear-piercing bark when playing. Some cattle dog owners say theirs make a high-pitched sound when they want something.

An ACD’s recent Dingo ancestry makes them naturally cautious of new environments, pets, and people so they will often express themselves with different types of sounds. You can expect to hear whining for things they want or when they are bored.

When they are relaxing as they stretch and get comfortable, you may notice a sigh of relief or small grunts of relaxation. These little noises are just like the ones we sometimes make as we stretch or sit down after a long day. Many owners use words like grumbly to describe how their ACD lets out various groans as they lay down and prepare to sleep.

Hearing my cattle dogs prolonged grunts and moans were the most unexpected noises I’ve from any dog. Their moans will go on for nearly 30 seconds when settling down, when getting belly scratches, when disappointed play time is over. There’s even the dreaded sigh of indignation if they don’t get what they want.

How Much Do Cattle Dogs Bark?

Cattle dogs do not bark that much in a home setting. Creating a structured routine that balances their play, rest, and exercise can help manage their barking and keep them from needing to communicate their needs. If an ACDs needs are not met, they may be more inclined to bark randomly or excessively.

If your Australian Cattle Dog has a favorite spot to be scratched, you may hear these small grunts as a way of them expressing their enjoyment. This is how many ACD owners find their dogs’ favorite spots to be scratched.

Sometimes though, you will hear groans of disappointment that you are done playing or they can not have a bite of your food. These groans are small expressions that allow them to release any frustration gently.

Final Thoughts

The Australian Cattle Dog is a loyal and loving breed that will quietly enjoy your home and outings together until they feel overly excited or threatened. A cattle dog’s working nature allows them to feel high emotions and sometimes they must use their voice to release these feelings.

They love to work, play, and burn off energy, and anything that requires them to chase will often end with them excitedly barking. After a long day of playing, you may hear their grunt and grumble as they begin to lie down and relax. These are usually happy sounds of relief as they settle in.

If you are looking for a dog that is relatively quiet at home but still occasionally expresses itself through its voice, then an Australian Cattle Dog might be the perfect breed for you. Providing them with enough structure, training, and exposure will set your ACD up for success and allow them to use their voice appropriately. 

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