Can Australian Cattle Dogs Live Outside?

Cattle Dog Health

The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), also known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, is a highly intelligent dog bred for working on farms to herd cattle. Cattle Dogs are used to living either indoors or outdoors. If you’re thinking of bringing this dog into your home or homestead, one question you may have is, can the Australian Cattle Dog live outside?

The Australian Cattle Dog can live outside, preferably in a secure shelter. Follow some straightforward guidelines, and you will have a happy, healthy companion to help on the farm or in your home. 

The climate you live in will affect how you construct your dog’s outdoor living accommodation. Since the breed was developed by Australia’s ranchers to herd livestock, it is hearty and thrives in the outdoors. Let’s find out how the Cattle Dog can cope with outdoor living.

How to Keep Your Cattle Dog Dry When They’re Living Outside

Provide a suitable doghouse or shed for your Cattle Dog when they want or need protection from the elements. The shelter should have enough room for the dog to comfortably lie down. Ideally, provide a soft bed or if you have a dog that destroys beds, you can use straw. 

Rainy Weather

Australian Cattle Dogs have a double coat that keeps rain from penetrating the skin. They can work outside in wet weather but will need a dry home or shelter. The shelter allows the dog to dry off, get warm, and prevents them from getting so wet that it soaks to the skin.

Do Australian Cattle Dogs Do Well in Cold Weather?

Australian Cattle Dogs do well in cold weather but can’t handle more extreme temperatures like some dog breeds. The ideal temperature for the breed is between 50 – 70F. In temperatures between 40 – 50F, the dog can still do plenty of outdoor work but needs a warm, dry home or shelter. Avoid the dog getting completely soaked and ensure he has access to shelter to keep dry. When temperatures reach freezing, 30F, and below, you need to take extra precautions.

Cattle Dogs will happily continue working or stay by your side, even in frigid temperatures. Be aware of this and step in when the dog has had too much exposure to the cold. When the temperature drops below 15F it becomes dangerous to the dog’s health. At this point, monitor the dog’s shelter temperature, and if in doubt, keep the dog inside. 

What are the Signs My Cattle Dog Might be Getting too Cold?

Look out for signs that your dog is getting too cold. If you are feeling the cold, your dog probably is as well. Hypothermia is a real concern in freezing temperatures and a medical emergency. Signs of hypothermia include: weakness, dilated pupils, shallow, slow breathing, slow pulse, lack of mental alertness, lethargy, and unconsciousness. Shivering, tucking his tail between his legs, and holding ears close to the head are also signs your dog is too cold. Blisters, skin ulcers, and pain to the touch are signs of frostbite. 

An Australian Cattle Dog may choose to stay outside doing an activity with you instead of seeking a warm place, so it’s up to you to take charge when temperatures drop too low.

5 ways to keep your Cattle Dog warm in the winter

  • Consider a dog coat and boots in extreme temperatures
  • Insulate the dog shelter and make sure the floor is raised from the ground
  • Provide a bed and/or straw on the shelter floor
  • Create a bed area away from the shelter entrance to block drafts
  • Dry the dog off with a towel if they get wet out working

Hot Weather

Unlike humans, dogs only sweat through their feet. The main way dogs cool their body is by panting. Temperatures over 80F can lead to overheating, especially in an active breed like the Australian Cattle Dog that tolerates heat well and keeps working. If you follow easy rules, you and your dog can enjoy being outside in hot weather.

Do Cattle Dogs Do Well in Warm or Hot Weather?

Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to handle the hot conditions of Australia. Even with a double coat, the short length helps the bred cope with the heat. The heat tolerance of the Cattle Dog comes from the mixing of dogs brought by settlers with wild Dingoes during the early development of the breed. The bred can continue working long hours in hot weather, so long as a few precautions are taken.

What are the Signs My Cattle Dog Might be Getting too Hot?

Heat stress is a serious issue for any dog. Signs your Cattle Dog might be getting too hot include excessive, constant panting, rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulty, weakness and unsteady on his feet, pale gums, dark, concentrated urine, and the most extreme – collapse.

Heatstroke can occur when your dog’s body temperature goes over 106F and is an emergency. Just one degree over 106F can lead to death. The change from ok to a serious issue can happen very quickly, so monitor your dog frequently in hot weather. If your dog shows signs of heat stress, cool him immediately in water and offer him a drink. Ring a vet, as veterinary treatment may be necessary.

When out working in the heat give your dog plenty of water and chances to rest in shaded areas. It is a good idea to teach your dog to get in and out of water troughs, so he knows he can go in to cool down. Don’t overwork your dog in the heat. Australian Cattle Dogs will cope well in the heat living outside if they have access to a shelter to get out of the sun and plenty of water.

Five Ways to Keep Your Cattle Dog Cool in the Summer

  • 24/7 access to cool, freshwater
  • Consider a cooling vest for when working or have one on hand if needed
  • Ensure shelter has good airflow options for hot weather
  • Use a cooling pad on their bed
  • Keep activity to the coolest times of the day and provide lots of breaks
  • Don’t shave off his coat; it is vital for temperature regulation

Final Thoughts

Australian Cattle Dogs are bred to handle long hours of activity and tough terrain. You don’t have to mollycoddle them, but like any living being, they need a good standard of care. The breed enjoys spending time outdoors and isn’t suited to sitting on the couch all day. ACDs will happily live inside, so long as they get enough outdoor activity during the day. They are also extremely loyal and can get particularly attached to one person. Because of this, they like to be with their person either indoors or outdoors. 

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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