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Can Australian Cattle Dogs Live Outside?

The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), or red or blue heeler, is a highly intelligent dog bred for working on farms to herd cattle. Heelers are used to living either indoors or outdoors. If you’re thinking of bringing an Australian Cattle Dog into your home or homestead, one question you may have is, can they live outside?

The Australian Cattle Dog can live outside in a secure, weatherproof shelter. Since the breed was developed by Australia’s ranchers to herd livestock, heelers are hearty and thrive in the outdoors. However, cattle dogs form strong bonds with their humans and prefer to be by their side, whether inside or outside.

Read on for some guidelines for a happy, healthy companion to help on the farm, ranch, or in the home. 

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, an ACD can still do plenty of outdoor work but needs a warm, dry home or shelter. When temperatures reach freezing, 30F, and below, you should take extra precautions to keep your ACD warm.

Cold and 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 and get warm to prevent them from getting so wet that it soaks to the skin.

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. Shivering, tucking his tail between his legs, and holding ears close to the head are also signs your dog is too cold.

Hypothermia is a real concern in freezing temperatures and can become a medical emergency. Signs of hypothermia include: weakness, dilated pupils, shallow, slow breathing, slow pulse, lack of mental alertness, lethargy, and unconsciousness.

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

Do Cattle Dogs Do Well in Warm or Hot Weather?

Unlike humans, dogs sweat through their feet to cool off. The other 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 a few rules, you and your dog can enjoy being outside in hot weather.

Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to handle the hot conditions of Australia. The heat tolerance of the Cattle Dog comes from the breeding of wild Dingoes old-world herding dogs brought by settlers in the 1800s. As a result of their tough genetics, an ACD can continue working long hours in hot weather, so long as a few precautions are taken, such as access to fresh water and shade.

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 unsteadiness 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. 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 down immediately and provide fresh water. In some cases, veterinary treatment may be necessary.

When out in the heat give your dog plenty of water and chances to rest in shaded areas. Don’t overwork your dog in the heat. Australian Cattle Dogs will cope well in the heat outside if they have access to a shelter to get out of the sun and plenty of fresh water.

Five Ways to Keep Your Cattle Dog Cool in the Summer

  • Access to cool, fresh water
  • Consider a cooling vest for outdoor work
  • Ensure dog house has good airflow options for hot weather
  • Keep activity to coolest times of day and provide lots of breaks
  • Don’t shave off an ACD’s coat; it is vital for temperature regulation

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. 

Final Thoughts

Australian Cattle Dogs are bred to handle long hours of activity and tough terrain. The breed enjoys spending time outdoors and isn’t suited to sitting on the couch all day. Of course, ACDs will happily live inside next to their humans, so long as they get enough outdoor activity during the day.

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