Everyday, our male cattle dog can be found hard at work as all-star running companion, the local leaping ball catch champion, and countless time spent wrestling his sister, Bindi. Despite all the days activities, he never tires. Even at bedtime, he tries to engage us in play. So, I’m wondering, do Australian Cattle Dogs ever calm down?
Australian Cattle Dogs begin to calm down between 2 and 4 years of age. During the early years, daily structured training paired with challenging physical and mental activities will help reduce potentially destructive habits and avoid behavioral issues.
What can we do to help our Australian Cattle Dogs to calm down? Let’s take a look at this breed’s typical energy levels at different ages and some helpful tips.
Will a Cattle Dog Calm Down with Age?
Don’t worry, your Cattle Dog, or Heeler, will calm down as they mature! Especially when you provide daily physical and mental exercise, you’ll have a happy, fun, and loyal companion.
What are the ages and stages to expect with your Cattle Dog? Australian Cattle Dogs have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, which can roughly be divided up into four stages: puppy, adolescent, adult, and senior.
- Puppy: This stage lasts from birth through twelve and eighteen months old. Puppies are born blind and deaf. Around two weeks old, puppies start to see and hear. As their senses develop, they learn more about their surroundings and owners. It is recommended that puppies remain with their litter until at least eight weeks old.
- Adolescent: Usually around ten to twelve months of age, puppies enter their adolescence, when hormone production increases. At this age, females will go into heat and males will begin marking their territory, both showing signs of entering the reproductive phase, unless they are spayed or neutered.
- Adult: The adult stage begins between 18 months and two years old. While in this stage, Cattle dogs become easier to handle and more patient in learning challenging tasks.
- Senior: The senior years begin around 7 years old. During this stage, the muzzle and ear will begin to turn grey. Teeth will require more attention, and more frequent cleanings and extractions may be necessary. As a senior, Cattle Dogs will slow down and require less demanding activities.
Fun fact: The Guinness World Record for the oldest dog was Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, who lived for 29 years and 5 months.
To help channel a cattle dog’s abundant energy, it’s recommended to provide structured training for at least 2 years. But training shouldn’t end there. Australian Cattle Dogs who continue to learn and perform challenging tasks throughout their lives generally have a happier, calmer disposition.
What Activities Can Help Calm a Cattle Dog?
Since Australian Cattle Dogs are so high energy, it can be challenging to find ways to satisfy their activity needs. Cattle dogs excel at any typical canine activity, especially agility, obedience, flyball, and frisbee.
With a balance of activities each day, your heeler will relax and enjoy spending quiet time by your side. In addition to the post How to Keep an Australian Cattle Dog Busy, here are some additional activities that have worked for our Cattle Dogs.
- Long walks in the neighborhood, a hiking trail, or pretty much anywhere you can give them a few miles to stretch their legs will work. ACDs were bred to herd cattle over long distances and still require similar exertion.
- A local dog park can offer some much need socialization as well as provide room to run. If your ACD is similar to our pups, you may want to watch out for smaller or younger dogs. Small dogs or puppies seem to flip our ACDs herding switch to “on”, for a not-so-welcome game of herd the smaller dog.
- Agility training can focus an ACD’s energy on positive tasks challenging them to use their minds to race through the obstacles. Here’s a post with additional information on agility training.
- If you’re lucky enough to live nearby a ranching school, enroll your dog in a sheep or cattle herding class. The first class usually tests for herding instinct, like a placement test. It’s amazing to see how quickly their instinct kicks in and it’s a great muscle-building exercise!
- Training is a great way to turn their high energy into teachable moments. Here are some great ways to train an ACD.
When they are at home and need an activity, keep a stocked toy bin handy. Some of the best toys offer puzzles for mental stimulation, especially toys stuffed with treats. Also, teaching them to put the toys back in the bin not only challenges them but keeps your place clean.
Here’s some of the highest rated treat and puzzle toys:
- Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball – This treat ball requires a little more than pushing to release a treat, thus occupying a cattle dog for some time.
- JW Pet Roller Extreme Dog Toy – This treat toy is made from strong, flexible rubber. It is open, providing many holes you can stuff with treats.
- Nylabone Stuffable Chew Toy – Pick the version aimed at heavy chewers. This toy has a cavity that you can stuff with spreadable or kibble treats.
- West Paw Rumbl – West Paw toys are eco-friendly. The Rumbl is not as durable as some other toy types but offers a squishy texture that provides variety.
- Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound – There are several variations of this puzzle game with four difficulty levels.
- Snuffle Mat – Snuffle mats come in a variety of designs. It is a soft puzzle game made up of numerous soft strips where you can hide treats.
- Trixie Activity – This puzzle game has differently shaped compartments, requiring an ACD to use multiple skills to get them open
- Trixie Mad Scientist – This is a cool puzzle toy that requires your dog to turn the canisters around and keep them in place for the treat to come out. It comes with different lids to increase or decrease difficulty.
Heelers are super, high energy dogs that do calm down as they age. During their youth, training and socialization is essential to teach them how to behave properly. For quiet times at home, treat and puzzle toys can be use to keep a cattle dog busy.