Australian Cattle Dog Breeder Round-Up 

In creating the book The Complete Guide to Australian Cattle Dogs” (written by Tarah Schwartz and available on Amazon) we interviewed 6 of the top Australian Cattle Dog breeders in the country.  We used their advice and expertise to help make the book the best possible guide book for a new Australian Cattle Dog owner.

But… there was so much good advice in those interviews that we couldn’t fit it all into the book.  So we decided we’d compile the best answers to each question and present them here.  If you are thinking of getting a Australian Cattle Dog, or are a current owner, the advice that follows will be invaluable to you as you proceed on your ownership journey.  Enjoy:

 

Question #1:  What are your tips for choosing the right Australian Cattle Dog from either a breeder or rescue?

Consensus:
 It is imperative that you do your research when selecting an Australian Cattle Dog. Some lines have some unwanted traits, including challenging physical issues that can lead to blindness, and problematic behavioral traits such as aggression. Try and meet the pup’s parents if you can, as the temperaments of the sire and the dam are often the best predictor of the pup’s temperament. Spend time with your new dog before bringing them home, and get as much history as you can from the breeder or rescue group.

Best Quotes:

Do plenty of research on this breed to make certain it is a good fit for you; this is a very active and intelligent breed that requires a dedicated owner. Seek out breeders that are producing puppies from fully health tested dogs and are active in using their dogs for this breed’s intended purpose. Also, ensure that they are raising puppies in an environment that will give the pups every opportunity to grow with health and confidence.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

When choosing an ACD, regardless of age, make an effort to meet the sire and dam to make sure they’re friendly. Get some history on the dog so you can get an understanding of their potential personality. Many ACD’s are known for being super protective, so you want to make sure you’re adopting a puppy or dog that won’t be aggressive with friends or strangers.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Do your homework then check the bloodlines. Visit some dogs in the bloodline. The most important thing you can do is pick your puppy after you spent time with them over several days. The puppy will pick you if you let it, and they know better than you. James C Beel

Question #2:  What are some of the most unique characteristics of the breed?

Consensus:
This breed is known for their ability to problem solve and while they are quite willing to learn from you, they are just as likely to try and teach you a new way to get the job done. Their exceptionally strong drive to work can lead to troublesome behavior if they are not given a dynamic job of some sort. They also have an unusually strong herding instinct which often cannot be quelled. Not only will they herd livestock, but many ACDs have been known to use their herding skills to control other pets as well as people.

Best Quotes:

ACD’s mischievous and they tend to think “outside the box”. They are happy to comply with your demands, but often think they know a better way to get it done.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

This breed has the natural instinct to herd they want to control movement. This means cattle or anything else that they are around, including people! This is an active, high drive breed by nature. Make certain you have a lifestyle that can provide plenty of mental and physical activity, training, and socialization.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

ACDs are extremely loyal and protective. They are also super smart. When training an ACD, be careful because they can learn bad habits just as quickly as the good ones.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Question #3:  What are some things to consider to help you decide if you are suited to owning an Australian Cattle Dog?

Consensus:
 This dog breed is highly intelligent, extremely loyal, and they can be trained to do just about any trick you can come up with. Their drive and athletic abilities are as extreme as their intelligence and loyalty, however, and anyone who is considering sharing their homes with one or more of these dogs should ensure that they will have an appropriate outlet for that drive, both mentally and physically. This breed is an excellent choice for someone who is looking for a constant companion as they prefer to spend as much time with their person as possible.

Best Quotes:

Like any herding breed, and perhaps even more so, ACDs were created for vigorous working conditions. Their drive and athleticism are too extreme for most unless they are given appropriate mental and physical outlets for their energy.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Are you smart enough to be owned by an Australian Cattle Dog? ACDs thrive on mental stimulation even more than physical exercise. If these dogs become bored, get ready for a mess.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

These dogs are highly active and want to be with their owners as much as possible. They require a solid and ongoing foundation of obedience training and socialization.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Question #4:  How would you  recommend people prepare their home for the arrival of their new puppy?

Consensus:
 It is essential that you understand this breed before bringing a puppy home. They are very clever canines and they have some serious chewing power, so it is critical that you pick up anything off of the floor that you prefer to keep in one piece. Obedience training should start as early as possible for these pups, both to establish yourself as a strong leader, and to teach your exuberant and driven pup how to mind their manners. It is also a good idea to choose a dependable veterinarian before bringing your new dog home.

Best Quotes:

Read and research this breed as much as possible! Ask your breeder any questions that occur to you, as well as getting recommendations for things like foods, age-appropriate activities, and training. Sign up for a puppy class and find a vet that can provide a schedule of good care for the dog’s life. Make sure you have a safe area to allow the pup plenty of exercise and play.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Aggressively research the breed to understand their needs as a breed. Puppy-proof their accommodations to be sure that the pup won’t get into anything that they shouldn’t. Organize a reliable schedule.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

It is best to be prepared for a feisty puppy! You should, at minimum, have a size appropriate crate, foldable exercise pen, food and water dishes, chew-proof toys, treats for training, proper dog food, puppy pads, and patience. Do not allow your puppy to be unsupervised in your home, avoid trouble early on by controlling the situation. Have a safe place for your puppy to rest and do not disturb overnight. Remove low lying wires or power cords.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

Question #5:  What are some unexpected things a new Australian Cattle Dog owner might encounter in the first few weeks?

Consensus:
 Australian Cattle Dogs have a great deal of both curiosity and energy. This can lead to a great deal of mischief and some new owners may not be ready for just how busy an ACD can be. Another trait of Australian Cattle Dogs that tend to surprise new pet parents is their chewing ability. While they do not have the initial bite force of dogs like the German Shepherd or the American Pit Bull, they can gnaw their way through just about anything, usually at a much faster pace than most new owners would expect.

Best Quotes:

Be prepared for a busy puppy if you buy a young ACD. If you are bringing home an adult dog, be prepared to mentally exercise your dog as well as physically. They may be looking to establish dominance or a pecking order in their new home, with you as well as animals already established in the home. Do not let the first few weeks deter you, it is a transition period that should be given the utmost patience in order to establish a routine and acceptable behaviors.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

Teething trouble; the ability to chew is well-known with these pups. Providing enough daily exercise is an important key.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Chewing. They chew on everything.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Question #6:  What house-training advice do you have for a new owner?

Consensus:
Australian Cattle Dog pups aren’t any more challenging to house train than the average puppy, and in many cases will pick it up more quickly. When it comes to house training this breed, experts typically stress consistency and timing as the most important factors in how quickly your dog masters this lesson.

Best Quotes:

Most pups are eager to learn and house training can quickly be successful with praise and treats. Make certain you take your puppy out when they wake up, after they have been playing for a while, and shortly after they have eaten.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

For house-training to be successful, you MUST be consistent with boundaries and the puppy’s schedule. Meals should be given at certain predictable times and trips outside to potty should be predetermined.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

Set a reliable schedule and utilize reward-based learning.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Routine, routine, routine! Establish his set routine and stick to it. I cannot emphasize how important a schedule is for your new dog or puppy; this repetition will be the key to success in house training your dog. Your dog will acclimate to what becomes repetitive on a daily basis.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

Question #7:  What tips do you have for socializing your Australian Cattle Dog with other pets?

Consensus:
 Australian Cattle Dogs are neither particularly social or anti-social by nature with other dogs. Get them out and around other people and trusted pets early so they get used to interacting with others, but be sure not to let them become overwhelmed. They are curious canines, and they tend to have great faith in their human companions, so having a friendly conversation with a strange human or showing your pup that the other dog is friendly may help encourage them to be more confident.

Best Quotes:

Get them out early and often; with humans, dogs, cats, ferrets, bunnies, whatever, just get them out. Going to a pet-friendly pet store and visiting dogs up for adoption works well too.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

Start young. ACDs are super smart and need to learn right away that people, in general, are good. With ACD you need to show them that whomever you are introducing them to is safe. If it is another dog, start by petting the other dog. Your dog will realize that their protection isn’t needed, encouraging them to be friendly and play.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Recognize that this is a herding breed and it is their natural inclination to move other animals. You must consider this when training or socializing them. Starting early is the best way to teach appropriate behavior with other animals. Find a local puppy training class, allow only trusted pets around your puppy or dog, and work up from there. Do not put your dog in a preventable situation where they can hurt or be hurt by another.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

Keep introductions to other pets one-on-one initially, so that the pup does not become overwhelmed. Socialization should include animals and people from outside of the family once the pup is fully vaccinated. This will ensure that your dog will be a confident, friendly, and reliable companion in any situation.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Question #8:  How much exercise does an Australian Cattle Dog need? What are some good exercise habits to develop?

Consensus:
 This is a driven and energetic breed that needs a great deal of both mental and physical energy to remain happy and healthy. The stamina of the Australian Cattle Dog is what made them such a fantastic working dogs for ranchers and farmers, but it means it takes a little extra effort to wear them out. Along with vigorous physical exercise, you can help ensure your canine companion’s physical and mental health by enrolling them in obedience classes or teaching them dog sports like agility training and flyball.

Best Quotes:

This is a working breed that is highly active as well as highly intelligent. The saying goes “a tired ACD is a good ACD”, and it really is true! Make sure your dog gets enough physical exercise as well as mental exercise daily. These dogs are eager to learn and please and can be taught to do just about anything. If you do not provide enough activity, they generally find ways to employ themselves- usually not positive ways.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Let them run until they can’t run anymore. They are the greatest retrievers ever bred. Soft frisbees like the Kong disk, tennis balls, pretty much anything they can go get and bring back. Sticks work fine too. Anything that you can throw. Remember, when they bring it back to you, they did you a favor, be polite and thank them.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

Individual dogs will require different levels of exercise. Find the length and type of exercise that keeps your dog from being destructive and bored. A tired cattle dog is a good cattle dog. If you are a marathon runner acclimate your dog to your level of running– they will absolutely go all day with you.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

Learning to play fetch and long walks are key. Each pup is different, but each needs ample exercise daily.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #9:  How easy or hard are they to train? What advice do you have for a new owner?

Consensus:
 The Australian Cattle Dog is a highly intelligent breed with a flexible mind and a strong desire to please their owners. They are typically very easy to train if the trainer is using firm and consistent methods but respond poorly to physical correction. While treats are motivating for these dogs, movement is even more so. Often a simple word of praise is enough of a motivator for ACDs. Training should remain consistent throughout their lives.

Best Quotes:

ACDs are super easy to train if you are consistent and firm. If you are planning to crate train them, make sure you are consistent. If the pup is whining or carrying on loudly DO NOT let them out of the crate until they have calmed down. This will later translate into a dog that is quiet and calm in their crate.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Humans are harder to train than ACDs. They love to emulate; you do it and they will too. Be patient. A rolled-up newspaper or swatting is ineffective with this breed, the word “NO” and praise are all you need. A little bacon in the pocket helps sometimes, just make sure not to give them too much.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

ACDs tend to be easy to train once you understand their motivation. Many are treat motivated and they all thrive on creating movement, such as working livestock or playing fetch.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #10:  What are some of the unwanted behavior that an Australian Cattle Dog might display, and what advice do you have for dealing with them?

Consensus:
 ACDs have a reputation for chewing anything they can get their mouths on, so you will want to ensure you have plenty of durable chew toys around the house. They also have a tendency to try to control their environment, and that includes other people and animals within that environment, and they may chase fast-moving objects such as joggers and bicyclists. Aggression can develop if these dogs are not properly socialized when they are young, but this can often be corrected with firmness and additional socialization.

Best Quotes:

They are going to chew, period. They have to. Get them something to chew on and put away everything that you do not want to be chewed.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

This breed enjoys control and they can have a tendency to be the “fun police”. They generally do not tolerate other socially rude dogs and do not do well at dog parks. Some cattle dogs have trouble with bicycles and joggers when out on a walk and their herding instinct may surface.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

ACDs can be aggressive. These dogs look for a strong leader; if they can’t find it in you they will become their own leader, which can lead to aggressive behavior. If caught young this can be corrected with firmness and additional socialization.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Question #11:  Do Australian Cattle Dogs make good travel companions? Why or why not?

Consensus:
 Traveling is a great activity for Australian Cattle Dogs! They enjoy seeing new things and they are always happiest when they are with their favorite people. Well-socialized and trained examples of this breed can be a delight to have along on trips and ACDs have the stamina to keep up with you on your adventures. It is important to remember to ensure that your canine traveling companion gets ample opportunity to stretch their legs and get a little exercise, especially on long road trips or train trips.

Best Quotes:

ACDs love to go with their owner as much as possible! Just make certain that they have ample time to exercise after long trips.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

They make excellent travel companions, their desire to be by their person’s side makes them easy to travel with, especially when properly socialized to both people and animals. They are of moderate size so they’re not too large to easily fit in tight spaces in the car or to travel in a crate. Many ACD’s love to travel with their owners everywhere they go.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

ACDs love to travel and it is a good activity as long as they receive exercise and socialization.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Yes! They are great at traveling and make awesome driving buddies.”
Kacy VanDuinen-  Triple M Corgis and Cattle Dogs

Question #12:  Do they have any specific dietary needs or differences from other Australian Cattle Dogs?

Consensus:
 Australian Cattle Dogs do not have specific dietary needs that are different from any other canine. They rarely have allergies, skin problems, or gastrointestinal difficulties from food. They do have a tendency to put on weight if their diet is too rich, however, and certain diets may reduce the amount of shedding for your particular dog.

Best Quotes:

Typically, cattle dogs are easy keepers, meaning they don’t usually suffer from health issues or skin problems requiring special diets. They will quickly and easily become overweight if they’re fed to rich a diet, so watching their weight is important.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms

No, they can eat any regular dog food fit for any other dogs. They shed though, and a premium food will help with that. Whatever you choose to feed them, stick with that brand and flavor.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

This breed does well on a good quality diet paired with exercise to keep them fit.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Ours do not.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #13:  What kind of shedding should an owner expect? Any advice?

Consensus:
 Most new ACD owners are surprised to find out how much their dog sheds. While the outer coat is short and flat, it has a thick undercoat that sheds heavily at the change of seasons. They continue to shed throughout the year as well, but a proper diet is very helpful in mitigating this problem.

Best Quotes:

This breed blows their coat twice a year, and also sheds a bit throughout the year. They are a relatively low maintenance breed that requires only occasional brushing and bathing to keep their coat and skin healthy.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

ACDs shed profusely! You can generally expect heavy seasonal shedding in the spring and fall as well as general shedding the rest of the year.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

They shed more than one would expect for a short-haired breed. Diet can help with this.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #14:  Can you speak to some of the genetic health concerns associated with Australian Cattle Dogs?

Consensus:
 There are several health concerns that can be related to the Australian Cattle Dog’s genetic makeup. Diseases that cause blindness, such as Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), are fairly common among this breed, and both the sire and dam should be tested before they are paired up. This breed is also slightly more prone than many other breeds to develop hip and elbow dysplasia and deafness.

Best Quotes:

PLL can be an issue. Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) is an inherited disease that is present in some ACD bloodlines which causes the lens suspended within the eye to degrade and break apart. Make sure the dam and sire were tested and cleared. These dogs can also have Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes progressive loss of vision until they are completely blind in both eyes. I had a Blue Heeler with PRA and he lived a good life for six years after he went blind.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Primary Lens Luxation are both genetic inherited forms of blindness that all potential parent dogs should be tested for before any breeding occurs. Dogs should also be x-rayed and evaluated by ODA or PennHip for hip, elbow, and patellar dysplasia. All parent dogs, as well as puppies, should have a BAER Hearing Test to check for deafness.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Genetic health concerns that parents should be tested for include hip and elbow dysplasia, PRCD (progressive rod-cone degeneration), PLL (primary lens luxation), RDC4 (a type of progressive retinal atrophy), deafness, and DM (Degenerative myelopathy).”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #15:  What training advice do you have for someone who is training their Australian Cattle Dog to be a working dog?

Consensus:
 Australian Cattle Dogs were developed to work livestock and it is in their blood. It doesn’t take long for one of these dogs to figure out how to handle a herd of sheep or cattle, and they often learn more successfully in the company of an experienced working canine. That being said, solid obedience training will make them a much more valuable partner on the ranch or farm. Expose your pup to livestock as early as possible and teach them respect for the animals that they will be working with.

Best Quotes:

Leave them alone and let them work. It’s in their DNA. Never begin work by themselves; let them work with other dogs. If you can’t find any other working dogs (which sounds impossible to me) then you be the lead dog. You herd the livestock up front and let them follow behind you. Start with one animal and one gate.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

Exposure to livestock and respect for the livestock are essential, as is a good foundation of obedience training. Seek out a herding trainer that is familiar with this breed if you are not confident in training your own pup.”
Gwen Shepperson-  Buffalo Creek Cattle Dogs

Establishing boundaries and clear control even in exciting circumstances is key.”
Brett Spader-  Spader Kennels

Question #16:  If the Australian cattle dog won’t be a working dog, what specific advice would you give to someone to keep their dog happy and occupied?

Consensus:
 Although Australian Cattle Dogs were developed as hard-working herding dogs, many of them today play the role of a companion animal instead. The drive and focus that makes them a great working dog are still present in a companion ACD, and it must be addressed. Keep your Cattle Dog in great physical and mental shape by ensuring that they have both some form of vigorous activity each day to work off their energy, and some sort of mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored.

Best Quotes:

You must engage the mind of the Australian Cattle Dog. There are many fun enrichment activities that you can provide for your dog or pup. Kibble puzzles, playing “hide and treat”, training for different dog sports, or simply teaching your pet a silly pet trick in the kitchen are all great options. I would also add that finding the time and place for a long nature walk will do you both wonders.”
Alison Whittington-  Hardtack Australian Cattle Dogs

Work, work, work, work, work. Walk them, play catch, play endless fetch, be attentive to them. Tennis balls are magic and no living room is complete without a dozen or so under the couch, chairs, and end tables.”
James C Beel-  Outdoor Adventures

Find your dog a job they love. That could be flyball, agility, hiking, or any other number of activities. Just find them a job! They are driven and have a strong work ethic so give them something to keep them busy.”
Kelsey Bolton-  Flintlock Farms