Australian Cattle Dog Behavior Issues

Australian Cattle Dog high jump in Agility

This article discusses some of the Australian Cattle Dog Behavior Issues that have been known to occur within this breed. I am not implying that all Australian Cattle Dogs have behavioral issues. Behavioral issues are more likely to occur when the owner is not fully informed of what to expect and what is required for these special dogs.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a herding dog requiring a very high level of activity and having a job to do. These dogs need to get plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored. Behavior issues are likely to occur when an ACD gets bored.

How Were Australian Cattle Dogs Bred?

There are differences in the statements about the history of the ACD breed. A common statement about their history is that the first ancestor of the ACD was known as Hall’s heeler. This was a dog bred as a cross between the dingo and the smooth-coated Scottish Collie. This original ‘Hall’s Heeler’ was then mixed with the Australian Kelpie and the Dalmatian. Apparently, there is some controversy about these reported origins.

Here is another version of the origins of the ACD. This amazing, wonderful dog breed that we know today as the Australian Cattle dog became the first recognized breed from Australia.

The reason for all of this cross-breeding was to develop a cattle herding dog with the ability to thrive while driving wild cattle across the rough, wild terrain of Australia. This was the purpose of developing this energetic, incredibly intelligent breed of dog.

ACD Breed Description

Australian Cattle dog puppies

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Australian Cattle dog as a breed in 1980. Originally, they were part of the working group, however, in 1983 they became part of the herding group. The Australian Cattle dog (ACD) is also recognized by kennel clubs in many other countries. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, among others.

In the AKC they are part of the herding group. ACDs have a huge work drive. This drive can also be satisfied by playing fetch or frisbee, hiking, swimming, agility, and herding. They are especially good at agility, and, of course, herding.

To Help Avoid Behavior Issues in Your Australian Cattle Dog, Never Let Her Get Bored

ACDs should never be allowed to get bored. They are highly intelligent dogs that require a tremendous amount of mental and physical stimulation. If your ACD gets bored, he will find his own work, which will no doubt, not be appreciated by you. The breed standard colors of the ACD are blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red speckled, and red mottled, according to the AKC. The ACD has a double coat which means they shed quite heavily. Regular grooming will decrease the amount of shedding.

They are medium-sized dogs, with males a height at the shoulder from 18 to 20 inches and females from 17 to 19 inches. The normal weight for ACDs is from 35 to 50 pounds. The lifespan of an ACD can range from 12 to 16 years.

Even though they do have short hair, they also have an undercoat. This means that they do shed quite a lot depending upon the climate where you live, and other factors. At least once or more often twice a year they shed a lot, which is referred to as “blowing their coat”.

They should be bathed and groomed regularly to reduce the amount of shedding.

There is a miniature version of the Australian Cattle dog, however, they are not yet recognized by major kennel clubs.

What Are the Behavior Issues of Australian Cattle Dogs?

Train and socialize your Australian Cattle dog at an early age. Train in frequent, short sessions and reward profusely! They can be problem biters if allowed to continue with that behavior.

My beautiful cattle dog, Luna sitting on a recliner she destroyed - Australian Cattle dog behavior issues

Give your ACD a wide variety of chew toys, puzzle toys, plenty of activity, and a lot of training to keep them physically and mentally active.

Eventually, the desire to chew up everything in sight will diminish as your ACD gets to about two years of age. I have an ACD who is now four years of age. I got her when she was 8 weeks and she chewed me up so badly I still have scars on my arms from her sharp little puppy teeth!

Stop Problem Chewing Quickly

Now that I have learned from experience, not to tolerate this chewing, I recommend replacing your arms or hands in her mouth with a chew toy. Do this every time your puppy starts chewing on you. If he keeps chewing the toy, praise him and give him a few treats.

If he drops the toy and goes right back to your arms, don’t lose your temper, just separate yourself from your pup, so he can’t reach you. Deprive him of attention for a short period of time, then try again. This could take time so be patient. Your puppy needs to learn this now while he is still young.

My ACD completely destroyed my sofa, and will still resort to chewing on the covers I purchase regularly to cover up my damaged sofa and recliner. My ACD will chew up the sofa covers and sometimes swallow them if I allow her to become bored.

She is improving in this area, however, I blame only myself for this.

It is essential not to allow your ACD to get away with bad behavior. Deal with it and correct it as soon as it happens. These dogs are not for everybody. They require what seems like an endless amount of attention and activity to keep them well-behaved.

Is Aggression an Australian Cattledog Behavior Issue?

The ACD is not normally aggressive, however, this could vary depending upon genetics and breeding. If you purchase your ACD from a reputable breeder, then he should not have a problem with aggression. The ACD can be very protective of family members, especially the person they have bonded with the most. Another problem behavior that can be exhibited by your ACD is reactive behavior.

Be sure to stop any aggressive behaviors as soon as you see them. Get a professional trainer experienced with ACDs if you are unable to control any part of your dog’s training. Your ACD needs to learn that people who are acceptable to you should be acceptable to him.

ACDs are not recommended as pets for first-time dog owners. Prospective owners need to be fully informed about the requirements of the breed. A fully-informed prospective ACD owner is more likely to raise a happy, healthy ACD.

Normal Herding Behavior Can be Perceived as Aggression

Normal herding behaviors can often be interpreted as aggression. ACDs were bred to herd cattle. This sometimes has a requirement to be pushy with other animals to get wandering cattle back to the herd. The job of herding also requires the ACD to protect the herd from harm, so this is how they get their protective instinct for their family and especially for the person they are most bonded to.

Australian cattle Dog at work herding a wandering head of cattle

Being herders, the ACD also has a tendency to herd children and smaller animals, and may even nip at them. You can train your ACD that this is not acceptable. Try getting your dog trained to herd if he seems desperate to herd people or other pets. This will channel his desire to herd in a positive direction.

To find out more about herding, locate an AKC club near you to find out more about this sport and see if it is right for you and your dog.

Look into the sport of Treibball. Dogs push a collection of different-sized balls across a field into a goal.  It is great fun and exercise for your dog.

Can my ACD Stay At Home Alone While I am At Work?

Your ACD is likely to get bored if left alone for long periods of time. That means coming home to ripped-up furniture, chewed table legs, trash all over the place, and other horrible things.

Keeping Your ACD Active When You Work Full-Time

If you have to work all day, try to find someone to walk your dog daily and play with him. You can also find a local doggie daycare that would provide your ACD with some great dog interaction and playtime. You might even find that he is tired when he comes home.

Doggie daycare might be financially out of the question on a daily basis. If you could get in an early morning walk/run before work, and again after work, that will help. You can also provide her with toys that enclose treats, that will keep his mind occupied at least temporarily. If you work close enough to go home for lunch, you can play fetch or frisbee with him to give him some mental and physical activity.

Another suggestion would be to train your dog for agility and either purchase or make a DIY agility obstacle course to practice her skills in your backyard. You could gradually teach her each of the obstacles before putting any of them together so she will be able to practice running various combinations of the obstacles until she knows how to run all of them.

Australian Cattle Dog Agility

Are There Any Health Concerns With the ACD?

The ACD is a very hearty, healthy dog. However, as with most breeds, there are a few health concerns that occur more frequently within the breed. One health concern for this breed is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which leads to blindness. Another health concern is hip dysplasia.

Here is the more complete information regarding the health concerns of ACD.

If you get your ACD from a breeder, be sure it is a reputable breeder. Ask to look at the health records of some of the line of dogs your pup is coming from. Be sure there are no PRA or hip dysplasia issues in his heritage.

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue is a wonderful thing to do because you are likely saving a dog’s life. You won’t have any control over your dog’s genetics. So, before you adopt a dog, most shelters offer a free check-up by a veterinarian. It would be a good idea to take advantage of this offer.

Final Thoughts

The ACD will be a great companion for any owner knowledgeable about ACDs. The new owner must be prepared to commit themselves to take great care of the dog for the duration of his life. They love to be with their special person and would be happiest spending every bit of their time with this person.

Your ACD may or may not be affectionate and will not be satisfied laying around the house all day. Be prepared for plenty of activity, the more the better for these dogs. Also, be sure you start socializing your ACD puppy at an early age. Take her along with you to as many places as you can.

Take her to stores, so she can try on collars, get a look at the toys and hopefully meet the staff at the store. The more people she gets used to meeting the less likely she will be to display aggression with people. Also, introduce her to puzzle toys, as well as chew toys.

Train her so she learns and obeys as many commands as possible. Make sure she responds instantly when you call her. This is especially important is it could save her life. Get her to excel in obedience and she will be ready to learn agility and other dog sports that she will really enjoy! Train her for something completely new, such as hunting.

Please see this article for some great ideas for toys for your Australian Cattle Dog.

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4 thoughts on “Australian Cattle Dog Behavior Issues”

  1. Hi Barbara,

    I have never heard of the Australian Cattle Dog before. It seems like a very interesting breed. I am also an animal lover, but primarily cats. I have not had many dogs in the past, but tend to like smaller dogs. This breed is not too big which I like. The coloring sounds very interesting as well.

    You have given a ton of information on this dog breed. It sounds like it would be a breed that is harder to handle if you are not familiar with the breed so this information you provide would come in handy.

    Thank you for sharing,


    • Hi Chastity,

      Thanks very much for your comment! I have 2 of these dogs now. They are extremely energetic, and at times, annoying, but I do love them very much. I have had dogs all of my life so I don’t know what it would be like without one! I like cats but, unfortunately, I am highly allergic to them, so that was the end of that.

      Thanks again for your comment!


  2. These are very great tips for dogs indeed. I have also had many dogs but not this kind of breed.
    I like that you said the dog needs to be trained from an early age and I think this is true just for any kind of dog breed out there that is looking to get results.
    I also like the chewing on the toy part and praising the dog.

    • Hi Thabo,

      Thanks very much for reading my post and your comment. I’m glad that you are also a dog lover and I hope you enjoyed the post.

      Thanks again,


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