It isn’t at all difficult to keep a heeler happy as long as you keep her busy. Heelers have an endless supply of energy and are highly intelligent dogs. So, in order to keep a happy heeler, you need to keep her physically and mentally occupied. This article explores several different ways to answer the question, how can I keep my heeler happy?
Get Her Used to Working For Her Meals
It may take a while to get your heeler used to eating her meals this way. Especially if you have never required her to perform any actions to receive her meals. Just be patient and keep at it and she will adjust. First, start by feeding her a small portion of her dinner using some type of food dispensing puzzle.
Gradually increase the portion of her dinner that is fed using a puzzle. Eventually, she will get to the point where her entire meal is fed to her in this way. This will challenge her mentally and has the added benefit of slowing down her eating. Some dogs tend to chow down their food at an extremely rapid rate. This is very unhealthy and can result in bloat, a very serious and sometimes fatal condition.
Another way to challenge your heeler is by hiding toys and treats and having her go find them. Be sure to use treats and toys that she loves to keep her interested in the game. Once you have her interest, you can keep her occupied for quite a while with hiding games. Be sure you vary the locations and things that you hide.
Start out hiding things in locations inside the house and have her locate those. Then change the environment to the outside and hide the items in various locations outside. Finding the items outside will provide her with more of a challenge. This is due to the number of possible places to hide the items and her ability to get the scent of the items.
Train Your Heeler in Agility
Agility is an excellent sport for your heeler to learn. You can purchase inexpensive agility equipment a little at a time and train her on the initial equipment. Before she learns agility she will need to know the obedience commands well and without hesitation.
Whenever you train your dog she is getting mental stimulation which also helps to tire her out. The obedience training followed by the beginning agility will keep her very challenged. Having agility equipment in your yard will make it easy to practice agility skills several times in a day.
Take Your Heeler For Walks
Daily walks alone are not enough mental or physical stimulation for a heeler. However, walks combined with other activities will add to the variety of activities to challenge your heeler. Take her on one long walk for at least an hour or two shorter walks of at least a half-hour.
Also, be sure to vary the locations in which you walk her so it doesn’t become boring for her. Varying the walk locations will result in new scents, sights, and sounds to stimulate her mind. The walking will provide her with physical activity.
Be Sure to Provide Her With a Variety of Chew Toys
Australian Cattle dogs love to chew! Expose her to plenty of different chew toys to find out what she likes the most and provide her with several choices so she won’t get bored with the same one. Providing an outlet for her desire to chew is very important to keep her from chewing on objects you don’t want her to destroy such as table legs, couch pillows, your couch, and whatever else is available to her.
Be sure the chew toys are very durable so she won’t be able to chew them up and swallow materials that are harmful to her. My heeler Luna’s favorite toy is her Kong ball. The Kong ball serves two purposes. She enjoys just chewing on the ball sometimes but most of the time she wants to play fetch.
But not just normal fetch. Luna loves to jump up high to catch the ball so luckily the Kong balls bounce very high. Jumping up and catching the ball provides her with some great physical exercise and catching the ball gives her an added feeling of satisfaction.
Luna is very good at catching the ball as it bounces off the ground, off of a wall, or a tree. She loves these activities. It’s a good idea to have more than one Kong ball because if your heeler is anything like Luna she will most likely misplace the balls several times a day.
Sometimes I have had as many as 3 Kong balls missing at one time. She is very intense about her ball and will start whining if she can’t find it. I always try to keep at least one of the balls out of her reach in case of emergencies, such as losing her balls.
Train Your Heeler in Rally Obedience
Rally is a really fun sport for you and your dog. It consists of a course that you and your dog follow in which all of the instructions are written on signs. The rules are not as strict as regular obedience. Rally has several levels of competition which include novice, intermediate, advanced, excellent, and masters.
The novice level of Rally Obedience is very easy as it just consists of obedience commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “heel” written on the signs. The course is timed and the commands get increasingly difficult as you go from one level to another.
Also, at one of the levels, the commands start being done completely off-leash. You and your dog can work your way up through the different levels at your own pace. Just try and keep it fun for both you and your dog. As long as your dog is learning new commands, her mind is being stimulated.
Try Some Nose Work
Another great activity for your heeler is scent work. All dogs can participate in this activity, though the scent hounds may have the advantage in competitions. The way American Kennel Club (AKC) scent work competitions work is a scented cotton swab is placed in a box along with several empty boxes.
Your dog is required to use her excellent sense of smell to sniff out the box in which the scented cotton swab is placed. The scent remains the same but the locations of what the dogs are sniffing change.
This is an excellent activity for any dog. Even older dogs and puppies can compete as it is not physically strenuous. Scent work also increases the dog’s confidence as well as the bond between owner and dog.
Get Your Heeler Trained to Herd
This could possibly be the most satisfying activity for your heeler as she is a herding dog and herding is what she was bred to do. The best way to get started with herding is to look for a location close to your home that trains herding dogs.
If you are within a few miles of a facility that has livestock so your dog will have access to these animals then that should be a great way for her to learn. However, if you are very far away from any place that gives herding classes in which animals are herded, you may want to train your do to play Treibball. This will provide her with an experience that is similar to herding but without the necessity of livestock.
If you are still set on getting your dog to herd livestock, then pursue clubs and organizations that may be further away but it’s possible they might have training programs that would fit the needs of you and your dog.
If, for some reason, your dog just isn’t into it, then don’t push her. Just give her enough time to know whether or not it is worth pursuing. The trainer should be able to help you make this decision.
As you can see, there are many activities to participate in with your dog that will keep your heeler happy. I have just listed a few and there are many more! That’s what is so great about Australian Cattle dogs, there is no end to the activities that they will be willing to attempt!
Another fun way to keep your Heeler happy is to train her for paddleboarding for dogs.
Just give each activity enough time to find out whether or not she really enjoys it and whether it makes her happy. If it does, then do your best to keep pursuing those activities that provide her with mental stimulation and physical activity, and above all, that make her happy!
Please add your comments about any experiences you have had or witnessed of keeping a happy heeler!