You can expect to have your Australian cattle dog puppy around for 12 to 15 years, if you take good care of him. Formerly known as blue or Queensland heelers, this breed originated from Down Under and, yes, herded cattle. His ancestry includes blood of the dingo, Australia's wild canine.
While the cattle dog loves his person, he's not fond of strangers. Remember, he was bred to herd cattle, and guess what little kids running around remind him of? For this reason, he's not the best choice if you have small children or kids visit often, as he tends to nips at their heels. He should be fine with older kids, who can play with him until they all run out of steam. He's not the dog for a timid individual, as he must know you are the pack leader. He's a very strong dog, as well as a good watchdog.
Cattle dogs are smart and full of energy. You can channel that energy positively by taking your dog to obedience school and participating in canine sports such as agility, tracking or herding. Because he's inherently independent and fearless, you have to ensure he doesn't get himself into trouble. His absolute lack of fear might contribute to a shorter lifespan if he challenges bigger dogs or otherwise hurts himself. Still, he's one tough customer. Without proper training, the cattle dog can become very destructive.
Cattle dogs are working dogs, requiring a great deal of exercise. He makes a great companion for an active person. Take him on long hikes and jogs. He's not a good choice for apartment living, as he really needs to run around a lot. A fenced-in backyard gives him the opportunity to expend energy. Because he's a cattle dog, he's also used to working around horses, so if you ride he makes a great companion on the trails or in wide, open spaces.
As with all purebred dogs, cattle dogs are prone to specific hereditary ailments. To increase your chances of having a healthy, long-lived dog, buy from a reputable breeder who offers a health guarantee and participates in the American Kennel Club's Canine Health Information Center Program. CHICP certification means the breeder has puppies evaluated according to the program's requirements. Cattle dogs may suffer from hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint; luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps; deafness, and the eye disease known as progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually leads to complete blindness. Keep your cattle dog at the proper weight to aid his prospects of longevity.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.