Blue Heeler sits for his owner in park

Do Australian Cattle Dogs Get Attached to One Person?

Last updated on September 28th, 2023 at 03:30 pm

Australian Cattle Dogs also known as red and blue heelers are fiercely strong and independent dogs. Due to their tenacious personalities, you may wonder if Cattle Dogs can become attached to their owner as their primary person?

The answer is YES, Australian Cattle Dogs usually become firmly attached and devoted to just one person. They typically become very protective of their owners and do not want to be separated from them. They aim to please and love nothing more than following the directives and commands of their beloved, special person.

The loyalty of ACDs stems from their special breeding to be working dogs with a purpose and a mission to assist their owners. Let’s take a deeper look at this fascinating dog and how breeding has formed their unique personality.

Why Cattle Dogs Have Such Fierce Devotion to Their Owners

Australian Cattle Dogs first emerged in the early 1800s as a crossbreed of different types of dogs including the wild Australian Dingo, Dalmation, and Kelpies. As a result, the breed formed into highly energic, sturdy, and independent dogs. You can read more about the early development of Cattle Dogs at wagwalking.com.

But they were also bred to have a purpose in life and were used extensively in Australia on large ranches and herding trips to keep cattle and sheep in line. They loved nothing more than to run with their owners to do their job and fulfill their purpose. At the end of the day, they received plenty of food, praise, and a well-deserved good night’s sleep.

As Cattle Dogs evolved through breeding and training, their purpose and direction came from their owners who depended on these hardy dogs to bring the cows home. Additionally, this dog and his wrangler owner formed a strong bond. They worked hard together during the day, ate heartily when the work was done, and slept soundly together under the stars at night.

Can Blue Heelers be Good Family Dogs?

Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and learn quickly what is important to their masters. They are pretty easy to train and respond well to commands and enjoy being part of a family. Cattle Dogs are also extremely affectionate but in their own way (read my post, Are Australian Cattle Dogs Affectionate, for more information).

Heelers make great family pets. Cattle Dogs are pack animals like most dogs and they want to be part of your family pack. Heelers who are kept outside in a pen will be very unhappy, as they want and need to be part of your family. Although loyal dogs are less social with outsiders, they learn quickly who is part of their inner circle. As a result, they become very protective of family members and close friends and view this as part of their “job” in life.

Sweet kid with Blue Heeler on the grass
Sweet kid on the grass with family Blue Heeler

Heelers are generally great with children and will keep them safe under their watchful eyes. However, they have been known to nip at small heels if a toddler seems to be wandering off or becomes too unruly. So, some precautions should be taken around very small children. This is the same behavior these herding dogs would use with wayward sheep and cattle! So, please be aware, but don’t become alarmed. Your Heeler is just doing his job!

Benefits of a Cattle Dog’s Attachment to Us

Due to the strong attachment Cattle Dogs have for their owners, ACDs are extremely protective, loyal, and eager to please. They respond to commands well and are, as a rule, easy to train. However, due to their independent nature, they can also be a little stubborn at times and may try to ignore some commands they don’t like.

As an example, I have a mixed-breed Cattle Dog who hates to be restrained in any way. For the life of me, I could not train her to lie down and neither could my trainer! It apparently made her feel too vulnerable. She also hates to wear a head halter when we go on walks. Even though she can still open her mouth, bark, breathe, and probably bite someone if threatened, she hates it!

Every day we have a brief argument and short scuffle when putting on her head halter. Fortunately, I win, because she does, after all, want to please me. And, she really wants to go on that walk!

cattle dog mixed breeds wearing pet safe gentle lead halters while out for a walk
My Cattle Dog mixed breeds out for a walk with Pet Safe Gentle Leader Halters

However, without the Pet Safe Gentle Leader head halter (which you can see at this affiliate link with Amazon), I can not manage her very well on walks. She is simply too headstrong and wants to be free to protect us both from any threats. I adopted her when she was six, so some bad habits had already become ingrained even though we have made a lot of progress. But the good news is that I do feel more protected by her on our walks, especially in the evening.

How Australian Cattle Dogs Choose Their Person

As with any dog, your ACD will pay attention to who doles out the food and treats. Additionally, since exercise and having a job is so important, your Cattle Dog will form a strong bond with the person who spends the most time with him and engages in fun and meaningful activities.

Even if these duties are split between your family members, usually one person ends up providing most of the care. Your Cattle Dog will be quick to figure this out and will hang out with the one who spends the most time with him and provides him with the most resources. And with a Cattle Dog, the interactive time and emotional connection are really important.

The Downside of a Cattle Dog’s Attachment

There are only a couple of downsides I can think about regarding a cattle dog’s attachment to his one, special person.

First, because an ACD’s job is to protect his herd and family, he can be stand-offish and suspicious of other people. He may take a while to warm up to your friends or extended family members. A Cattle Dog can also be very reactive especially if he did not get good social training and interactions as a puppy.

Secondly, a Cattle Dog wants to be wherever you are. He will even want to steal your spot when you get up! You are the alpha dog and he wants to be the next alpha dog in the pack!

Additionally, Australian Cattle Dogs will be unhappy if separated from you for long periods of time. Their whole life hinges on you and your approval and connection. So, if you have a Cattle Dog, don’t leave them by themselves for more than a few hours at a time.

Final Thoughts

Australian Cattle Dogs are great dogs who are very devoted and attached to their owners. They love to interact with you and will be incredibly loyal.

Just be sure to give them the attention they need and involve them in as many activities as possible. You will find that you have a wonderful, loyal friend and companion who will stick by your side!

For information about where and why to adopt a Cattle Dog please see my post, Why You Should Adopt an Australian Cattle Dog.

4 thoughts on “Do Australian Cattle Dogs Get Attached to One Person?”

  1. I’ve had a few Blue Heelers on my property through the years and they’ve proven to be fantastic dogs. One in particular became attached to my youngest daughter, who was 14 at the time. But when she would leave the house for a sleepover or came home late at night (school activities), OMG would this dog whine, cry, and HOWL!! He was a good dog though, besides the aforementioned crying, and the fact that he could open the pantry and climb up to eat loaves of bread! He’d get them from the counter as well. I knew it wasn’t my Lab (duck hunting dog), as I knew which poop belonged to each dog. The plastic the bread came in gave it away. Clearly a good jumper too. Lol

    1. Hi Ed! Yes, heelers can be quite vocal when they are distressed! My mixed breed Cattle Dog has a high-pitched yip and howl that can be ear-piercing at times. She loves to run around the fence line and ward off potential intruders. They are very atheletic dogs with a lot of lung capacity. Very funny about the bread! Heelers can be certainly be demanding and assertive at times. My dog jumps up and stands on my lap and stares at me everytimne she wants a treat. She also knocks my iPad down if I am not paying enough attention to her. See my post, https://dog-tales.blog/can-dogs-open-doors/ But they are hard not to love! So smart, loyal, and energetic!
      Best regards!
      Deanna, Charlotte & Georgia

  2. Charlotte Stauch

    As the owner of a working cattle ranch I have had several breeds of cattle dogs come into my life . Everyone of them has been wonderful. My heelers have been loyal, affectionate, hard working and fantastic family animals. They have always attatched themselves to me 100% I could leave a thousand dollars in cash laying on the seat of my vehicle along with my heeler the windows wide open and both would still be there when I returned. Very protective, and extremly smart. If I said shower after a day out in the feedlots, they would instantly go sit in the shower and wait for me. They love the water, having their bellies rubbed and snuggling under the covers on cold winter nights. Pressing as close as they can possibly get to the curve of my legs. I have loved each and everyone of them totaly. Right now we have 3 heeler, red bordercollie, Kelpie cresses, they are very possive and protective of my 14 month old great grand daughter. They allow her to totaly maul them and smother them with kisses. When she was first brought home from the hospital the male wouldn’t allow anyone to touch her without his permission, only her mom. Her mom also works in a fuel station, late shift. She takes him with her every day, nobody messes with her, if they try they are immediatly put in their place.

    1. Hi charlotte! I love to hear stories about Cattle Dogs. Sounds like your dogs are really great and really attached to you and protective of you and your family. Where is your ranch located? I wish I had more room for my mixed Cattle Dog breed, Charlotte to run more. Alas, we live in the suburbs but I think she would benefit living on a large spread!
      Thank you for your comment!
      Best, Deanna, Charlotte, and Georgia

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