You will face quite a challenge if you decide to raise a cattle dog in an apartment or townhouse! Cattle Dogs are loyal, smart, and hard working dogs. But they are a handful, so you may want to consider carefully before adopting this type of dog. Cattle Dogs need a lot of exercise and space in which to run. These energetic dogs are also known for their very high-pitched, ear-piercing bark. Cattle Dog incessant yips and howls can put both you and your neighbors on edge if not dealt with.
But if you have already fallen in love with a Cattle Dog and live in a townhouse, you can make it work. Or, if you live in a larger home with a yard, you do not necessarily need to give your heeler up if you need to downsize. But just know that it will take a little bit of work and some dedicated training. You will also need to commit to daily walks and romps in the park.
The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) who is also referred to as a heeler is an amazing dog. This dog breed was originally bred in Australia as a cross between a Collie and a Dingo. Cattle Dogs are medium-sized, sturdy dogs with lots of energy. They love to run and herd other animals–usually large ones like cattle or sheep. They get their heeler nickname due to their habit of chasing cows and nipping at their heels to get them rounded up.
ACDs come in a wide range of shades and colors and a variety of markings. Blue heelers usually have some speckles of white on their blueish-gray fur. The red heelers have more of a solid reddish-brown color, but both types are often born with all-white fur. These amazing fun and loyal dogs live to be 14-16 years old and are incredibly smart and hardy. If you love to go running or biking with your dog, this is a great breed of dog who will be able to keep up with you. They do have a bit of a wild side due to their Dingo heritage. They can be a little stubborn and on the dominant side as well as downright bossy! Here is a list of primary attributes:
- High Energy
- Need a job
- Need lots of exercise
- Love to run and bark (sometimes excessively)
- Have a characteristic high-pitched and repetitive bark
- Will sometimes howl if stressed
- Easy to train
- Do well in obedience classes as they like to work
- Great for herding sheep and cattle on a ranch
- Do best in large open spaces where they can run
- Reactive on a leash toward other dogs
- Very loyal to family members but guarded around strangers
- Strong and agile
- Fun to be with and take on hikes
Overall, they are really great dogs that are fun to be around and will always be loyal. But they do demand a lot of attention, activity, and work.
Considerations For Raising A Cattle Dog in a Townhouse or Apartment
You will want to consider several factors before adopting and raising a Cattle Dog in your townhouse. Think about how much space you have and if it will accommodate your family and your new dog. Make sure you have some good local parks or hiking trails nearby and commit to walking your dog every day. Due to the close proximity of your neighbors, you will need to work with your dog to keep barking at a minimum. And Cattle Dogs love to bark! So, this will take some training and work.
For other general considerations, you can see my post about Apartment Living for You and Your Dog to get more information about adopting and raising a dog in an apartment, condo, or townhouse. Also, see my post about Tips for Buying a House for You and Fido.
The primary concerns about raising Cattle Dogs in a townhouse is their need for exercise and their high energy levels. They were bred to be working dogs. So, if they do not have a job, they will create one such as barking at every little noise to help protect their home. In a close living situation, this can be very annoying to your neighbors. My two Cattle Dog mixed breeds will race around my townhouse back patio and bark at every little sound.
If left to their own devices when I am not around, they will eventually work themselves into a frenzy and even begin howling. So, I have learned to bring them inside when I cannot monitor their activity. But I have discovered that they love to catch balls and will chase them for hours if allowed. This has become their daily “job” and reduces their excessive barking and chasing around.
Other Important Considerations
Get a mature dog. If you are thinking of adopting, consider an older dog–one that is at least 4 years old or more. He will probably already be housebroken and will be much more settled than a puppy. Also, you will have a better sense of his personality.
Find local dog parks and daycares. A good dog park or doggie daycare facility with large, grassy fields or play areas may be just the thing your cattle dog will really appreciate. He can run his legs off, bark, and maybe even “herd” some other dogs if they will let him. Just make sure that your dog and the other dogs do not get aggressive. My experience has been that most dogs usually do pretty well together when off-lease. They can check each other out in a way that is natural to them, and they will not feel the need to protect their owner.
Adopt a mixed-breed cattle dog. My two dogs are a mix of Pug and Cattle Dog, although one of them really has a lot of the Cattle Dog genes. Still, the Pug part of them seems to help a bit as Pugs are a little more mellow and love to take naps. Even so, Charlotte, my reddish-brown dog who really looks a lot like a Cattle Dog can bark and howl to beat the band!
Take your dog to obedience classes. For any dog, especially Cattle Dogs, there is nothing like training. Not only does this help establish you as the pack leader, but it also gives your very intelligent Cattle Dog a way to use his mind. These dogs are very observant and thoughtful. They love to learn new skills. Their strong sense of loyalty also encourages them to follow commands and please their owners.
How to Accommodate Your Cattle Dog in a Smaller Home
Cattle Dogs need mental stimulation.
Not only do Cattle Dogs need to be physically active, but they also need mental stimulation. They love figuring things out and learning new things. Puzzles and games can be great things for them to focus on, especially on rainy days.
One of our favorite games is what I call the “Treat Game”. I close them both up in the bathroom for a few minutes, while I scatter small training treats all around the living and dining room. Sometimes I tuck them under carpets, in my shoes, and on some of the steps leading to upstairs rooms. They love this game and as soon as I say, “Treat Game!“, they will run into the bathroom.
My favorite training treats are Old Mother Hubbard Bitz and Charlee Bears as they are healthy and only have 1-2 calories per treat. My dogs seem to enjoy the frequency of treats more than the quantity,
Try agility training.
Agility training is great for both physical activity and mental stimulation. This winter, my dogs became very restless after several stormy days stuck inside the house. So, I set up an agility course. I trained them to crawl under a kitchen chair, which I placed in a narrow hallway so they could not go around. Then they jumped over a low stick which I place on two chairs. I used training treats to encourage them. I eventually bought agility training equipment. But the chairs and sticks also worked pretty well.
Find a really good place for your dog to run!
Local parks, dog parks, daycare facilities are all great places to let your dog run his legs off without being tethered to a lease. Cattle Dogs love their freedom and they love to run. I take my dogs to two different day care facilities. One has a large acre lot with grass, doggie swimming pools, and doggie furniture. They get to run with other dogs and bark their heads off. The other daycare has a large area with Astra Turf and also offers pools and play structures. They are matched with dogs of their size and disposition. Both facilities have plenty of shaded areas and water.
I have also found a couple of really good dog parks, which do not have aggressive dogs and the owners are very friendly. Dog parks are a little riskier, as one aggressive dog and a neglectful owner can cause a big problem. If you use any of these facilities, make sure your dogs have all of their annual vaccinations and flu shots.
If you notice that your dog is barking a lot and running around, he may need more exercise. So, consider getting a dog walker if you are unable to accommodate him and dog parks are not enough. If some of the barking seems to be due to loud noises, this may be more of a behavioral issue that could stem from anxiety or some other mental health issue. Be sure to see my post, My Dog Barks at Motorcycles and Sirens–What to Do?
When I checked on a Quora forum, many people had raised Cattle Dogs in apartments, condos, and townhomes. But they did offer words of warning about the challenges and efforts involved. However, with some planning and commitment, go ahead and adopt a Cattle Dog or keep your current Cattle Dog if you need to downsize. You can also get more general information about adopting from my post, Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Rescue Dog.
The most important consideration when adopting and raising a dog is giving him a loving home. Dogs are very social animals who just want to be part of a pack. Like humans, dogs have a strong sense of belonging and need to be part of a human or dog family. Even if your home may be less than the ideal size, you can raise your Cattle Dog in a townhouse or apartment. You may need to make a little more effort to accommodate him, and you will want to carefully consider how much time and effort you can devote to your canine charge.