By Kisha Aleena Abuda
When anyone is asked what qualities they search for in a dog, the common answers we get are loyal, courageous, and affectionate. We want someone who can be there for us, hence, the moniker “man’s best friend.” What our other human pals can’t be for us, we look for in a dog (no, not in cats, because we already have a lot of friends who ignore us for no apparent reason, other than just cause!). We want someone who has their full attention on us, someone who listens, and someone we can rely on. That’s why people choose dogs with these qualities, and adorability just follows.
But unlike other dogs, the Australian Cattle dog gives more than just loyalty. They are deeply passionate creatures who follow your every step and jump, figuratively and quite literally. One thing is for sure though: Once and Australian Cattle dog catches your attention, it’s very possible to get head over heels with them.
Did you know?
An Australian Cattle Dog is deemed the oldest dog in the world. There was an Australian Heeler named Bluey in 1910 who kept his stamina for 29 golden years. That’s close to 200 years in human years!
From the name itself, Australian Cattle dogs originated in Australia in the 19th century, brought up by farmers who wanted someone to watch over their herd. It was during this time in Australia that land expansion for herd animals was prevalent/ What was needed was a helper dog who could assist farmers with the guiding of sheep and cows at such warm temperatures, vast landscapes, and bumpy grounds.
Some of Australian Cattle dogs’ ancestors are Dingos, Dalmatians, and Collies (remember Lassie?), all of whom have characteristics that ACDs have retained in their genes: robust, quiet, and friendly to other critters.
Australian Cattle dogs got their other name “Australian Heeler” from the habit of biting or nipping the heels of cattle and sheep, which makes the herd move from one place to another. Some of the first ACDs had a coat of color of dark blue, or patches of blue speckled across their bodies, which also gave them the cool name “Blue Heeler.”
It was only in the year 1980 that the Australian Cattle Dog was recognized and accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club.
Blue Heelers of PH
Though rare and quite unknown to the general public, a few Australian Cattle dog actually live in the Philippines! Unlike other dogs who thrive in America and Europe, Australian Cattle dogs can acclimate to the warm temperature of our country, which is why we are lucky to have been able to meet these three Blue Heelers: Swift, Stylish, and Raiza.
Since his fascination with Australian Cattle dogs in the 80’s, Dante Daylusan has been taking care of these amazing dogs. Let’s get down to knowing all about them.
When asked to differentiate Australian Cattle dogs from his other canine companions, Daylusan told us that they are more active not just during play but also while doing tasks at home. “First and foremost, they do not choose the time or climate to perform the tasks either on a daily basis or on excursions,” he said, comparing his ACDs to two terriers, one of whom was a Bull Terrier, a descendant of English Bulldogs. Unlike them, he stated, ACDs do not shy away from extreme weathers. They maintain their energy whether it’s hot or cold. While terriers dislike getting in the water, ACDs take the first plunge whenever they get the chance.
Australian Cattle dogs are instinctively wary of strangers, which is a good trait for a family dog. However, human companions can always teach them to be polite – that is, raise them with kids and allow them to meet new people on a regular basis. To bond with the family, Daylusan said that ACDs should be taught who the head of the family was so that they can be taught where to go and what to do. He said that ACDs can easily pick up which areas of the house are off-limits and fall quickly into the routine of designated activities and chores.
Our interviewee also said that ACDs are very intelligent creatures who like to be given tasks and activities to fulfill, thanks to their genes. I found this quite intriguing because I was used to the Shih Tzu at home who, after about five minutes of playing catch, would get tired and would need to nap right away.
While other dogs prefer siestas over games, ACDs always need to tick something on their list of tasks. What’s next on the agenda, hooman? Gotta keep them on their feet.
Watch your step!
When left in “idle mode,” Australian Cattle Dogs tend to ruin furniture or bite any moving object. If your ACD starts biting your foot, it’s a sign that they need to play outside or with you.
Caring for an Australian Cattle dog
Australian Cattle Dog do not want to be kept inside the house for long hours. They seek the sun, grass, and even the soil. Because they can tolerate any kind of weather, Australian Cattle dogs want to roam any kind of terrain. Doing so contributes to their overall well-being.
Like any other animal companion, they need fresh air and sunlight. But more than any other furry mate, Australian Cattle dogs need a longer time to play and have fun outdoors.
Daylusan, “Their smooth, short coat requires only occasional baths and brushing.” They shed twice a year, which requires guardians to brush off old hair.
Regular trimming of nails keeps them from hurting themselves or others. And of course, it wouldn’t hurt to check for anything unusual with their coats, ears, paws, and eyes after a busy day outside.
While they require little attention in terms of grooming, a responsible guardian still double checks the condition of their fur mate.
3. Other needs
Think of Australian Cattle dogs as super hyper creatures who need to be on the go all day long. Unlike others who just have to be fed and groomed, Australian Cattle dogs need you to plan activities and give them tasks to keep them happy.
Refusing to play with them will only lead to violent and maybe destructive behavior. As much as they can be protective of you, you also have to be there for them when they need to let out that canine energy.
Treats are also largely appreciated by Australian Cattle dogs. If you want to teach them a thing or two, giving them treats in the form of fruits or vegetables will most likely encourage them to follow your instructions. “They even learned to appreciate [the] espresso coffee [by] taking the last drop from my cup,” Daylusan remarked, fond of the memory every time his ACDs do this.
Advice for guardians
1. Socialize at an early age
A potential issue with Australian Cattle dogs is their overprotectiveness. They may act violent in the presence of strangers. It is in their nature to bite and explore the world with their mouths.
“They just need to be taught that other animals inside or outside the house are not rivals nor playing objects,” Daylusan advised. Whatever you want to teach your Australain Cattle dog, do this while they are still very young, including socializing with adults, children, and other animals.
ACDs should be familiarized to the presence of children in their puppy years so that they know the difference between harmless and harmful play. This should also help them accept the presence of other animal companions at home.
2. Mind not just space, but also time
Currently, Daylusan is living in an apartment in Europe with his Australian Cattle dogs. This might sound like a huge problem to a dog who has been, for a hundred years, been genetically reared to love the outdoors. Luckily, this has not been a problem for them.
“Although it is preferable for them to stay in a place where there is space to run, [they] could easily [adapt to] an environment like an apartment, provided that there is regular exercise,” Daylusan said.
The presence of the guardian is seen as the most important part of this dog-hooman relationship. If an ACD does not get the vibe that you are physically present or that you make time for them, their friendly demeanor will likely change. “But the best environment [for[ any dog is the place where [their human] is present,” he added.
3. Be your dog’s best friend
Cliche as this may sound, it’s best to understand that while, as hoomans, we have the whole world, our dog’s world revolves around us. Aside from giving them their daily dose of care and attention, it would mean a whole lot to them if we give them more “hooman time.”
“They are my untiring companion while driving, it eases the travel during the warm summer and the boring winter cold,” Daylusan said.
While having an American Cattle dog beside you during the most ordinary times is comforting, it is also true that they feel just as comforted when they’re close to you, even if you’re just hanging out.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s September-October 2020 issue.
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