The breed was developed in Australia during the 19th century. Settlers brought cattle, sheep and herding dogs from the british isles. The dogs they brought and had successfully worked cattle on the british isles, were not bred to withstand working in the hot, barren landscape of Australia. To get a dog better suited to working in Australia, dingos were crossed with Blue Smooth Highland Collies. This resulted in the "Halls Heelers" , red or blue speckled dogs, looking like smaller, thick set dingos. They were called Red Heelers and Blue Heelers, names still in use today. It is believed that also bullterrier, working kelpie and dalmatians were added into the dogs that resulted in the ACD of today.
Cattle dogs are bred to have enough courage and pressure to move stubborn cattle. They move the cattle by nipping at their heels and then quickly duck away from a kick. The heel nipping gave them the nickname "heelers".
Cattle dogs are very attentive dogs with fast reactions. They have a natural instinct to guard their home area and often a certain suspicion of stangers. In spite of this, they should be able to be handled by strangers, for example in the show ring and function in all the dogs sports we want to use them for.
The ACDs tend to choose one person as their person and they are sometimes called "velcro dogs" because they are always in the near vicinity of their person, even if they love all members of the family. They are exceptionally perceptive to their owners signals and often "read" us faster than we even think! This puts demands on the owners. You need to activate these dogs and give them tasks in order for them to thrive and be the fantastic dogs that they are! Still, I think that my dogs can keep calm and settle for short walks for a few days, when I get sick and therefore need to take it easy .
There are ACDs participating in most dog sports and more owners are now also using them for herding sheep and cattle. It is amazing that the traits they were originally bred for, are still present!
ACDs are generally healthy, but there are some health issues that you need to be aware of. Responsible breeders test for these problems and select breeding dogs for the best possible outcome.
You can read more about this on SACKs web page on health: