Blue Heelers, otherwise known as Australian Cattle dogs, are medium-sized dogs initially bred to work. They drove cattle over long distances across challenging terrains. But are Blue Heelers aggressive by nature? Does this come to them instinctively due to their lineage and ancestry? I have researched the breed; covering their traits, tendencies, characteristics, and average temperament. You will find all you need to know here today.
So, are Blue Heelers Aggressive? Blue Heelers can be aggressive during particular circumstances. They are naturally protective and controlling, due to their herding heritage. However, they are obedient and very intelligent so with proper socialization and training from a young age, this tendency can be managed and reduced.
The ‘Blue Heeler’ nickname came about from a combination of the color of their fur and the fact that they have a tendency to nip at the heels of cattle as they herded.
This trait still holds true; there are many reports from owners that these dogs attempt to herd any small children, or nip at those who are walking away.
But, this is not generally done out of spite.
A key distinction to make here.
This does not mean that it is all bad with Blue Heelers.
While some will be more naturally aggressive than others, this is true for all breeds of dogs.
Equally, their environment, care, and upbringing play a large role in how they act and behave.
Generally, Blue Heelers are extremely loyal to their owners and want to be by their sides day and night.
They are typically very affectionate with their family, however; they are known to be wary of strangers.
Let us now take a closer look at the typical Blue Heeler temperament, before turning to potential causes of aggression and some proactive methods to curb these tendencies.
Blue Heeler Temperament
Blue Heelers are full of energy and are best behaved when they kept active and have a job to do. They need to be kept both physically and mentally stimulated throughout the day to remain happy, or otherwise, they will become bored and act out.
So when owning a Blue Heeler, you need to think creatively about some outlets for their high natural energy.
Being bred to herd means that they will instinctively try to do so. It could be humans, animals or even cars!
They, therefore, need to be watched around smaller children.
Blue Heelers, therefore, do best with owners who are active or for those who can provide them with a daily job.
They love to work for their owners and please them; so it comes as no surprise to learn they still are kept as working dogs to this day.
Blue Heelers are great in herding as well as agility, tricks, and obedience.
They are also known for being very independent dogs and will try to rule the house if allowed.
Discipline is therefore required to ensure that they do not attempt to rule the household.
Thankfully, Blue Heelers are one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs.
While this can also get them into trouble, it also means that they take to training more easily, and are quicker to learn than some other breeds.
People who have owned, or at least known Blue Heelers, know that they are also affectionate dogs with their owners, as well as other members of the family.
They are generally very good and well-behaved with kids and other pets in the house. Especially if raised alongside them from a young age.
The breed tends to be wary of strangers and you may find your Blue Heeler even nipping at the heels of strangers.
They can become impartial to strangers once they feel safe around them, especially when their people are comfortable around the ‘strangers’.
Are Blue Heelers Destructive?
Blue Heelers can become very destructive if they don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation each day. They also don’t like to be away from their owner and can act out negatively when they are left alone.
Boredom is not good for Blue Heelers.
If they haven’t been exercised, mentally stimulated, or around people, they will find other ways to get rid of all the extra energy, and that is generally through destructive means.
Just like with the aggression, the destructive side of the Blue Heeler isn’t the only side of them you will see, and it can easily be prevented.
They definitely need to have an owner who knows how to deal with their temperament and intelligence. They are not recommended for those who do not have experience around dogs.
What Can Make Blue Heelers Aggressive?
There are several factors that can make a Blue Heeler aggressive. We will know run through the main ones:
As we talked about already, a big one is tied to the amount of stimulation they get each day.
For this reason, this is not the breed to leave alone inside the house all day. They need to be out and about; they need to be included in family activities.
The more exercise they get in a day the less likely they are to become aggressive. Of course, they will be more tired, but equally, they will have less of a desire to keep occupied.
Stimulation can come in the form of activities too. It could be games, toys or puzzles.
The environment in which a Blue Heeler is raised also plays a huge factor in how aggressive they will be.
If they are only used as a working dogs or are not part of a loving family, then they have a higher chance of being aggressive.
To a lesser extent, the same is true when it comes to training and how they are allowed to act at home.
If the owner is not able to control them then Blue Heelers can become destructive and aggressive as they try to take control of all situations and the people inside the household.
Due to the fact that Blue Heelers are uneasy around some strangers, they can also become aggressive, depending on the situation.
This is usually known as territorial aggression.
This is all part of their instinctual protective nature. They are only doing so to look after the family as to what they feel may be a threat.
Nevertheless, if they see that the person is friends with their owner, they may be less likely to become aggressive.
If a Blue Heeler is scared, feels threatened, or is cornered off, they may act out aggressively in an attempt to escape the situation.
It’s a fight or flight response and may occur for a number of different reasons and or causes.
It’s important to ensure your dog is comfortable at all times and to never push them into overly discomforting situations and events. Especially too often.
All dogs become possessive of what they believe are their possessions, and valuable ones at that.
It could be toys or food. Either way, it’s important never to attempt to take from a Blue Heeler when they are engaged with the said item.
If they are eating for example, never attempt to take the food!
Health Conditions and Injuries
All dogs by nature do not want to appear vulnerable; the Blue Heeler breed is no exception.
If a dog has a health condition or injury causing pain, they will do all they can to cover it up.
If somebody is to approach them or try to unveil the source, a dog can act out aggressively in protection. This is to minimize the chance of detection but also to keep pain at a minimum.
Aggressive behavior in this way usually comes on all of a sudden or at random stages or periods of a dog’s life.
Hip Dysplasia is one of the more common inherited conditions in this breed.
It is where the thighbone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint and causes pain. It is one to be particularly aware of.
Therefore, it is imperative to keep an eye on Blue Heelers’ behaviors and movement patterns.
If an illness or injury is detected, it’s best to contact a vet as soon as you can.
With treatment, medication, and a bit of time, aggressive displays may soon become a thing of the past.
Blue Heeler Aggressive Behaviors
Blue Heelers are not barking dogs in most instances, so they are quietly aggressive at times.
The biggest unwanted aggressive behavior in Blue Heelers is biting that they are known for.
Sometimes the bites are more like nips but still not pleasant to an unsuspecting victim.
Growling is another form of aggression that Blue Heelers show.
They will let you know that they are not happy and that you should take heed of the warning.
Most often this behavior will occur when you are out for a walk and come across a stranger.
When left alone, or if they become overly bored, Blue Heelers will take their aggressive behaviors out on your house and furniture.
They can easily tear apart couches, pillows, and any other soft item while gnawing on wood and other hard items.
How To Prevent Aggression In Blue Heelers
Blue Heelers need a strong leader to keep them in check and prevent their independent nature from trying to take over the house.
If they are allowed to rule the house and get away with behavior they shouldn’t be doing, then they can continue to push the boundaries and can easily become aggressive.
The number one factor to prevent aggression in Blue Heelers is for them to get enough exercise so that they can utilize all of their energy.
And they need quite a lot of it.
The average adult Blue Heeler requires around 1 to 2 hours each day. They may even need more than this and hiking or jogging can be used too.
If they have a job such as herding then they will be happy, as they are doing something for their owner and are also getting the mental and physical exercise that they require.
Not Leaving Alone
Blue Heelers don’t like being away from their owner or being alone.
If they are left alone for too long, they can become destructive and aggressive and you may notice that you have damage to items in your house.
For this reason, never lock your Blue Heeler in a small or compact room for too long.
If you need to leave the house, ensure that you return in a timely manner or get a trusted and familiar friend, neighbor, or family member to pop by and socialize with your dog.
They could let them outside, take them on a walk, etc. Either way, it’s important that you do not leave them for too long at any one time.
This is not the breed for you if you are a one-person household and need to work all day!
Training and Socialization
It is imperative that Blue Heelers receive training and socialization starting from an early age.
Letting them know that you are in charge and what is acceptable, and not acceptable behavior will go a long way in preventing them from becoming aggressive.
Socialization involves getting them used to as many people, situations, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences as you can.
It helps to build a dog’s confidence and enables them to feel more at ease as situations change.
Obedience training can be done from home, and a number of techniques work well.
Positive reinforcement should also be preferred, and teaching your dog commands will help you to control them more closely.
If you struggle to implement training at home, and it will require some time and persistence, you can always engage the help and support of an animal behavioral specialist or dog trainer.
These tend to be most effective for very stubborn Blue Heelers or ones who appear to be particularly independent.
Nevertheless, expert training is advised and useful for all dogs of this breed due to their unique temperament.
Blue Heelers are one of the most intelligent dog breeds that there are.
Of course, the intelligence goes to their head and they can become very independent and head strong.
This independent streak can lead to boredom and aggression.
Blue Heeler is actually a nickname given to the Australian Cattle Dog.
The moniker came about due to the color of their fur and the fact that they would nip at the heels of cattle as they were herding them. The nipping at the heels has moved from cattle to humans.
The best way to prevent aggression in Blue Heelers is to ensure that they are receiving enough exercise each day.
In addition to physical exercise, due to their intelligence, they also need to receive mental stimulation.
They are a breed who love to work and love to please their owner, so finding a job for them to do can be a huge help.
When Blue Heelers are in a loving home with an owner who knows how to control them then they will have less chance of being aggressive.
In contrast, if a Blue Heeler is left to fend for themselves and doesn’t know the bond with an owner, they will more likely be aggressive.
Early socialization with people and other dogs will help them tremendously.
While Blue Heelers get along with everyone in the family, including kids and pets, they don’t do as well around strangers.
The earlier you can expose them to more people than the more likely they are to be somewhat comfortable around strangers.
Even through their aggression and destruction, Blue Heelers make really good family pets.
Though they do need to be watched around smaller kids as they have been known to try and herd them with their natural herding instincts.
They also excel at activities such as herding, agility, and obedience.
There are several different groups and competitions in which you can enroll your Blue Heeler to keep them active and help them get rid of their excess energy.
They will stick to you like Velcro so if you are someone who works away from home all day and then hangs out on the couch then we highly suggest you don’t get a Blue Heeler.
You may also want to avoid the breed if you have no prior experience with dogs.
They need a strong-willed owner who is able to train them properly and show them good behavior from bad.
If you lead an active life or are a farmer or rancher, then the Blue Heeler could be a perfect dog for you.
They tend to attach more to one person so if you are in a single-person household then you may even be able to get this affectionate breed to cuddle with you.
Other Blue Heeler guides you may want to read:
- How To Train A Blue Heeler Puppy Not To Bite
- When Do Blue Heelers Calm Down?
- How Big Do Blue Heelers Get?
- Do Blue Heelers Like To Cuddle?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.