The Australian cattle dog is a popular breed. They are naturally loyal, smart, easily trained, and great family protectors. They are also quite energetic and aesthetically pleasing. But there can be confusion.
Why the confusion? Well, one type of heeler is blue and one is red. Is there a difference between the red heeler vs. blue heeler? This is your guide to understanding the two very similar breeds and what sets them apart from one another.
Are There Any Differences?
When comparing the two, one would assume that there are key differences between them. After all, they are two entirely different types of dog, right? Well, that is not necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, the only real difference between the two is their color.
Yes, one being blue and the other being red is the only main difference between them. They share the same energy levels, temperament, diet, behavioral issues, and can be brought to heel with the same training methods.
The good news is that the information you see about the breeds is interchangeable. So, if you run into a guide that focuses on the blue heeler, you can rest easy knowing that it applies to the red heeler as well.
The first thing to look at is their temperament. Both are naturally intelligent, protective, and energetic. This has to do with the reason they were bred in the first place: livestock. The heeler was named as such because they would nip at the heels of the cattle as they herded them.
Both blue and red heelers have a natural hunting instinct, and both love to run. Because of that, it can be tough to keep tabs on the breed unless they have a safe, enclosed space. A fenced-in yard is necessary with the heeler or they will take off.
For the most part, they are good listeners but they are not without their problems. Without proper exercise and attention, they can bark excessively, chew, or otherwise become bored.
They are great protectors, whether it be livestock, your pets, your family, or your home. With the proper training, they can keep those instincts in check and won’t be fearful or aggressive with strangers, either.
Where the heeler manages to separate itself from other breeds is its intelligence. Whether it be red heeler vs. blue heeler or some other breed, you can rest assured that the heeler is probably the smarter of the two.
That intelligence can make them quite easy to train. That said, they also require stimulation of both the mental and physical variety. They are prone to boredom. When they get bored, they can become destructive at worst and annoying at best.
This is a high-energy breed of dog. They need a couple hours of physical exercise each day in order to maintain their health and keep them from getting bored. They also need more than a daily walk; they need to go on runs in order to keep their energy levels in check. If you are a couch potato, the heeler might not be the best option.
If you think that you can leave them out in the yard, think again. They are prone to digging when bored, so make sure to keep them engaged by playing with them or giving them puzzles. Playing fetch is a great way to get them moving, burning up that excess energy.
This is the only area in which the two really differ. Their temperament, energy levels, even their training can be virtually identical. It is when you look at them that the greatest difference in the red heeler vs. blue heeler can be seen.
They both have short double coats. They are compact in size, having long backs and shorter legs. Their eyes are quite round and soulful, above a snout of mid-length. They have pointed ears that stand up naturally as well.
The blue heeler has a variety of fur patterns. You can find them with mottled blue, blue, and speckled blue. The blue has black and white missed together as well, which creates a smooth look. The mottled ones have little patches of white mixed in with the black. The speckled ones have little patches of black that grow amidst the white.
As for the red heelers, they come either mottled or speckled. The mottled ones have white going through a red coat while the speckled have patches of red against white. The cattle dog in general can also have markings of tan, red, and black.
Blue heelers may also have markings on their head. Sometimes, this is a tan color that can be found on their front legs, throat, jaw, and chest. Red heelers, meanwhile, will have coloration throughout their body and undercoat.
On average, you can expect an Australian cattle dog to stand between 17 and 20 inches from shoulder to floor, weighing between 35 and 50 pounds. There is no noticeable size difference between the red and blue heeler.
That said, there is a discernible size difference between the males and females. The females will be on the smaller end of the aforementioned scale with the males being on the larger size.
Given that they are medium-sized dogs, they make for a great family dog. They are big enough to give strangers a start but not so big that they become difficult to manage. Coupled with their loyalty and intelligence, it is not a wonder why they are such a popular family dog.
Adopting a dog means that you want them to live a long time. The good news is that the heeler does indeed live long. On average, both the red and blue heeler live between 13 and 15 years. That is the average of course, so some may live a shorter life while others have much longer lives.
Take, for example, a blue heeler named Bluey who lived to be 29 years old. To give your heeler a longer life, make sure that they have a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and regular check-ups with their vet. Keep in mind that genetics play a role as well, so not everything is totally in your control.
One of the best things about getting a heeler, either blue or red, is that they are very easy to train. This has to do partially with how intelligent the breed is, but also with the fact that they are naturally eager to please their owners.
That said, there are a couple of things to keep an eye on. Socialize them when they are young. Since their first instinct is to guard, they can become wary of strangers. When you socialize them properly, you can teach them to be protective yet not totally distrusting of strangers.
Heelers of both colors also have a tendency to nip at heels. This is because of their breed and the fact that they have been historically known for nipping at the heels of the cattle that they herd. It isn’t uncommon to see an untrained heeler nip at the heels of other animals or even small children.
Whenever your heeler pup nips at you, walk away and disengage. Don’t punish them because they are doing what is in their nature. Be gentle with them and use positive affirmation when they do not bite or nip.
Finally, heelers can run off the leash in an open space so long as they have the proper training. They have a natural urge to both hunt and chase, so keeping them totally confined goes against their nature. If you have a big, enclosed space, that should be fine to allow them to roam. If not, work on training without the leash so that they can have the space that they need to run.
There is also grooming to consider. Both color heelers have a short coat, one that sheds somewhat frequently. Because of this, they require at least one brushing per week. All you need to do is give their coat a good, quick brush to get any of the loose hairs out. It also helps to keep their fur sleek and healthy, distributing the natural oils in their coat.
Twice each year, generally in the autumn and spring months, heelers will shed their undercoat. You might notice a lot more fur than usual. Give them a bit more brushing to help keep up with that excess shedding. They are doing so in preparation for the weather changes to come.
The heeler will appreciate these grooming sessions. Make sure to give them positive affirmation and lots of treats throughout. It should help calm them if they don’t particularly care for grooming and put them at ease throughout. It will make the entire session all the easier for the both of you and keep their fur levels manageable even throughout the season changes that bring on further shedding.
Heelers are a great choice of family dog. Given that they come in a red and blue variety, it can be confusing to determine which one might be right. The good news is that they are basically the same dog, just in a different color.
Both colors of cattle dogs are loyal, intelligent, and naturally protective. With proper training and socialization, they can make for the ideal family pet no matter what color you choose.