ShowSight Presents The Australian Cattle Dog

LIVING WITH Australian Cattle Dogs

BY GAYE LYNN GRANT

Aren’t they “hard” dogs? Don’t they require a lot of exercise? Stubborn? I hear they are stubborn. If they’re so smart, why don’t you see more in Obedience? They’re nippers, right? Is that a red/blue heeler? My Grandfather had one and said...

Q uestions? These are some of the most commonly asked questions of owners and breeders of Australian Cattle Dogs. Do you have your own questions about the breed? The dogs that you meet briefly may seem one dimensional, but to their people they are complex, fascinating, and totally unique. So, let’s talk about those questions. “Hard” dogs? Well, that depends on several factors. ACDs are highly intelligent dogs and do best with owners who are at least as smart and creative as themselves. They need a partner who is willing to be the leader, with enough time to nurture and sustain their relationship. “Hard” to care for? Absolutely not! Their beautiful double coat is odor free and water-resistant. Shedding is typically a bi-annual event. “Hard” to train? Not at all! From their beginnings in the Australian out- back, the ACDwas developed to be a partner, working side-by-side with ranch- ers and stockmen. A well-trained dog replaced two men on horseback. The conditions were extreme, with danger everywhere. It is the ACD’s strength of character, balanced structure, unshakable confidence, and willingness to take on the day that made them invaluable then—and still today. The ACD that enters a show ring should exude these same qualities of integrity and sound- ness. If the dog presented has straight stifles, flat feet, and loaded shoulders, it is not a proper example of a hard-working Australian Cattle Dog. Stubborn? No, they are not! However, they do believe there are stupid questions and they do not suffer fools easily. They need an owner with a plan, TIME, follow-through, and one who wants to be a “dog person.” To quote a famous recruitment poster, “Be All You Can Be” aptly describes the best ACD owner. Whether you are doing Obedience from a wheelchair or train- ing for an Iron Man race, your ACD will be there for you. So why aren’t there more ACDs in Obedience? I think it has more to do with the people who own them than it does with the breed’s aptitude. Obedi- ence is just one stop on the ever-expanding list of opportunities, activities, and titles their dogs lead them to try and succeed in. “Nippers”? Let’s address the style of herding that ACDs use to do their job. ACDs are capable of moving stock by applying a quick grip, usually to the heels of the offending livestock. They are adept at rating their response to the required movement. Wild stock may need a firm biter, whereas a lamb will only need the dog’s presence for direction. They also have a wide range of vocal abilities, including snapping, clacking, and barking. How does this apply at home? Normal barking is to be expected. Silly noises and a surprising variety of sounds are courtesy of their dingo heritage. Herding children? This is a rarity because ACDs understand pack order, and human children are always seen as higher-ranked.

“Is that a red/blue heeler?” Ah, that question really makes me cringe. We officially became the Australian Cattle Dog in 1980. Isn’t that enough time to erase that deceptive moniker? As far as color, AKC and all interna- tional kennel clubs only recognize two colors: Red and Blue. Red is defined in the standard as Red Speckled with allowable, darker red markings. Blue is divided by three separate descriptions: Blue, Blue Mottled, or Blue Speckled with or without other markings. The permis- sible markings are black, blue or tan on the head, the forelegs tan midway up the legs and extending up the front to the breast and throat with tan on the jaw. At no time should the tan appear on the body of the dog. The undercoat should never be cream or white. The nose is always black. My wish is that more questions were asked about preventative health testing and nutrition. The commit- ted members of the ACDCA are advocates of sound genetic testing, transparent reporting, and appropriate x-ray screenings. Where are your questions? Most ACDs today live with families as diverse as you can imagine. However, these families all share on thing in common; they like to be active. Whether their ACDs function as ranch dogs, running partners, show and trial dogs or just babysitters, they all put their heart into the lives of their people. The ACD is extremely adapt- able. Loneliness and boredom are their only enemies. Devotion to the stock person and the family, flocks, and property are what they do best. I really can’t imagine a more delightful compan- ion than an Australian Cattle Dog. They love uncon- ditionally, and they inspire and uplift my life. They have opened my world to great friendships and dreams I never dared to dream. They think deep thoughts, and they forgive and pardon mistakes. They are funny and silly with no self-consciousness, and they are so smart. I am truly grateful to share my life with them. Any questions?

Gaye Lynn Grant ACDCA Past President ABOUT THE AUTHOR

North Central Regional Director Littleflock Australian Cattle Dogs AKC Judge #100927

200 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, SPRING EDITION

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