How to Keep a Blue Heeler Busy


If you live with an Australian cattle dog, aka a blue heeler, you may relate to my article, “How to Keep a Blue Heeler Busy.” Apparently, it’s one of the most popular dog articles I’ve written for this particular site, according to the traffic stats, and it means lots of people are searching for this information — if you know the breed, you’ll know why. Unfortunately, some people don’t research the breed of dog they acquire, and the dog always gets the short end of the stick. Often, a new canine family member who’s not a good fit for its humans’ lifestyle ends up at the pound. This happens often with cattle dogs, and sadly many end up in rescues along with other high-energy or ‘strong-willed’ breeds.

Scamp, pictured in this post, is going on six years old — this pic was when she was 10 months old. She is my second cattle dog and I adore the breed’s characteristics and ‘every day is Christmas’ attitude. While bursting with an almost manic energy, the breed is also exceedingly affectionate and loyal. I call her my ‘velcro’ dog, never more than a stone’s throw from me at any time. Because I work at home, my three dogs and me are 24/7 buddies, a strong bond indeed. Aside from her comical antics, obsession for playing ball, love of being surrounded by cats and hugging her ‘mom’, Scamp can be sneaky and thinks she can outsmart her humans. Well, sometimes I have to admit, she can:) The breed does best with experienced dog handlers who can provide lots of exercise. Bred to work, cattle dogs are successfully rounding up cattle or other animals all over North America and in Australia, of course. We’re vegetarians, and not cattle ranchers or sheep keepers, so we have to be inventive to keep our blue heeler busy.

According to the rescue report, Scamp was born in Columbus, Ohio into a hoarder’s outdoor camp, and lived with 49 other dogs of assorted breeds, including cattle dogs. Isolated from human contact, they were at least well-fed. She was transferred to a rescue agency here in Ontario at the age of 10 months. I found her on Pet Finder and fell in love. She was the spitting image of Sydney, my first cattle dog who passed away a few years earlier, and the reason I was looking for another cattle dog in the first place. So enamored were we with Scamper that we adopted her best friend, Chip, as well — he’s another post coming soon. We wanted to make sure she began her new life with someone familiar and their love bond is a joy to behold. We traveled four hours each way to bring these guys home and both Scamp and Chip have made a powerful impact on our lives. They are both the epitome of the appreciative rescue dog. Although most of our 10 dogs over the past 17 years were wonderful, we’ve never had a pair so cuddly and sweet. We adore them completely and our beautiful Plott, Daisy Mae, too.

My article explores a few ways to keep these rugged, high-energy dogs happy and healthy:


“Australian cattle dogs, known unofficially as blue heelers or Queensland blue heelers, are members of the herding group of dogs, as recognized by the AKC, or American Kennel Club. Renowned for both their high energy and uncanny intelligence, they love to be active. Investing time and patience in training is necessary for a cattle dog to reach her full potential. In addition to daily walks, hiking and swimming, there are several organized activities and sports you may consider to satisfy your cattle dog’s mental and physical needs.”

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11 thoughts on “How to Keep a Blue Heeler Busy

  1. We need to talk. Ozzy is mine, but really think; his. He is 6 and large Heeler. Energetic is a close to possible for description for a dog who 1) won’t stop playing 24/7, 2) is Velcro to the max. He once jumped through 2 glass doors to be with me, 3) recently tore up a leather chair because he was bored, 4) is totally devoted to both my wife and myself.

    I wish I had enough time in the day to keep this fellow safely busy, but I am working to feed him.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Barry. Ozzy sounds wonderful, just like my Heelers, who have both passed, one in July. I love that loyal Velcro side of them, but they definitely thrive with a job of some kind. Scamp, my most recent cattle dog had a job as full time playmate/pal to my collie, Chip. Sydney, my first Heeler’s job was pal to my German shepherd, Beau. Both these pairs spent much of most days playing. Having dog friends worked wonders for many of my dogs over the years. As much as I love to spend time playing with my dogs, I always could rely on another dog to fill in the gaps when I was just too busy.:)


  2. We have had seven Australian Cattle dogs, six blue heelers and one red. We also registered as a kennel and bred one litter, but screening prospective owners was so stressful we vowed never to do it again.

    We have two at the moment, an 18 year old red who is nearly deaf, nearly blind, and has the equivelant of dementia; and an 8 year old blue bitch who is a rescue. She is also without a doubt the smartest dog I’ve ever encountered.

    They can be a challenging breed, but also very rewarding. THEY NEED RULES, BOUNDARIES AND LIMITATIONS. They are happiest when they know what is expected of them, and when they know what is expected they will suprise you with the initiative they take while still behaving properly.

    Once you’ve had a good heeler you will not want another breed, but a bad heeler will drive you over the edge. And, the difference between a good heeler and a bad heeler is the owner.


  3. Cheers for writing this blog! We just adopted a 1 yr old Blue Heeler . She was an undernourished rescue afraid of everything at first, but settled in with us by day three. She’s a sweetheart and fairly obedient for a shelter pup, but its been a week & she’s started testing boundaries , esp when she’s bored. I can’t take her out six times a day as I work & right now dog parks and training aren’t an option, as she was recently spayed and isn’t quite ready for class yet, as per the vet. Outside of walks and playtime with toys, we are running out of ideas! How do you keep them employed & busily content indoors? Thanks, Marian


    1. Thank you Marian for your kind comments and glad you’re enjoying my blog! Kudos for adopting this young rescue dog and sounds like she is now doing well, and is finally safe. I’ve shared my life with two blue heelers since 2003 so I’m no expert, but certainly my several years of experience with each of them informed that article I wrote. My most recent, Scamper, passed away in July and I miss her so. Aside from walks, play and the usual nurturing environment, blue heelers need a job. It was easy for me since I have alway had multiple dogs. Scamper was a full time playmate/pal to my collie, Chip. Sydney, my first Heeler’s job was to be a companion to my German shepherd, Beau. Both of these pairs spent much of most days playing, usually getting worn out in the process, then snoozing side-by-side for hours. Having dog friends worked wonders for many of my dogs over the years. As much as I love to spend time playing and walking with my dogs, I always could rely on their pals to fill in the gaps when I was just too busy.:) I know that one dog is often enough to look after, but in my experience, dog breed like heelers, who tend to get bored, do best with another dog in the household if it’s at all possible.


  4. We are the proud pet parents of a ACD. She just turned one! We drive tractor trailer over the road and exercise her many times every day. However/ in order for me to get sleep when I’m not driving I’ve had to get creative in ways to entertain her mind so I can rest mine! There has been one toy in stores to occupy her but only briefly, and that is a Treat Ringer toy. It’s produced by Starmark. Aside from that short lived activity, I’ve taken chew sticks or other treats and hidden them deep within her other toys- that will occupy her slightly longer than the ringer and it’s too adorable watching her figure out how to disembowel so to speak her furry chew friends to gain the treats inside! Any other ideas out there, please share!


  5. Hi, this blog was wonderful to read, as were many of the comments!

    My husband and I adopted a two year old rescue dog a year ago this month. We were told he was an Australian Shepard mix, however, the more we got to know our dog, the more we realized he was no doubt a Blue Heeler mix. My husband and I both work during the day, so caring for our dog is a team effort. One of us will run with him in the morning for an hour before work, and the other (and sometimes both) will take him to the park for a hike or run an hour or more at the end of the day. Luckily, my husband is a runner, and we have found that Buster LOVES to run! (He has even won a 10k!)

    To keep him busy while we are gone during the day, we usually put some peanut butter in a kong and hide it somewhere in the house. We hide a second kong with a tiny piece of meat in another spot too. This way, he has to find the kongs, and then work to get the treats out. We also hide about four tiny treats around the house as well. Some afternoons we will hide treats outside too. These types of games really work towards giving him a ‘job’ to do while we do ours! We also have some ‘chew proof’ toys that we leave out. If he gets board of a toy, we put it in a basket out of his reach and switch it with another toy from the basket. This way he does not get tired of his toys because every few months he thinks he is getting a new toy (but really it’s just a toy he’s forgotten about). I hope these tricks are be helpful! It took us a lot of time and research to find the perfect balance of activities for our little guy and comments like these were so helpful to us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      Thank you for all the great ideas! Wow, what a lucky guy Buster is. I bet he’s happy with all these activities and treats, and such dedicated pet parents. This is a wonderful template for anyone thinking of having such a high-energy dog. I only wish everyone would have such a commitment to their dogs. Best, Susan


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