First bred in the Lone Star State, the Texas Heeler is a cross between the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd. There isn’t much we know for certain about the Texas Heeler’s relatively recent beginnings, and they aren’t yet recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Without a breed standard, it can be difficult to make definitive statements regarding the Texas Heeler’s temperament and appearance. However, the two parent breeds are well established with the AKC and serve as helpful templates for making predictions.
Australian Cattle Dogs are descendants of the dingo. Bred to move cattle in both open and confined spaces, the breed standard describes Australian Cattle Dogs as being “always alert, extremely intelligent, watchful, courageous, and trustworthy, with an implicit devotion to duty.”
Australian Shepherds, or Aussies, are also working dogs with strong herding instincts. Originally developed in the United States, the breed standard describes the Aussie as “an intelligent, active dog with an even disposition” and as “a loyal companion … [with] the stamina to work all day.” These characteristics have made them a popular choice for rodeos, ranches, and farms.
When these two breeds combine, you can typically expect an athletic, medium-size dog (35–65 pounds) with Texas-size levels of intelligence and energy. The Texas Heeler coat ranges from short to medium in length and can come in combinations of black, blue, brown, fawn, and gray. Like their Australian Cattle Dog parent, Texas Heelers tend to have upright, pointed ears. Like their Aussie parent, they may be born with a bobbed tail.
Caring for a Texas Heeler
It would be difficult to overstate how much Texas Heelers need a job that gives them a physical and mental outlet. These dogs will not be content with a 10-minute daily walk through the neighborhood. They need a home where they can either work (such as on a farm) or participate in daily sports like running, agility, and obedience training.
Texas Heelers are constant companions who are happy to go wherever you’re going. Loyal and loving, they are devoted to their family but can be wary of strangers.
As you would expect for a dog designed for outdoor work, Texas Heelers are low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their double coat requires a once-a-week brushing but may need extra attention twice a year when the undercoat is shed.
Texas Heeler Health Issues
Still, like all dogs, the two breeds are prone to various health conditions that can be passed to their offspring. This highlights the importance of working with a Texas Heeler breeder who’s committed to health over profit and performs genetic testing before breeding. Investing in pet insurance for this breed might also be a good idea.
The following health conditions are more common in Australian Cattle Dogs, Aussies, or both.
Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop properly. Both Australian Cattle Dogs and Aussies are prone to the condition, and it’s characterized by a looseness that leads to degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). Mild cases are treated with interventions like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs, while severe cases may require surgery.
Common signs of hip dysplasia include:
Reluctance to get up or jump
Shifting of weight to front legs
Loss of muscle mass in back legs
Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia refers to an elbow joint that hasn’t developed as it should, and it’s one of the most common causes of osteoarthritis in canine elbows. Both of the Texas Heeler’s parents are prone to the condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain and inflammation, but surgery is recommended before osteoarthritis develops.
Common signs of elbow dysplasia include:
Limping, especially after exercise
Reluctance or unwillingness to walk or exercise
Stiffness in the elbow joint
Grating or crackling sound from the elbow joint
Both Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds are prone to congenital deafness (i.e., present at birth), which can affect one or both ears. The BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test can be used to definitively confirm deafness, but there isn’t a cure. Still, with some accommodations and training, dogs with hearing loss can live a long, happy life.
Both of the Texas Heeler’s parent breeds are prone to eye problems. The official breed clubs recommend all Australian Cattle Dogs and Aussies be examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist before they’re bred. Some conditions checked for include:
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an umbrella term for a family of eye disorders in which the rods and cones of the retina either don’t develop properly in puppies (early-onset PRA) or begin deteriorating in adulthood (late-onset PRA). Both Aussies and Australian Cattle Dogs are predisposed to PRA. Signs of disease include a reluctance to enter dark spaces, clumsiness, dilated pupils that constrict slowly in response to light, eyes that are more reflective in the dark, and cataracts. There’s no cure for PRA, and the condition eventually leads to blindness.
Primary lens luxation. More common in Australian Cattle Dogs, primary lens luxation (PLL) is a condition in which the lens of the eye moves out of its normal position. This can lead to painful inflammation and glaucoma. If caught early, surgically removing the lens can be helpful, and topical and oral medications can help manage pain and discomfort.
Hereditary cataracts cause the lens to become cloudy, resulting in vision loss. The cloudy portion may be small enough that it doesn’t cause problems, but it can grow to cover the entire lens, causing blindness. If you notice cloudiness or signs of vision loss in your dog, notify your veterinarian. Cataracts are progressive, and surgery is the only treatment. This problem is more common in Aussies.
Iris coloboma is another eye disorder that disproportionately affects Australian Shepherds. Dogs with this condition have an iris that doesn’t develop properly. While vision isn’t affected, increased sensitivity to light can occur. Working dogs with iris colobomas may benefit from dog goggles that act as sunglasses.
Most eye conditions affecting vision are first noticed at night, when your dog might appear to be experiencing night blindness. If you notice your dog having trouble seeing at night, bumping into things, or being reluctant to go into dark spaces, they should be examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dogs affected by multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) drug sensitivity are at risk of serious and even life-threatening complications after receiving specific doses of certain medications. The condition is caused by a genetic variant that allows drugs and toxins to build up and even cross into the brain. There isn’t a cure, but MDR1 drug sensitivity can be managed by avoiding certain medications and decreasing doses.
Signs of drug toxicity related to MDR1 drug sensitivity include:
What To Feed a Texas Heeler
No two Texas Heelers are the same, so you’ll need to partner with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan that’s nutritionally complete and balanced for your pup’s age, size, and health history.
How To Feed a Texas Heeler
Most adult Texas Heelers should eat two meals a day: one in the morning and one in the evening. Because puppies have a higher metabolism than adult dogs, it’s generally best to add a midday feeding, for a total of three meals. Your vet can help you determine the best schedule for your dog’s age.
How Much Should You Feed a Texas Heeler?
The nutrition label on your dog’s food bag includes a guide that gives a general idea of how much you should feed your Texas Heeler based on their weight. But for a more precise recommendation, it’s best to ask your veterinarian. They will tailor their advice not only to your dog’s weight, but also to their body condition score, lifestyle, and health needs.
Remember to factor treats into your dog’s daily calorie count. Even in dogs as active as Texas Heelers, treats can add up fast during training—especially if your dog is particularly motivated by food. Limit treats to no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.
Nutritional Tips for Texas Heelers
If your Texas Heeler is eating a complete and balanced diet of dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they shouldn’t need anything extra. However, nutritional supplements and even prescription diets are sometimes used to treat certain health conditions.
Giving your pup a joint supplement, such as one containing glucosamine and chondroitin, can be very helpful for those with hip or elbow dysplasia or for an older dog developing arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian before adding anything new to your dog’s diet.
Behavior and Training Tips for Texas Heelers
Texas Heeler Personality and Temperament
Much like their parents, Texas Heelers have off-the-charts intelligence and energy. Bred to work, they need daily opportunities to exercise their body and brain. This could include farm work, like herding, or canine sports, such as flyball.
The Texas Heeler’s herding instincts are strong and can surface at inappropriate times, causing them to try to herd children, cats, other dogs, and even adults. Early socialization and training can help curb this behavior, but it’s important to closely supervise your dog’s interactions with small children and other animals.
Texas Heelers can be wary of new people and animals until they’re properly introduced.
Texas Heeler Behavior
Texas Heelers were bred to work alongside people. And whether they live on a ranch or in a duplex, they still want to be by their humans’ sides. Without proper companionship and ample opportunities to use their brain and body, the breed can become bored, and boredom can lead to behavior issues like excessive barking, chewing, and separation anxiety.
Texas Heeler Training
All dogs go through a critical development period from birth to around 16 weeks. During this time, they learn how to interact with humans and other animals. Talk to your breeder about how they approach socialization. If done well, it can pay dividends in adulthood.
Texas Heelers are highly trainable thanks to their bright intellect and desire to please. However, like many dogs with superior smarts, they can have a mind of their own. Regardless of your dog’s willingness to learn, consistent positive training that uses rewards instead of punishment is the best approach. The training process is also a great way to provide Texas Heelers with physical and mental exercise.
Fun Activities for Texas Heelers
- Agility training
- Obedience training
- Herding trials
- Farm work
- Disc dog
Texas Heeler Grooming Guide
Texas Heelers are low maintenance by design. Their hearty coat can withstand harsh weather and needs little attention.
Texas Heelers don’t require any extra skin care. However, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, it’s a good idea to regularly check their skin for ticks.
Texas Heelers have a double coat of short to medium fur. They typically need to be brushed about once or twice a week, but may need extra brushing twice a year when they shed their undercoat. How often you bathe your Texas Heeler will depend on how they spend their time outdoors.
With their predisposition to eye conditions, it’s a good idea to monitor your Texas Heeler’s eyes for signs of disease, such as cloudiness and inflammation. If you notice changes to your dog’s eyes or in their vision, talk to your vet.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Here are some questions to consider before adding a Texas Heeler to your family:
Do I have the time and energy to provide a dog with extensive mental and physical exercise every day?
Do I live in a home or area with access to active outlets for a dog (such as farm work or a canine fitness center)?
Am I OK with dog fur on my clothes and furniture (especially during the two times a year the undercoat is shed)?
Can I give a dog daily companionship?
Do I have the skills and patience to train a dog using positive reinforcement?
Can I closely supervise interactions between a dog, small children, and other pets?
Am I financially prepared to provide veterinary care?
Can I provide a dog with a loving home for their lifetime, which could be 16 years or more?
If you can answer these questions with an enthusiastic “Yes!” you might be ready for a Texas Heeler.
Texas Heeler FAQs
What’s the difference between a Texas Heeler and a Blue Heeler?
Blue Heeler is another name for the Australian Cattle Dog, which is one of the parent breeds of the Texas Heeler.
Is the Texas Heeler a recognized breed?
The Texas Heeler is not yet recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). However, its parent breeds—the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd—have been part of the AKC’s herding group for decades.
Are Texas Heelers hard to train?
Texas Heelers are fast, eager learners with a high desire to please. Sometimes their superior smarts can lead to a bit of an independent streak, but like all dogs, Texas Heelers learn best with positive reinforcement training.
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