Australian Shepherd Vs Australian Cattle Dog – Can You Tell Them Apart?

Australian Shepherd Vs Australian Cattle Dog – Can You Tell Them Apart?

australian shepherd vs australian cattle dog

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog – are they really so similar?

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These breeds can be easy to confuse, but we’re here to help you pick the right one.

Early Origins of The Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog

Based on their names, one would assume that the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog share a similar origin, but names can be deceiving.

For example, the Australian Shepherd is actually considered an American dog.

Although the Aussie does have early ties to Australia, this all-American breed is most renowned for his success as a herding dog in the Wild West!

The Australian Cattle Dog, on the other hand, comes from where his name implies.

Commonly known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is related to the wild Dingo of Australia, and boy does he look the part!

Bred for his clever and pleasant nature, the Australian Cattle Dog spent his early days herding livestock across the Australian countryside.

But of course, there is more than just geography that separates these two breeds. Let’s discuss appearance.

Appearance and Size of the Australian Cattle Dog vs Australian Shepherd

If you really want a showstopper when it comes to appearance, you may want to take a look at the Australian Shepherd.

The Australian Shepherd is a breed known for his gorgeous, medium-length coat, which can come in a number of unique colors and pattern types.

He has shorter, floppy ears, and can be born with a bobbed or long tail. Sometimes owners choose to dock their Aussie’s tail if it is long.

The Australian Shepherd may even have blue eyes, although they can also be brown, or even blue and brown.

What about the Australian Cattle Dog?

Remember, this pup is related to Australian’s wild Dingo, and he’s got a rogue, wild beauty to prove it!

With his short coat, erect ears, and unique markings, there is a reason this pretty pup is called the Blue Heeler.

That short, smooth coat of his, which can come in both tan and blue, will often take on a bluish tinge thanks to the grayish hairs peeking up from the dog’s outer coat.

The Australian Cattle Dog also has a naturally long tail that is fuller than the rest of his coat.

So, when it comes to the Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog, which breed is larger?

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The Australian Shepherd tends to stand taller and weigh more than his Australian Cattle Dog counterpart, but not by much.

For example, the Aussie can weigh anywhere from 40-65 pounds and grow between 18 and 23 inches tall.

The Australian Cattle Dog, on the other hand, weighs 35-50 pounds and can grow between 18 and 20 inches.

Now let’s discuss personality.

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog Temperament

The Aussie and the Blue Heeler both make excellent pets for the right person. But the Australian Shepherd is best suited for families.

Still, the Aussie is a herding dog at heart and may try and herd children, seeing them as a part of his drove.

Luckily, training beginning in puppyhood can keep stem this undesirable trait.

What about the Australian Cattle Dog?

While the Australian Cattle Dog does well with older children, he may not tolerate the noisy chaos little ones bring.

He can also be standoffish with strangers if not properly socialized at an early age.

Regardless of which breed you pick, it is important to note that both the Australian Shepherd and the Australian Cattle Dog are working breeds. They are happiest when they are given doggy jobs to perform.

When comparing the Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog, keep in mind they are both highly active breeds.

So they will need lots of exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.

They will also require early socialization and obedience training beginning in puppyhood.

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog Training and Intelligence

When it comes to brainy dogs, the Aussie and the Blue Heeler may find themselves competing to be top of the class.

But an intelligent dog does not always mean an easily trainable dog.

While the Aussie is highly trainable and will enjoy learning new tricks to please you, the Australian Cattle Dog’s is also quite stubborn.

In fact, according to the AKC, the Australian Cattle Dog has a reputation for consistently outsmarting his owners.

For this reason, he will do best in homes with an experienced owner who has plenty of time and patience to train him.

Australian Cattle Dog vs Shepherd Grooming and General Care

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Both the Blue Heeler and Australian Shepherd shed and they shed most two times a year, during shedding season.

The Aussie does need weekly brushing to keep his long hair healthy and knot-free.

The Blue Heeler simply needs an occasional bath or brush down, mostly during shedding season.

Both breeds will need their nails trimmed regularly to keep them from cracking.

They will also need their ears checked and cleaned consistently to keep moisture, debris, and wax from causing ear infections.

Australian Shepherd vs Australian Cattle Dog Health and Lifespan

Both the Australian Cattle Dog Australian Shepherd have similar lifespans.

Like all purebred dogs, the Aussie and the Blue Heeler are susceptible to certain genetic health issues you should be aware of.

Australian Shepherd Health

With a lifespan of 12-15 years, the Aussie can be susceptible to a number of genetic health issues.

These issues include:

  • hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Collie Eye Anomaly
  • coloboma
  • cataracts
  • progressive retinal atrophy
  • drug sensitivity
  • epilepsy
  • tumors
  • cancer
  • autoimmune diseases
  • heart disease
  • deafness
  • von Willebrand’s disease
  • allergies
  • and ear infections.

Australian Cattle Dog Health

The Australian Cattle can live from 12-16 years and can be prone to:

  • progressive retinal atrophy
  • hip and elbow dysplasia
  • deafness
  • and osteochondrosis dissecans.

The Australian Shepherd or the Australian Cattle Dog – Which Breed Is Right For Me?

When it comes to the Australian Shepherd vs Blue Heeler, there is a lot to consider.

The bottom line is that these are both great breeds, but that does not mean they are right for everyone.

If you are a social family with young children, then the Australian Shepherd may be the best choice for you.

He is easier to train than the Blue Heeler and he gets along well with children, strangers, and other pets.

Still, he will require plenty of exercise and will be happiest when given lots of doggy jobs to perform.

On the other hand, if you enjoy a challenge, have older children or no children, and are not new to dog behaviors and dog training, then the Australian Cattle Dog may be a perfect fit.

While he needs lots of training and has been known to be intelligent to a fault, this breed makes training extra fun with his wit. He will make for a fun and clever companion to the right person or family!

Do you own an Aussie or a Blue Heeler? Let us know in the comments!


  • Weissl et al, Disease Progression and Treatment Response of Idiopathic Epilepsy in Australian Shepherd Dogs, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2011.
  • Tiffani J Howell, et al, Puppy Parties and Beyond: the role of early age socialization practices on adult dog behavior, Veterinary Medicine Research and Reports, 2015.
  • Lowell Ackermann DVM, DACVD, MBA, MOA, The Genetic Connection; a Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs, Second Edition, 2011.
  • Stanley Coren, The Intelligence of Dogs, 1994.
  • Charlotte Schwartz, A Kennel Club Book, Australian Cattle Dog, Chapter 9 – History of the Australian Cattle Dog, 2004.
  • James W. Kijas, et al, Genome-Wide Analysis of the World’s Sheep Breeds Reveals High Levels of Historic Mixture and Strong Recent Selection, PLOS Biology, 2012.

Australian Shepherd Vs Australian Cattle Dog - Can You Tell Them Apart?

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