In August 2013, I started volunteering at a no-kill shelter that was home to over a hundred dogs. I convinced my husband, Steve that it was time to look for a new family member. As we walked through the aisles of barking dogs, one dog caught Steve’s eye. And so began our relationship with a unique breed of dog, the Australian Cattle Dog, aka Blue Heeler, or Queensland Heeler. Sheila was a purebred who had been dumped at the SPCA and rescued by the no-kill shelter. I later red that ACDs are often euthanized the way pit bulls are because of owners who don’t understand the breed’s characteristics. ACDs are very protective, territorial and they love to herd! They herd, as we later found out, people, cats, pretty much anything that moves and they do it with INTENSITY!
Our cats soon learned that when Sheila stared at them she meant business! She will get inches from our sassy calico, Sonya, and Sonya will actually back down. This in itself was a miracle of sorts. You have to admire a dog who will challenge Sonya! The other method of herding that has been bred into these dogs (their “Plan B” should the stare fail to work) is nipping. They usually go for the heels and attempt to move the animal (or person) along by placing their mouth around the back of the heel. Sheila, true to her breed is totally loyal, and easily fits into the classification of “Velcro Doggie”, always preferring to be right at your side. Sheila is working out well with the cats. She and our black male cat, Simon, play with each other. They wrestle and have a great time! Sonya has learned to head butt Sheila and try to stay on her good side. Schatzi, our grey tabby still wants nothing to do with Sheila, but with time I think she may come around.
My first recommendation to people who are looking to adopt a dog is to know your breed. Even a mixed breed will display some breed related behavior. Don’t set yourself or the dog up for disappointment and failure by adopting the wrong breed. There is a breed for everyone and every situation. My second recommendation is to give your new dog some time to settle in. Dogs suffer some post traumatic shock from spending time in a shelter. They may forget all about previous training and have a few accidents indoors. They also might not seem to affectionate at first, as they feel betrayed by their previous owners abandoning them. Above all remember you have saved a life and created a forever bond.