As I rounded the corner to hike up the long, sloping hill on one of the legs on my morning walk, I looked to my right and saw a Blue Heeler playing in a yard. Two women, one young, one old, were in the driveway. I called across- as I always do,
“May I have permission to pet your Heeler?”
Before I got the words out of my mouth, said Heeler had already shot across the yard, the (blessedly empty) street, and was rolling on his back at my feet.
I did NOT call the dog. I asked permission. I did everything right.
The young woman, whose house sits on a very busy local street and cross street, was mad at hell.
Train Your Damned Dog.
As someone who has lived and worked in Australia and owned two Blue Heelers, I know and respect this intensely independent and wilful breed. I also know how long it takes to train them.
For most, for the basics, a matter of a few minutes, at best, a few hours. They are monumentally intelligent, eager to please and they need work. As a breed, they are cattle, sheep and herding dogs, fit for an athlete. Not cooped up in a house all day with an old woman and a work-weary daughter.
Forgive me, but don’t blame ME for the fact that you are at work all day and don’t have the time to teach your Einstein the simple, powerful, lifesaving commands like WAIT. And OK.
The young owner made a big deal out of continuing to pack her car, slamming this and that into it to show how frustrated she was at me for interfering with her untrained animal. I ended up talking to her mother, who is no athlete, and who is house bound.
They had gotten the dog last January from a farm in Nebraska. Now they were trying to get the dog to fundamentally change its nature, NOT herd them around the house, and sleep all day.
COME ON MAN.
Blue Heelers were bred in the 1800s as a cross between an ancient border collie breed in England (which is extinct) used to get sheep onto sailing ships, and Aussie dingos (http://www.dogster.com/dogbreed/blue-heeler). They work 18 hours a day in the wicked hot Outback with little access to water. They are the dog world’s marathoners, like the Aussie kelpie, and they are intensely smart, brave, and the ultimate trickster and comedian. I have owned two. Or rather, they have owned me, and I bow to that difference. Bluey owners know whereof I speak.
It took me about an hour to train my six-week old puppy to ask to go outside to pee and poop. The woman at the corner house, where this puppy has lived since January, still hasn’t potty trained her Heeler.
This isn’t the dog’s fault. The woman told me that first, the owner is always working. Second, they both use different commands.
Clearly neither did their research, nor do they have respect for the breed they bought.
After I got Cooter, my last Heeler, I did a road trip in a van from Spokane to Denver. When we stopped for a doggie potty break, I opened the back door of the van. If he took off, he’d be road kill in seconds. It took me two stops to teach him WAIT. Then OK, the release command. Then after three hours, he knew what I meant when I instructed him to GO PEE. Or GO POOP. Friends didn’t believe me until I showed them.
You ask anyone who has owned a Heeler and they will tell you that they start going after your Achille’s’ tendon the second their eyes are open, if not before. They are comedians and tricksters, with endless untrammeled energy, which can turn ugly if they aren’t preoccupied with their love of life: work. That this actually annoys these two women makes me wonder about their sanity. This is so fundamental to the breed that they insult their new puppy by demanding that he not do what is part of his DNA. While there are indeed couch potatoes and fat boys and lazy Heelers, that is not the breed standard. WTF were you thinking?
I’ll Suggest What They Were Thinking
At the beginning of the 2017 football season, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is featured with his Heeler in State Farm commercials. Like so many lemmings, lots of folks suddenly wanted to git oneathem dogs without giving the slightest thought to the breed demands or what would be required of them to keep this animal healthy, happy, engaged and not tearing the shit out of your house out of sheer boredom.
I wrote an article to this and have so far gotten close to a million reads. Apparently it hit a chord, especially among us passionate Heeler fans (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dont-buy-dog-please-julia-hubbel-cpsd/). It’s not just Heelers. It’s the Huskies and Samoyeds and Dalmatians made popular by movies or TV, now languishing or awaiting death at overcrowded shelters.
For a great many, including me, the first time many who didn’t have a ranch life saw a Blue Heeler was in the second 1981 Mad Max film Road Warrior. In one early movie review, the dog was referred to a“mangy mutt.” This insult to an AKC-registered, immensely intelligent animal that is the Aussie’s gift to any athlete or ranch owner.
This puppy is likely to end up either dead on Union Boulevard or donated to a shelter. Despite all the suggestions that I made to the older woman (the daughter left in a huff and puff of driveway dust) as we listened to their puppy yelp in frustration from inside the house- prison to him- she gave me one excuse after another as to why she couldn’t put those suggestions to work.
Don’t buy a dog you’re not willing to invest in, work with and train. And don’t you DARE blame other people for the fact that you aren’t willing to put the work into making him a safe, reliable, obedient animal. Don’t you dare resent an animal for displaying the results of two centuries of careful breeding that turned him into a superb herding animal. That’s YOUR fault, not his.
I’m not saying don’t get a Bluey. But they live a long, long long time (the oldest, aptly named “Bluey,” lived to some 29 plus years old in Australia in the 1920s and holds the Guinness World Record (https://www.mnn.com/family/pets/photos/15-pets-with-guinness-world-records/oldest-dog). That’s a damned long time to be dumped in a shelter. Here’s a list of who gets dumped most often:
15 Most Common Dog Breeds Found In Shelters
While the majority of dogs that enter shelters are of mixed origin, it's not at all uncommon to find purebred dogs that…
You’ll note that the majority are working dogs. With an increasingly obese, lazy and sedentary population, this is totally predictable. It’s also criminal abuse of loyal animals who committed the offense of needing work and exercise. And they are condemned to death for it, to the tune of 670,000 every single day.
I’m an endurance athlete. If I didn’t travel so much I’d rescue another Heeler tomorrow and give his fuzzy butt the daily workout he deserves. However, my BF moved in and with him, brought his bulldog Sophie, for whom walking past three houses is ghastly effort, and she sits on her pudgy posterior in protest. I love her just as much, but miss the energy, demand and incessant stinkeyes that I got from Buster and Cooter.
Wanna get a dog? Here’s some wholly unsolicited advice:
Do your research and tell the truth about your lifestyle. Don’t buy a dog for a life you think you need, but the life you’re living.
Get thee to training. It’s not for the dog, it’s for YOU. It’s to teach YOU how to be a better, more responsible owner.
Don’t impulse buy because you think some dog is going to make you cool like Aaron Rodgers or some actor on Game of Thrones. Few things are more selfish, self-centered and a waste of a loyal valuable life. Pardon me but grow up. A dog is a long term commitment, and it’s your job to figure out what that breed needs and how to give it a joyful life of loving your sweet ass off. That takes training.
And if you do choose a Heeler, may you be worthy of him.