Prized for his tenacity and seemingly endless energy, the Australian cattle dog has ventured a long way from Down Under to become a worldwide farm dog phenom. This feisty favorite runs circles around most dog breeds with a working drive any boss would love, and they’re certainly cute to boot!
But how much does a cattle dog cost? Should you expect to shell out an arm and a leg for one of these pooches, or are these pups more affordable than you’d think?
Below, we’ll break down the purchasing price of an Australian cattle dog and explain some other costs that come with owning these working wonderdogs.
Key Takeaways: How Much Does an Australian Cattle Dog Cost?
- The purchase price for Australian cattle dogs varies significantly, from about $250 all the way up to $3,000. Many factors can affect pricing, from the dog’s exact family tree to the breeder’s location.
- Adopting an Australian cattle dog is cheaper than buying one, but seek a breed-specific rescue for best results. Finding a cattle dog available for adoption near you can be tricky, but locating a cattle dog rescue in your area can help significantly.
- Many other costs come with owning a cattle dog. The ACD is a high-octane canine requiring lots of exercise and engagement on top of everyday care, meaning plenty of toys, enrichment tools, and in many cases, canine sports to keep your four-footer happy.
Must-Know Info Before Buying an Australian Cattle Dog
Before you bring home a cattle dog, it’s important to learn the breed basics. Not only does knowing the breed help determine if they’re the right pup for you, but it can also educate you on what to look for during your puppy (or adult) search.
The Australian cattle dog is a colorful canine known by many monikers, including:
- Cattle dog
- Queensland heeler
- Australian heeler
- Blue heeler
- Red heeler
- Cow dogs
His various names pay homage to everything from his origins to his coat, which comes in five standard markings: blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red speckled, and red mottled.
This short double coat is easy to maintain, with a weekly brushing all a cattle dog needs for most of the year. He is a shedder, however, with two shedding seasons requiring increased brushing every other day or so to help remove loosened undercoat. So, if you don’t like the idea of hair covering everything you own, opt for a low-shedding dog breed instead.
The ACD got his start in Australia’s rugged interior way back in the 1800s.
Driving cattle across this vast landscape required a hardy dog with brains and brawn beyond the light-footed collies of the Old World.
A special kind of canine was needed to keep the animals in line, as cattle are far larger than sheep (they’re more stubborn than sheep are too).
The Australian cattle dog was created through careful breeding of various collie breeds, Dalmatians, and dingoes.
This combination of strong herding instincts, bravery, and brute strength is why he still reigns supreme today as one of the best cow herders around. His no-fuss coat is perfect for farm life, while his solid, athletic build is made for keeping up with the rigors of moving cattle.
While the cattle dog is undeniably one of the best farm dogs, he isn’t a great dog for apartment life. A couple of daily walks aren’t nearly enough to satiate his exercise needs.
In truth, cattle dogs are a very bad choice for the vast majority of dog owners.
Any working dog or high-drive dog can be challenging for a standard owner, and cattle dogs are arguably at the more extreme and intense end of the working dog spectrum.
Heelers were bred to work cattle for long stretches, an instinct that still runs deep in the breed. He loves nothing more than running full-speed ahead with a task, which means you’d better come up with a way to wear him out, or he’ll make his own fun at your home’s peril.
Fortunately, he makes a great canine running companion, so feel free to take him on your daily jog. Remember: A tired cattle dog is a happy (and healthy!) cattle dog. But many cattle dogs need a lot more than even a long run, so be prepared to make tiring your dog out your full-time job if you don’t have a farm where your dog can work all day herding to his heart’s content.
Cattle dogs are herders at heart, so young kids, other dogs, or guests may find themselves being corralled by an overzealous ACD. Your cattle dog can learn to resist this urge, but it will take time and patience. It’s important to note that while the heeler loves his family, he’s not the most affectionate fur friend, as he sometimes lets work get in the way of cuddles.
If you’re looking for a licking lapdog, he’s probably not the right pooch for you.
When it comes down to it, the Australian cattle dog is not a great breed for first-time owners or those looking for an easy keeper of a canine.
His needs stretch beyond those of the average breed, both physically and mentally. With that in mind, the ACD is an excellent companion for adventure lovers ready to take on the next hiking trail or farmers looking for a tireless worker. He’s also a dream dog for canine sports enthusiasts thanks to his intelligence and athletic prowess.
Cattle Dog Pricing Basics
As with any breed, the cost of an Australian cattle dog can range wildly. You can opt for a rescue, of course, which will be free or nearly so (most rescues charge nominal fees to help cover the care costs they’ve incurred).
Alternatively, you can look for your ACD from a breeder.
Both approaches come with pros and cons, and both have varied pricing, with breeder-acquired puppies generally having the highest price tags, ranging from $250 to over $3000. This massive price discrepancy is due to several reasons, as backyard breeders who skip health testing may charge less than ethical breeders of show-quality or working-line pups.
Saving a buck or two is certainly on everyone’s mind, but skipping health screenings puts a litter at risk of severe (and expensive) issues down the line, including hip and elbow dysplasia, deafness, and progressive retinal atrophy, which inevitably leads to blindness. That “cheap” puppy can quickly rack up thousands in veterinary bills.
Factors Influencing the Cost of ACDs
Blue heeler puppy prices vary significantly for several reasons, including:
The ACD’s Kennel Club Registration
Many breeders opt for kennel club registrations, like the American Kennel Club (AKC) or United Kennel Club (UKC). Registering the dog will cost the breeder time and money, which he or she will pass on to you.
While these registration papers aren’t necessary for a pet cattle dog (or even a working one), they’re essential if you’re looking to breed or show your puppy in the future.
Which Lineage Does the Blue Heeler Come From?
Puppies purchased from show lines are typically more expensive than their non-showing counterparts, with the highest prices given to show-quality or champion-parented litters.
These dogs have an overall appearance that’s as close to perfect as possible within the breed standard, driving up the price. In contrast, dogs with a fault, such as being too large or small or having too many markings, are typically less expensive than their show-quality siblings.
Working line cattle dogs may also fetch a pretty penny, especially if a parent is a champion herder or agility competitor. Working lines are more intense than show lines, however, and should only be pursued by those looking for a sport or farm dog. These are not your run-of-the-mill “pet” cattle dogs.
The Location of Your Australian Cattle Dog
The cost of living differs greatly around the U.S., with certain locations seeing veterinary and everyday prices far higher than others.
For example, an ACD breeder in Connecticut may have higher operational costs than one in Tennessee. This difference in the local cost of living sometimes reflected in ACD pricing, as your puppy’s core shots and day-to-day care prices are more expensive in some places than in others.
Another factor with location is shipping if you opt to have your cattle dog puppy sent to you.
Typically, shipping fees include the pre-flight health screening and crate and can cost upwards of $500 domestically. You can get around this by traveling by car to fetch your pup, often for much cheaper if it’s within a day’s drive.
Keep in mind that not every breeder allows puppies to be shipped. Internationally-shipped puppies may incur higher travel fees and additional vaccination and health requirements.
Australian Cattle Dog Breeder Practices
Unfortunately, not all dog breeders are made equal. Some breeders value their stock’s health and improving the ACD breed overall, while others merely want to produce as many puppies as possible to churn a profit. This is often reflected in pricing, as veterinary care is expensive.
Ethical breeders opt for all necessary health screenings to produce the healthiest puppies possible, with the ACD Breed Club recommending the breed undergo the following:
- Hip evaluation
- Elbow evaluation
- Eye testing
- BAER testing
- PRA Optigen DNA screening
- PLL DNA test
Note: Don’t accept a person’s word alone when inquiring about testing. Sadly, some backyard breeders lie, seeking a quick buck. Ask to see copies of the results. You can also search a sire or dam’s health results via the OFA’s website.
Is the Aussie Cattle Dog Trained Already?
If you’re looking for a working-line ACD and expect him to contribute around the home or farm, you may be interested in one who’s already started training with livestock.
This will save you a bunch of work, but it’ll increase your pup’s price tag to cover the dog’s care and the trainer’s time. When you bring a pre-trained cattle dog home, he’ll be a little older than most puppies, generally between 6and 10 months old.
By then, a trained ACD will be accustomed to life around livestock and know basic herding commands.
The Australian Cattle Dog’s Age
Generally speaking, an ACD puppy will be more expensive than an adult cattle dog. Of course, factors like lineage and training can affect this, but since most people want a puppy that’s less than 12 weeks old, they command the highest prices.
Cattle dogs older than this may be discounted as the breeder tries to move puppies into homes as quickly as possible. You can save a fair amount by seeking these puppies and still end up with a high-quality heeler.
Can You Get an ACD for Free From a Shelter?
Shelters are likely the most affordable place to obtain a new Aussie cattle dog.
However, in most cases, the answer is “no.” You usually can’t obtain an ACD from a shelter for free.
Shelters typically impose adoption fees to help cover operational costs, food, and veterinary care, like spaying or neutering and core vaccinations.
These fees typically don’t cost more than $250 and, in many cases, they’ll total between $100 and $150 for an adult dog, which is a heck of a deal when you factor in the cost of shots and altering.
In some instances, you can adopt a cattle dog for even less (or yes, free) if the dog is older or the shelter is running a promotion.
Other Costs You’ll Incur When Buying an ACD
As you know, buying a puppy is only the start of your pet-care expenses. Hopefully, you grabbed a few supplies ahead of time, including a bed, leash, food and water bowls, and a high-quality food, but if you didn’t, they’re essential for at least your first night together.
Some basic expenses related to owning a cattle dog include:
- Crate: These mischievous herders are prime candidates for crate training. Not only will it keep your ACD out of trouble when you’re not around, but it can prevent him from ingesting things he shouldn’t and aid in housetraining. Purchase a crate that will fit your cattle dog’s overall size, with a medium to large sized option being your best bet. Prices start around $70 for a standard wire crate.
- Food: As a medium-sized, athletic dog, the ACD should go through about a 30-pound bag of kibble a month, give or take. This varies by your dog’s activity levels and the food’s nutrition content, however. Minimally, you’ll be forced to pay about $30 for a bag this size, totaling $360 a year.
- Veterinary care: Your cattle dog will need an exam when he gets home to check him from nose to tail, as well as a yearly checkup. These visits increase to twice annually once your ACD is considered a senior after age 7. He will also need core vaccinations throughout his life, along with microchipping, a low-cost way to keep tabs on him in case he gets lost. Spaying or neutering is another expense to consider. Overall, you can expect to spend a few hundred a year on vet care, though you can save money by seeking low-cost vaccination or spay and neuter clinics.
- Enrichment: Cattle dogs crave a challenge, meaning you’d better keep your house and yard stocked with fun toys to put his crazy work ethic to the test. It’s not a bad idea to sign him up for sports and classes, either. Agility classes start at around $125 for a multi-week course, or you can practice your own version at home with DIY variety. Costs vary by location and how hard your cattle dog is on his toys but expect to shell out upwards of $100 a year on enrichment, including chews.
- Training: You can always train your cattle dog yourself, but some owners prefer group obedience or socialization classes. Prices vary by location, starting between $25 to $40 per session. Private sessions are more expensive, starting at about $50 per session.
- Grooming: One of the most affordable aspects of cattle dog ownership is coat care, as these pups are nearly as low maintenance as they get. Just grab a durable brush ($10 to $15), a set of nail clippers ($10), and a bottle of shampoo ($5 to $10), and you’re good to go. You can also schedule professional bathing every eight weeks or so, though it’ll set you back about $50 per session. Toothbrushing is another must-do, with a $10 kit saving you thousands in the long run if you keep up on dental care.
- Kenneling/Care: If you vacation a lot without your dog, you may need to schedule kenneling or homecare when you’re away, which often starts at about $25 per night. Pup parents who work long hours sometimes opt for doggy daycare for their cattle dog, which helps satisfy the breed’s exercise needs. Doggy daycare starts at about $30 a day, with some pricing specials bringing it down a bit, including paying for packages in advance or senior/military discounts.
Many other oddball needs will factor into dog ownership, with several being one-time purchases or as-needed buys, like training treats, harnesses, or the occasional surprise vet bill. Some items can be bought secondhand to save some money, including crates, outdoor kennels, and more.
Selecting a Good ACD Breeder
Once you’ve decided the Australian cattle dog is the breed for you, it’s time to find the right breeder.
As tempting as it can be, don’t just buy the first puppy you find or fall in love with a photo online. Do your homework and pick the best possible breeder to ensure you’re getting a happy, healthy, well-adjusted cattle dog. An ethical breeder seeking to improve the breed delivers just that.
We have a handy guide to finding the right dog breeder, noting the absolute musts with any breeder, including:
- Access to parents: A breeder should offer meet-and-greets for serious puppy inquiries, meaning you can meet your puppy’s parents yourself to ensure they’re physically and mentally sound.
- Verifiable records: As we mentioned, any health clearances should be researched using Orthopedic Foundation for Animal’s (OFA) site. If a breeder claims a dog is cleared and you can’t find results, move on.
- Breed enthusiasm: Backyard breeders tend to only have dogs to make money, whereas ethical breeders will have dogs as pets, workmates, and more. A good breeder makes a point to be involved in the breed community through showing, agility, or old-fashioned farm work.
- Breed education: ACDs are intense, and any good breeder will shout this from the rooftops. They can go on and on about cattle dogs to anyone that will listen, telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly to ensure a good match.
- Return agreement: Many good breeders will allow you to return the puppy to them at any stage of life if you can no longer keep them. This ensures their puppies never end up in a shelter or rescue.
- Spay or neuter contract: Unless your dog is purchased with a breeding agreement, many breeders require proof that you’ve spayed or neutered your pooch by a certain age.
- Pickiness: If a breeder seems too eager to hand over a puppy and doesn’t ask questions, it’s a red flag. Ethical breeders ask questions. Lots of them. They want to ensure puppies end up in forever homes, not temporary ones that grow tired of them once they’re no longer little and adorable.
- Proper living arrangements: A home environment is always best. You want a puppy used to being with people, not tucked away in a kennel.
Of course, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is. If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is too. Puppy scams are all too common now, and keeping your guard up is vital to avoid falling victim.
ACD Shelters and Rescues
Finding a purebred Australian cattle dog at a shelter or rescue might be tricky, but it can be done, especially if you seek a breed-specific rescue in your area. Sadly, cattle dogs and other herding breeds are often too much for newbie dog owners or couch potatoes, so they end up for adoption later in life. The good news is, adult heelers are mostly beyond that pesky puppy stage of mischief, so you’re rewarded with a best friend ready to explore life at your side for far less than going the breeder route.
Some Australian cattle dog rescues in the U.S. include:
- Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Incorporated (US/Canada)
- Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association (NY/East Coast)
- Texas Cattle Dog Rescue (TX)
- Australian Cattle Dog Rescue of Illinois (IL)
- Arizona Cattle Dog Rescue (AZ)
- AuCaDo (MI)
- New Hope Cattle Dogs (CO)
- Carolina ACD Rescue & Rebound (Carolinas/southeastern US)
- Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue (WA/OR/TX, yes TX)
Do you have an Australian cattle dog at home? Where did you find your four-footer? Any tips for other prospective cattle dog owners? Let us know in the comments!