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Is A Blue Heeler Smart? Ranking Dog’s Intelligence

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The Blue Heeler, or the Australian Cattle Dog, is one of the smartest dogs in the canine world. These vibrant dogs with a pleasant curiosity for life are full of energy. Speaking of their intelligence, they have some of the best work ethics in the canine world. But is a Blue Heeler smart dog?

According to the ranking made by Stanley Coren, the Australian Cattle Dog ranks at No.10. How smart is this puppy? They are extremely quick at learning commands but also have an amazing instinctive intelligence.

There is a reason why the Blue Heeler is one of the best cattle-herding dogs.

Personality Traits of Australian Cattle Dog

Before we talk about the intelligence of the Blue Heeler puppy, let’s take a look at some of its common personality traits. These dogs are also known as Queensland Heelers in their native Australia. Here are some common personality traits.

  • These dogs have amazing problem-solving skills and are quick to learn new tasks
  • They possess plenty of energy and need vigorous physical exercise and mental stimulation to keep them interested
  • Bred to work hard, they are praised for their endurance
  • They are naturally alert and watchful and will let you know if they detect any unusual activity
  • Blue Heelers have an independent streak and are self-reliant
  • Naturally protective of their family and territory, with a natural instinct to guard. This is why they are wary of strangers
  • Bred for herding cattle, they are work-oriented and need to be involved in tasks all day long
  • Extremely loyal to the family, they show their devotion at every step
  • Strong herding instinct deeply ingrained in their genetic makeup
  • Strong instinct to chase and herd, and may exhibit prey drive toward small animals
  • While aloof with strangers, they are family oriented and form strong bonds with their human owners

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Types Of Dog Intelligence

When you think of dog intelligence, it is a mistake to limit it to just the ability to learn new commands and be obedient. Obedience intelligence is only one type of canine intelligence. The three main types of dog intelligence include adaptive intelligence, instinctive intelligence, and obedience and working intelligence. The Blue Heeler excels in all three.

Obedience And Working Intelligence

As a working dog, the Blue Heeler is naturally predisposed to have high obedience and working intelligence. Australian Cattle Dog is able to learn a new command in five repetitions and will obey a new command in 95% or more attempts.

For comparison, the average dog needs 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command and obey the new command on only 50% of occasions.

Instinctive intelligence

This is an area where very few dogs excel. It is an innate ability or the skill and purpose that the dog has. For heelers, be it Blue Heeler or Red Heeler, that is the herding instinct.

You do not have to teach dogs their instinctive ability. For these dogs, duties include herding cattle, herding livestock, and bringing them to the handler.

Adaptive Intelligence

This type of canine intelligence refers to the dog’s ability to solve problems and figure out things on its own. You can measure adaptive intelligence by a number of tests.

And Blue Heelers are amazing thinkers that do well in this type of challenge.

Where Does He Rank?

Is a Blue Heeler smart? Yes, of course, he is. But exactly how intelligent is this herding breed?

As we said before, psychologist Stanley Coren cataloged several breeds in his book The Intelligence of Dogs. That book has stood the test of time as a landmark piece on the matter. According to the famous psychologist, a dog’s intelligence “can be identified by its ability to carry out specialized tasks, its level of obedience, and its general working intelligence”.

With that in mind, he called the help of several judges of The American Kennel Club, and they ranked popular dog breeds.

According to his criteria, the Border Collie ranked first on the list, followed by the Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Shetland Sheepdog, Labrador Retriever, Papillon, Rottweiler, and then Australian Cattle Dog.

So that means that the Blue Heeler dog breed is the 10th smartest pet in the canine world.

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Why Are They So Smart?

There are a couple of reasons why Blue Heelers are such amazing dogs and smarty pants. As we said before, psychologist Stanley Coren mentioned only three dimensions of canine intelligence. And the biggest aspect was working and obedience intelligence.

But there are two highly important reasons why Blue Heelers are so smart.

They Are Intelligent Herders

As we said before, instinctive intelligence is a dog’s ability or skill they were bred for. All dogs have been bred for a specific purpose, for example, hound dogs for hunting. Or some terriers for hunting as well.

For Blue Heelers, we only have to look at its name. Originally called Australian Cattle Dogs, they got their nickname because they nip at the heels of cattle, one of the most effective ways to herd these animals.

And they were not taught this method of herding. They instinctively push livestock into formations or in a direction, something that needs plenty of instinctive intelligence. And their herding intelligence is off the chart.

They Are Intelligent Communicators

This is the third type of canine intelligence, adaptive intelligence. It is a unique type that refers to a dog’s ability to learn from past mistakes and solve problems.

Blue Heelers are quite capable of learning for themselves.

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How To Improve Your Dog’s Intelligence?

When you have a naturally smart dog breed like a Blue Heeler, you have to make sure you work its brain. So, how can you mentally stimulate a Blue Heeler to learn even more and improve its intelligence?

  • Provide plenty of daily physical exercise and mental stimulation
  • Enrich their environment and make it more engaging. Dogs are curious so provide items and activities that will satisfy that curiosity
  • Ongoing learning is a good way to provide enrichment, so try to help your dog to learn a new skill weekly
  • Reward your dog for showing signs of intelligence
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to socialize with people, animals, and other dogs, but also provide new experiences in terms of environments, objects, sounds, and more.

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