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Blue Heelers are considered working dogs. They are used as herding dogs for livestock, namely sheep and cattle, and they’re good at their job. Very few people would classify the Heeler as a hunting dog, but does that mean they can’t be?
Contrary to popular opinion, Blue Heelers can be trained as hunting dogs. Herding dogs are among the most intelligent dog breeds there are, which lends to them being very easily trained to do any task you want. Their strong work ethic means that they will do the job you train them for very well. Blue Heelers have strong prey drives, good stamina, and are very loyal, making them excellent candidates for a hunting dog.
A hunting dog’s job is to track, locate, and retrieve. It might surprise you to know that this sequence of tasks is very similar to a cattle dog’s job of “finding animals” and bringing them back to their owner.
Can Blue Heelers retrieve?
Absolutely! Herding dogs are some of the most naturally inclined “retrievers.” They are highly skilled at games of fetch but can be taught to retrieve any object they want. These dogs love to please their owners by doing their job!
What kind of game can Blue Heelers hunt?
Blue Heelers can hunt any variety of small game animals, including but not limited to squirrels, moles, gophers, rabbits, raccoons, and foxes. For hunting birds, they can easily identify and retrieve game birds like quail, ducks, geese, pheasants, and cranes.
There are first-hand accounts of packs of Blue Heelers taking down coyotes and wild boars. However, the risk involved in these encounters is very high. Both wild boars and coyotes are known for their viciousness, so using your Heeler to bring down these animals could be risking their life.
How do I train my Blue Heeler to hunt?
Any herding breed should start their training as young as possible, usually between two and four months of age, or as soon as they are weaned from their mother. Puppies should be socialized to tolerate and recognize a variety of sounds, scents, and locations. The more environments your puppy is exposed to, the better prepared he will be to be your hunting companion.
Here are some common steps to training a Blue Heeler to hunt:
- Train your dog in basic obedience and manners
- Hold daily practice
- Familiarize your dog with different locations, terrains, and bodies of water
- Introduce your dog to the scents of the game you wish to hunt
- Encourage your dog to follow scent trails on a leash
- Drag tethered game or fowl to activate your dog’s instincts to chase
- Continue practicing daily and always reward correct behavior
- Reinforce your dog’s off-leash recall
- Familiarize and desensitize your dog to loud noises like gunshots
Your first few hunts with your Blue Heeler should be considered “practice runs.” Hunting dogs must learn to walk quietly and patiently with their owners until you’ve given the command to go. Fortunately, as herding dogs, Heelers are very adept at this skill.
How long will it take to train a Blue Heeler to hunt?
Basic hunting dog training usually takes between four to six months. It requires time and dedication on your part to complete the training. Regular access to hunting areas can help your dog become more familiar with the process in a faster time frame.
The temperament of your Blue Heeler will also play a role in how long it takes to train them. Some dogs are super motivated, while others aren’t.
Tips for training your Blue Heeler
Blue Heelers are high-energy, working dogs who will find their own jobs if you don’t give them one. It’s very important that your dog knows what he is and isn’t allowed to do from an early age.
Be The Boss
While they are still puppies, make sure you establish yourself as the pack leader. If you don’t, Blue Heelers will quickly assume the role, which leads to terrible discipline issues with your dog.
Be Kind but Firm
Heelers are very sensitive dogs who don’t respond well to punishment. They do respond very well to positive reinforcement. What’s key is that the rules are consistent all of the time. Once your Heeler finds a loophole, he will exploit it.
As born working dogs, Blue Heelers have a lot of built-up energy. It’s never a good idea to keep them cooped up; they should be provided with the opportunity to run and play every day.
While Blue Heelers are not stereotypical hunting dogs, that doesn’t mean they can’t be trained and used as such. The inherent traits of herding dogs lend well to being easily trained as hunting dogs. With some effort, Blue Heelers have been proven to be excellent hunting companions.
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