Blue Heelers, also known as Australian Cattle Dogs, are some of the best herding dogs in the world. With an energetic yet loving personality, Blue Heelers have become popular family dogs. However, for families allergic to dog fur, shedding will be a concern.
Like all double-coated dog breeds, Blue Heelers have a thick undercoat that make them moderate to heavy shedders year round. However during fall and spring, Blue Heelers will adjust to seasonal changes through excessive shedding, often shedding fur in clumps. But with some preparation and care, the shedding can be minimized.
So what makes Blue Heelers such heavy shedders? And why do they shed so much more than other dog breeds? It all boils down to a few specific reasons. Read on to learn why these heelers shed and a ways you can deal with shedding.
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4 Reasons Why Blue Heelers Shed A Lot
Nearly all dog breeds will shed to a degree. Unless you have a hairless breed, no owner is safe from shed fur. It’s just part of the natural cycle of dogs. Needless to say, some dog breeds shed significantly less than others.
Unfortunately for allergy-sensitive owners, the Blue Heeler sheds a lot. But why do they shed so much compared to hypoallergenic dogs (or even low-shedding dogs)? Here are a few reasons why you can’t escape shedding in your Australian Cattle Dog.
1. Blue Heelers have thick coats for herding
Blue Heelers are herding dogs. As a result, they need thicker coats that offer extra protection while out working in harsh conditions all over the world. This extra protection is not just with herding dogs, but for all working dog breeds.
In fact, all herding dogs have double coats. And because some dogs work in colder climates, a few of them may have longer and thicker coats than others.
For example, Corgis are notorious shedders because they were bred in Wales, where temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, Swedish Vallhunds herd in temperatures that can reach a staggering negative 40 degrees!
While Australian Cattle Dogs don’t have to work in extreme conditions, they are still working dogs that spend most of their days outdoors. That being said, it only makes sense for them to have thicker coats than other dogs.
2. Blue Heelers were bred with a “double coat”
The “thicker” coat that many working dogs sport has a name; the double coat. Not only does it keep the Blue Heeler warm during winter, but also cool during summer. Double coats are always adjusting to the season.
As the name suggests, double coats consist of two layers of hair. There’s the undercoat, which has a wool-like feel to it and acts as an insulator to keep the heeler warm in colder climate. This coat is short, thick and dense.
The second layer is the top coat, which is also referred to as the “guard hairs.” These much longer hairs serve the purpose of protecting the Blue Heeler from all environmental elements, such as debris or long grass, and unpredictable weather conditions.
For example, Blue Heelers have a water-resistant coat that keeps them dryer during days when there’s light rainfall. This extra protection developed for the outdoors is all thanks to their top coat.
Compared to single-coated dogs, Heelers shed more because they essentially have double the amount and opportunity to shed fur. But despite what you think, this is not the main reason double coats shed so much more.
3. The Heeler’s coat will “adjust” to temperatures
The real reason why double-coated Blue Heelers shed so much is because their “smart coat” is always shedding to adjust to the weather. In other words, these coats go through major seasonal shedding to regulate body temperature.
Blue Heelers go through excessive shedding at least twice a year. This process is called “coat blowing” in the dog community. And while nearly all dogs experience it, it’s much more evident in double coated dog breeds, such as the Heelers.
Jack, my 3 year old Blue Heeler’s shedding is ridiculous! It’s not just twice a year blowing his coat, it’s constant.– Wilcox511 (Reddit User)
The fur needs to be thick in order to keep the heeler warm during winter. But the same coat isn’t needed for the warmer summer months.
So, a Blue Heeler will need to go through massive shedding of the winter coat during spring time. And around the same time, the lighter summer coat will simultaneously grow out.
Likewise, as summer ends and the colder months are approaching, the Blue Heeler will need to shed the summer coat in preparation for its thick winter coat. This coat blowing season happens during the fall season.
The shedding and growing cycle continues. That being said, it’s important that owners with double coated dogs learn and prepare for these shedding periods.
4. Malnutrition can lead to excessive shedding
All the reasons for shedding that we discussed thus far are out of the owner’s control. But when it comes to your dog’s nutrition, you have full responsibility and control. Like humans, dogs also need to have a proper diet with all the necessary nutrition.
Without enough food or a diet with sufficient nutrition, there will certainly be health issues that come up with your dog. In fact, the number one cause for excessive shedding is a poor diet according to Dr. Roy Cruzen DVM.
People go to discount stores, by a 40-pound bag of cheap food, and then see their pets’ shedding increase. Even though the food meets the minimum quality requirements, it may not have enough protein or nutrients for your pet.– Roy Cruzen DVM
Getting the proper nutrition is even more important in working dogs like the Blue Heeler. Heelers have a lot of energy and expend a lot of energy. With a poor diet, the negative side effects, such as shedding, can be even worse.
Cruzen continues by saying that there’s no need to buy the most expensive dog food. He estimates that “quality pet food” should cost around $4 per pound.
Besides the quality of food, the number one pet peeve I have is giving pets gluten-free diets.– Peter Lands DVM
Peter Lands DVM adds that giving your dog a gluten-free diet can also lead to excessive shedding. There just aren’t many dog breeds that are gluten/grain intolerant so there really is no need for it.
How Much do Blue Heelers Shed?
Blue Heelers can potentially shed a lot. They’re moderate to excessive shedders and everything in between. It really depends on the individual dog.
In order to get a good idea of how much a Blue Heeler actually sheds, we decided to ask real Blue Heeler owners through the Heeler Subreddit and dog forums. Here’s what the owners had to say.
Real Owner Answers:
1. Wilcox511 says Heavy: “He’s just always been like that since a pup. I was prepared for the shedding and blowing the coat a few times a year, but it just seems like there is more...”
2. Bmhcrazyguy says Heavy: “Yeah, my heeler is the same way. He sheds all the time. I Just had the carpets cleaned and 3 days later, there was enough fur to fill the vacuum a few times over.“
3. Nycdogwalker says Heavy: “There’s no way around it. If you want a heeler then you need to prepare for the crazy amounts of fur. Invest in cleaning supplies and stick to a grooming schedule!“
4. Lizardeater says Low: “It’s weird. My current dog doesn’t shed and his predecessor never ever shed. Current dog is a blue heeler. Last dog was a heeler Aussie shepherd mix.”
5. Twicethefluff says Moderate: “I’m not going to lie, my blue heeler sheds quite a bit. I still think it’s manageable and not nearly as much as my previous lab mix.”
6. Spartanfatty says Heavy: “How does a heeler not shed? Do you just douse your heeler in super glue so the hair stays on him? I have tumbleweeds of heeler fur no matter how much I sweep.“
7. Seahawkville says Heavy: “I’ve tried everything to deal with my dog’s shedding. Brush, frequent baths, good food and more. Blue heelers are just meant to be shedding machines and I’ve accepted the fact.“
8. Thedukeof419 says Heavy: “Our heeler has really started shedding heavily the last few months. I’ve tried a few different brushes, but he is absolutely terrified of being brushed.”
9. Chartervhq says Heavy: “My little girl’s shedding is killing me. I’ve tried all the top brushes but it feels like the more the brush, the faster her fur grows up. It’s amazing and terrifying.“
10. Harnerjims says Moderate: “I’ve only had heavy shedding breeds in the past so I don’t know what is ‘normal.’ It still seems like my heeler isn’t that bad compared to the rest.“
Dealing With a Blue Heeler’s Shedding
Blue Heelers will shed moderately year-round but experience coat blowing at least twice a year. Though they aren’t great dogs for allergy-sensitive owners, there are ways to help minimize the shedding.
Grooming the coat of your Blue Heeler is absolutely necessary to keep their shedding in check. Fortunately, there’s only two things you’ll need to focus on: brushing and bathing.
1. Brushing your Blue Heeler is essential
Brushing is one of the most important things you can do for your heeler’s coat. Not only does it remove the loose fur, but it also removes the debris stuck on the coat. And if your heeler spends a lot of time outdoors, this is even more important.
With that said, you should brush your Blue Heeler every other day. At the very least, you should be brushing the dog once a week. However, consider brushing once a day during shedding season.
As for dog brushes, there’s only one I would recommend for your heeler: The Furminator De-shedding Tool. In fact, this brush was practically made for double coated dogs, just like the Blue Heeler.
The Furminator does a great job reaching underneath the topcoat to reach and remove loose undercoat hair. Just make sure that you’re careful not to cut the skin, especially around an active dog like the Blue Heeler.
The Furejector button makes it super convenient while brushing. Simply hit a button and the hair releases from the brush with ease. If you’re interested, I recommend getting a size medium or large for short hair.
Check out the happy customers (and Blue Heeler owners) on Reddit:
Hundreds of Blue Heeler owners all over the internet swear by the Furminator. These are just a few reviews from happy customers.
2. The occasional bath will help with shedding
Because Blue Heelers have short hair, it’s unlikely they’ll develop matting on their coats. However, it’s still important to give the occasional bath for your dog, especially if the dog spends time outdoors.
Bathing your heeler is another highly effective method of removing loose fur from your dog’s coat. While you won’t need to bathe them too often, it’s a great idea during coat blowing seasons.
The ASPCA recommends giving your Blue Heeler a bath at least once every three months. The frequency will depend on your dog. My Australian Shepherd loves nothing more than the mud, so we give him baths more often.
However, there’s a balancing point. At the same time, you don’t want to give your Blue Heeler too many baths. Doing so will wash away all the essential oils on the dog’s coat.
Best Dog Shampoo for Heelers:
There are really two brands that we have extensively used. Our dogs are also both double coated dogs, so we feel confident making these recommendations for the Blue Heeler.
- Pro Pet Works All Natural Oatmeal Dog Shampoo – Made in the USA from all-natural oatmeal, there are so many customers happy with the Pro Pets shampoo. It’s been our “go-to” and we use this with our Australian Shepherd.
- Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo – We just started trying the Earthbath because we’ve heard so many good things about it. Having been on the market for a long time, it’s a time-tested product. We’ve had no problems at all after trying this with our Corgi!
These are just a couple recommendations that we really liked. What you decide for your Blue Heeler doesn’t have to be one of these. However, you want to make sure to go with all-natural shampoos.
Among all-natural shampoos, oatmeal based dog shampoos seem to be the most popular. Just make sure that you never use human shampoo with your heeler. It’s not made for dogs and can lead to skin problems (and more shedding!).
Some “experts” say baby shampoo is okay. However, we don’t recommend it. It’s not expensive, so spend the few extra bucks to provide something made for your dog.
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