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The Lancashire Heeler – An Incredibly Versatile ‘Sport Dog’

‘Torger’ competing in Dock Diving. He is the first and only Lancashire Heeler to dock dive and be invited to a regional competition. Photo by Lorren Orr.

Physical and fiscal limitations have caused people of all ages to downsize their canine companions. This is a very common phenomenon, especially after the recent pandemic. But what do you do when your biggest hobby is dog sports?

Most breeds that excel in competition are medium-large dogs that historically had an original working purpose. That high energy and drive meant for sorting sheep or retrieving birds translates very well to a competition setting. On the flip-side, there are very few small dog options for the discerning performance home, as most were either bred for low-key companionship or to be independent of their human in order to hunt vermin. Neither qualities are optimal for sport homes, especially new ones.

I was in this predicament a few years ago. I was a beginner and was not confident in my abilities to harness the will of a terrier or build the drive of a lapdog. I could not find the perfect dog for years until I stumbled upon Lancashire Heelers during a casual peruse of the AKC website’s Miscellaneous Class. A small and active herding dog! At 10-12 inches tall and around 12-17 pounds, I knew they were perfect. A few months later, I brought home my first Lancashire Heeler and I have been hooked since.

Lancashire Heelers sport
‘Taffy’ recalling to her owner, Aaron Koehn, after a FCAT run. Photo by Bev Klingensmith.

Recently, the Lancashire Heeler was approved to be the 201st AKC-recognized breed as of January 2024. This has sparked a lot of interest in the breed as a whole, but I want to share why this dog is an incredible “sport dog” and why you should consider it as your next prospect.

This breed is incredibly versatile. Together, me and my dogs compete and train in a wide variety of performance sports, including Dock Diving, Tracking, Barn Hunt, Herding, Nosework, Conformation, Disc Dog, Obedience, Rally, Fast CAT, Agility, and Weight Pull. Our only limit is the number of hours in a day! Not only can Lancashire Heelers do any sport you want them to, they can do it very well. We have been invited to three different national and regional competitions just in the past year (NADD, FCAT, and Barn Hunt), which were all an amazing and fun experience that I can’t wait to do again.

Trying something new is also a great deal of fun! I have never done herding before, but tried an instinct test with my Lancashire Heelers on a whim with a local friend. The dogs were naturals! Herding instinct is very much still alive in these little dogs, which is helpful when a novice handler such as myself is involved. It makes it easier for me to learn the ropes of this new sport when my dog is already an expert. I would wholeheartedly recommend this breed if you want to learn more about the sport of Herding.

Lancashire Heelers sport
‘Pearl’ competing in Agility.

Of course, the next question is: But what are they like to live with? Lancashire Heelers are very easy to get along with. They are incredibly charming and have very fun personalities. The males, especially, can be very silly! Most get along great with other dogs and with people after a short introduction. They crave activity and love to do things with you, but they are not demanding of your time and, if you forget to take them for a walk, they will not chew up your slippers. This was ideal for me, as I work long shifts and do not have the time to dedicate to a dog breed that needed hours of training and exercise each day. In fact, as I write this, my Heelers are curled up next to me, snoozing away.

Health-wise, Lancashire Heelers are very robust and tend to be very healthy, living on to their late teens. Well-muscled and heavy-boned, they are not as easily injured as some other small dogs. They can have some inheritable eye conditions and luxating patellas, but these are easily avoided with health testing and good breeding practices.

If you are interested in a Lancashire Heeler or want to learn more about them, please consider joining the Facebook group “AKC Lancashire Heelers” as it is a great resource with kind and helpful people.

For information on breeders, please visit our parent club website and fill out the contact form to be sent a list of breeders. We will get in touch!