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Versatile Heeler Spices Up the Herding Ring

Lancashire Heeler Dog

A little dog with a big attitude, the Lancashire Heeler is the newest addition to the AKC Herding Group.

In January 2024, the Lancashire Heeler achieved full AKC recognition in the Herding Group. Exhibitors nationwide have been delighted to see these tiny drovers shine in the show ring, with several already earning championships and multiple Group placements. The United States Lancashire Heeler Club is proud of its members for promoting the breed, educating the public, and competing in nearly every possible sport dogdom has to offer. We look forward to sharing this affectionate, hardworking, rugged little breed with the world—but we caution that this dog is not a good fit for every family or household.

Here is a quick overview of the Lancashire Heeler. Learn more at:


The Lancashire Heeler is the smallest Heeler in the world, but he’s as rugged and hardy as his larger cattle-herding cousins! The ideal height is about 10-12 inches at the shoulder, and they tend to weigh between 9-17 pounds.


Slightly longer than tall, the Lancashire Heeler should have a firm, level topline and be approximately one inch longer than his height at the withers.


While most Lancashire Heelers sport the upright ears of an Australian Cattle Dog, the Lancashire Heeler Breed Standard calls for ears “showing alert lift, or erect”—which can include tipped, button, or rose ears. All are acceptable and should be judged on an equal basis—showing alert lift and expression is what’s important.


The Standard reads: “Pasterns allow feet to turn slightly outwards, but not enough to cause weakness or affect freedom of movement.” So, while Heelers shouldn’t have a “first position” that rivals a ballerina’s, it’s okay if there’s a little turnout.


The Lancashire Heeler is a little dog with big feelings. He’s hopelessly devoted to his family but can be aloof or standoffish with strangers. He knows the day’s agenda just by observing whether you put on yoga pants or work slacks. He’s smart enough to ace the SATs, but he may steal the answer key instead. Lancashire Heelers were bred to work, and they possess the herding and terrier traits to get the job done. Providing outlets to channel these instincts can reduce boredom behaviors and keep your Lancashire Heeler mentally and physically fulfilled. Formal dog sports, such as Agility, Obedience, Barn Hunt, Dock Diving, and Trick Dog, are great activities for this versatile breed—so are hiking, running, accompanying you on errands, or being the office mascot. This is not a breed that enjoys “alone time.” They get very attached to their person and they are most comfortable having a human or canine buddy around. Crate training and early separation exercises are strongly encouraged during the puppy stage to avoid developing separation anxiety.


Like many cattle-dog breeds, Lancashire Heelers are extremely affectionate to their owners but can be suspicious of strangers. Early socialization will help Heeler puppies overcome that “stranger danger,” but it’s also important to be mindful of the breed’s natural temperament and allow them to interact with new people at a speed that isn’t overwhelming. At the right pace, Heelers will quickly accept a new person into their “circle of trust” and will be hamming for treats before you know it.


The Lancashire Heeler is a powerful orator, skilled debater, and a regular tattletale. Herding breeds are known for barking, but it’s rarely without good reason. They will bark in jubilation and in frustration, to alert and to protest. Teaching your Lancashire Heeler to bark on cue can be an effective way of teaching him “time and place”—when it’s okay to bark and when to use his “inside voice.” Having said that, it’s uncommon for Lancashire Heelers to bark incessantly or indiscriminately. If your neighbors inform you that your dog is barking for hours on end, your Heeler could be suffering from separation anxiety, barrier frustration, or just plain boredom. In these cases, consult a trainer or behaviorist on desensitization strategies to support your pup.

Is this breed right for me?

Do you enjoy constant—and I mean constant—companionship? In the kitchen, on the couch, while you shower?

Are you prepared to have your every action examined, interpreted, anticipated, and maybe taken personally?

Do you have a sense of humor—even when you’re the butt of the joke?

Do you want a dog who’s as happy bingeing Netflix as he is bossing around cattle?

Are you ready for a dog that will stretch your training philosophies and inspire you to try new sports?

Are you looking for the Robin to your Batman? (And willing to accept that you may be Robin in this scenario?)

Still reading? There might be a Lancashire Heeler in your future! Contact: [email protected] to find a breeder in your area.

Training a Heeler

Lancashire Heelers are extremely intelligent. They excel in a myriad of dog sports, including Agility, Rally, Obedience, Herding, Scent Work, Tracking, Barn Hunt, and more—but they’re not the type to work for free. Heelers benefit from positive, reward-based training that gradually shapes the behaviors you hope to achieve. Don’t overdo it—Heelers can get bored with too many repetitions. Like many cattle-dog breeds, some Heelers are “latent learners” who internalize and process the information for a bit before it clicks. You’ll hear the word “stubborn” used to describe Lancashire Heelers, but we disagree. They’re very smart and very willing—they simply appreciate clear communication, and it helps if you frame the request as their idea in the first place.


As the smallest drover of the Herding Group, Lancashire Heelers need comparatively less activity than their larger counterparts. Still, they’re happiest when they have plenty of opportunity to exercise both their body and brain. A few rounds of fetch with a tennis ball and a romp in the yard can suffice, but Heelers are game for so much more—Agility, Rally, Flyball, Disc Dog, Parkour, herding and hiking, you name it!

Heelers & Kids

These small-but-sturdy Heelers seem like a great choice for families with young children, and in the right home, they are! Lancashire Heelers love to tag along on family outings, from soccer practice to camping trips. They’re also happy to settle on the couch for TV or under your child’s desk as he does his homework. But remember—these dogs are Heelers. They were bred to drive cattle and have strong terrier instincts too. So, don’t be surprised if your Heeler nips your little one’s heels to keep him in line, or tries to disembowel your child’s favorite stuffed dolly. Can your child interpret canine calming signals, such as licking lips, yawning, and whale eyes? Will your child respect your dog’s way of saying “no thank you,” and give him space? Will you provide a safe place for your dog to retreat, such as a cozy crate, when he needs a break from the kids? And are you committed to supervising every interaction between your dog and kids until both have established mutual respect and boundaries? Lancashire Heelers make great family pets, but as with any breed, education and patience are paramount.


Invest in a good vacuum—Lancashire Heelers definitely shed, especially during a seasonal coat blow! Regular brushing with a shedding blade or bristle brush will remove loose hairs and keep your floors cleaner.


Lancashire Heelers are an all-weather, wash-and-wear breed! Weekly brushing with a shedding blade or bristle brush will remove loose hairs and distribute the natural oils through the coat. A harsh, properly textured coat will dry quickly and requires only monthly or bimonthly bathing with a gentle shampoo. The Lancashire Heeler’s thick, dark nails are perfect for digging out vermin but require frequent trimming to avoid splitting or cracking. Many Heeler owners have taught their dogs to enjoy, or at least tolerate, having their nails trimmed or filed with a grinder (dremel), with the help of a partner and a Kong full of peanut butter. Providing dental chews and regular brushing will keep your Lancashire Heeler’s teeth clean, but scheduling an annual deep-cleaning with your veterinarian will promote dental health below the gumline.


The USLHC is committed to healthy Lancashire Heelers for the future. The club has joined with the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) and the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) to guide US breeders to healthy, disease-free breeding for future generations of Lancashire Heelers. Primary Lens Luxation (PLL), Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), and patellar luxation are three required tests that breeders must perform to qualify for a CHIC number in the OFA database. The USLHC recommends the above-listed basic health screening tests for all breeding stock.


On average, healthy Lancashire Heelers live 12-15 years—but several are reported to live to their late teens. It’s not uncommon to see Lancashire Heelers competing and campaigning well into their golden years!

Showing a Heeler

The Breed Standard describes the Lancashire Heeler as “courageous, happy, affectionate to owner,” and these traits should be apparent in the show ring. A confident Lancashire Heeler will carry his tail high and move with purpose while gaiting. But on the table, don’t be surprised if your Heeler seems a bit subdued. He’s naturally skeptical of strangers, and he’d much rather be moving livestock or ridding your barn of rodents. Judges should be mindful of the breed’s original purpose, and not expect a “toy” temperament of this toy-sized breed.


By the United States Lancashire Heeler Club

Photos courtesy of Sheryl Bradbury and Lindsey Dobruck