Blue heelers, or Australian cattle dogs, are stocky, medium-sized working dogs with bluish or reddish coats. They originated in Australia as cattle dogs useful for driving cattle in adverse conditions. Since then, many have discovered that they also make great pets for the whole family. But one all-important question remains: do blue heelers shed? And if they do, how much?
Do Blue Heelers Shed?
Blue heelers shed moderately throughout the year with periods of heavy seasonal shedding. Because of this, they aren’t hypoallergenic. People with allergies are likely to have considerable difficulty around this breed.
Why aren’t blue heelers hypoallergenic? No dog is guaranteed not to trigger allergies, though some breeds with minimal shedding may be suitable for allergy sufferers. Dogs with fur, however, are almost never hypoallergic due to their shedding pattern. Fur-bearing dogs shed more than dogs with hair, meaning an increase in associated allergens like dander.
How Much Do Blue Heelers Shed?
Blue heelers are moderate shedders at most times of the year. Pet owners will likely find themselves cleaning up after them at least weekly despite their short fur. However, certain times of the year are worse than others. Twice annually, blue heelers “blow their coats,” which means they shed massively for a period of two to four weeks each spring and fall.
During this time, owners can expect to find copious clumps and tufts of fur all around the house. One exception to this is neutered males, who may only blow their coats once a year. Female blue heelers in heat may blow their coats after each cycle in addition to regular seasonal shedding.
Do Blue Heelers Have Hair or Fur?
Blue heelers have fur, not hair. This makes a difference when it comes to shedding. Though dog fur and hair are both made of keratin, a protein also present in nails and skin, they differ in important ways.
Dogs with fur typically shed more than dogs with hair. This is due to the difference in growth cycles. The growth cycle of hair is longer, which means it tends to grow to greater lengths. Fur, on the other hand, is typically short. Because its growth cycle is truncated, it needs to fall out more frequently to make room for new follicles. This process is exaggerated just before winter (in preparation for a thicker coat) and in spring (in preparation for warmer weather).
Dog hair exists in a single layer while dog fur usually comes in a double coat. These two layers provide added insulation and warmth for breeds like Siberian huskies and Labrador retrievers. Blue heelers have a double coat with a soft, insulating underlayer (ground hair) and a coarse, protective outer layer (guard hair).
A blue heeler’s fur may not seem exceptionally thick at first look. This is because the outer layer lies close to the underlayer. Don’t be fooled, however; this breed is more than capable of covering your floors and furniture with a persistent layer of pet fur.
Whereas dog hair is softer and finer than fur, the fur coat of a blue heeler feels coarse and rough. These qualities help protect dogs of this breed from the elements while they work or play outdoors.
Grooming a Blue Heeler
Owners should brush their blue heelers weekly to cut down on shedding and evenly distribute natural skin oils. This will keep the coat healthy and looking robust. The best kind of brush for this breed is a slicker brush, which is a type of pin brush effective for loosening and detangling fur. You can also use a steel comb or a de-shedding brush.
When it comes to bathing your blue heeler, less is more. A bath once every four to six weeks is optimal unless your dog gets dirty before then. Excessive bathing dries out a dog’s skin, stripping it of its natural oils. This can lead to itchy skin and a dull coat. A regular bath schedule will keep your dog from smelling and get rid of excess fur before it can shed on the furniture. Periodic visits to a groomer, though not strictly necessary, will give your dog the added benefit of the occasional professional grooming.
It may be tempting to shave your blue heeler to reduce shedding. Experts do not recommend this method for double-coated dogs. Not only is it unlikely to work as the fur will just grow in thicker, but it prevents the coat from doing its job. Blue heelers need their double coat to help regulate their body temperature. See the next section for safe and effective ways to reduce your blue heeler’s shedding.
How to Reduce Shedding
There’s no question that blue heelers leave behind a lot of hair. However, there are ways to reduce shedding throughout the year. As with any aspect of pet care, consistency produces the best results.
- Brushing: There’s no substitute for regular brushing sessions with your dog. Brushing helps loosen dead hairs and stimulates new growth. This is especially vital when your blue heeler is blowing its coat.
- De-shedding brushes: Not all brushes are created equal. Some can help control shedding in double-coated dogs. Check out this article for a list of the best shedding brushes for dogs.
- De-shedding shampoo: To make the most of bath time, pick a specialty shampoo to help reduce shedding. Check out this article for a list of the best de-shedding shampoos for dogs.
- High-quality dog food for shedding: Yes, there’s dog food for heavy shedders! You may need to experiment to find the best overall fit. Check out this article for a list of the best dog food for shedding.
As with any dog, there’s no way to completely prevent a blue heeler from shedding. It’s a healthy and natural part of their biology. However, there are ways to lessen the amount of fur they leave behind.
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