The iconic Blue Heeler is a stocky, driven and a vigorously zealous cattle driving partner. The Labrador Retriever was also born and bred for work in the field, but their hunting role required more patience and less pizazz.
It’s therefore no surprise that the Blue Heeler Lab mix, fondly known as the Labraheeler, is a quick witted, intelligent and active hybrid dog. But one whose temperament can vary from over the top enthusiasm, to chilled out cosy companion.
If you are looking for a sporting dog, one that can do informal agility or keep herds of ranch animals in check, then a Lab mixed with a Blue Heeler is a great choice.
But if what you want is a family pet that accompanies you on evening strolls and sleeps through the day, then you’ll want to get to know this cross breed a bit better before committing to your new Lab Heeler mix puppy.
Cattle Dogs and Field Sports
There is a tendency amongst dog fans to lump various dog breeds into one big pot, and assume that they have a lot in common. And don’t get me wrong, a black Lab mixed with a Blue Heeler is going to share some historical tendencies, but these roles required quite different temperaments.
Working Australian Cattle Dogs need to have exceptional courage and grit. They need to be determined to get between the huge members of the herds they are controlling, steering them through rough terrain and discouraging them from straying from their peers.
Labrador Retrievers are peg dogs. They are traditionally meant to sit beside a hunter waiting for game to appear, and then happily rush to retrieve it. Navigating obstacles like brooks and rough terrain with ease. Returning the game to hand, then having another relaxed wait for their next assignment.
A Lab Heeler mix will have some of their prey drive tempered by the calmer Labrador Retriever genes, but you might find you have a dog that is neither fearless nor attentive to their handler.
Australian Cattle Dog Lab mixes have a huge potential when it comes to training, but you’ll need to have your wits about you. It’s positive reinforcement all the way for these clever pups.
From the first day you bring home your Labraheeler puppy, you’ll want to reward every behavior you want to see and ignore those that you don’t. Set your puppy up to win by keeping things you don’t want them to grab out of reach, and giving them only access to smaller areas of the house to begin with.
As they grow up, use clicker training to teach an excellent recall command, and practice those all important sit/stays with patience.
Do Looks Matter?
Almost all Labraheelers are a purebred chocolate, yellow or black Lab mixed with a Blue Heeler. So a first generation cross. It’s a lot more unusual to find a Blue Heeler yellow Lab mix and even rare to see a chocolate Lab cross, because most working Labs have black coats so these are the primary pick for this canine combo.
Blue Heeler markings are incredibly distinctive, but you are very unlikely to see this gorgeous mottled coat on your Lab Heeler mix. They tend to be black and white, with the more pale areas giving a fun gray flecked appearance.
Their ears vary between classic Labrador lows and Blue Heeler highs, sometimes with one of each. But that clever nose will always be twitching, and their paws will always be moving. Searching out the next thing to keep them busy.
Fitness and Form
One of the big bonuses of picking out a Blue Heeler Lab mix puppy is that it’s got a good chance of being healthy. Both the Labrador and Australian Cattle dog are fit for function. They have even builds, with long muzzles and well proportioned legs and backs.
Excellent stamina, agility and jumping ability are a given, provided that you get a puppy whose Lab parent has great hip and elbow scores. You’ll also want to make sure the Labrador parent has a clear eye test. And doesn’t carry the genetic disposition for Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
As a working bred dog that’s never needed to be Kennel Club registered, Blue Heelers tend to be very healthy in order to fulfil the cattle driving tasks most of them are still used for today.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website