Lancashire, Great Britain is the home of the dog that smiles! It would be very easy to discern if a Lancashire Heeler is happy and contented as the dog would sit back and look at you with its lips drawn back in what is considered as a canine smile. A Lancashire Heeler looks like a mix of the Welsh Corgi and the Manchester Terrier. Both breeds are believed to be the ancestors of this breed that is also known as the Ormskirk Terrier, Ormskirk Heeler and Lancashire Terrier.
These are short legged dogs with a relatively long body. Coats are usually black or liver colored with distinctive tan markings. Present day breed has very similar colors to their ancient ancestors. The name “heeler” came from the function the dog was originally developed for. These are excellent herding dogs that drive livestock to the slaughter house or wherever the farmer wanted the stock to go by nipping at their heels. Mature Lancashire Heeler’s height averages from 10 to 12 inches. This height is most perfect for the job they do as it allows the dog to evade the sheep’s and cattle’s kicks. Although rather small, a Lancashire Heeler has a strong and sturdily built body. This herding dog is a wonderful sight to behold as the small dog waving in and out of the herd of livestock is very agile, swift and has a graceful movement.
Lancashire Heelers are working dogs and when they are not herding stocks you will find the dogs hunting vermin and rabbits. True to being a terrier, this breed is an excellent ratter. Nowadays, the Lancashire Heelers have evolved into excellent therapy and companion dogs. The dog has found a home in nursing homes. The affectionate nature of the breed has helped a lot of convalescing people. This dog is most commonly seen on the lap of an elderly enjoying every minute of being stroked. Because the dog is fun loving, energetic and affectionate they make pleasant companions. These are loyal pets that would prefer to be always by the master’s side and to be included in all the activities of the family. In spite of these “new” functions, the natural herding characteristic of the breed was not lost. A Lancashire Heeler would still nip the heels of animals. These dogs are known to nip people’s heels too. This trait though can be corrected with proper training.
A Lancashire Heller is a healthy breed that doesn’t ail much. If properly cared for and nourished the dog is expected to live for 14 years and other dogs have lived much longer.
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A Lancashire Heeler is a small though highly energetic dog whose short, thick and shiny coat can be tan and black or liver and tan. The dog would have tan markings on the muzzle, on the cheeks and dots of tan above the eyes. Tan fur under the tail, on the inside of the legs and on the dog’s belly is common. The tan color ranges from dark mahogany to a much lighter shade. Some dogs would have tan bow ties on the chest. The dog has a double coat. The undercoat that is fine and thick is not visible as it is completely covered by the rough, short, flat and thick top coat. Both coats are weather resistant. The dog grows a mane in extremely cold weather. The coat is shed heavily twice a year.
The dog has wedge shaped head and a flat wide skull. The medium sized eyes are almond shaped and dark in color. The ears are erect in most dogs but some are known to have tipped ears. The firm lips enclose strong teeth that meet in a scissor bite. The moderately long neck is well laid into the dog’s shoulders. The length of the neck allows the dog to easily nip the heels of cattle and sheep. The compact body is approximately an inch longer that the height measured at the withers. The dog has well sprung ribs, a level and firm topline that does not dip at the withers nor fall at the croup. The set on high tail is naturally carried over the back and forms a slight curve when the dog is alert and moving otherwise the tail is normally carried down.
Lancashire dogs weighs from 6 to 13 pound and male dogs have an average height of 12 inches and female’s height is pegged at 10 inches. Lancashire Heelers have distinct appearance. It would be easy to distinguish a female because of its feminine looks from the masculine look of the male dogs.
The Lancashire Heeler is a happy fun loving breed. The dog would show its happy countenance with the famous “heeler smile”. This is one type of dog that can admirably adapt to different kinds of situations easily. Being working dogs, they are most depended upon by farmers to do various tasks in Lancashire farms. This breed is known for its boundless energies. The dog would need to have a task to do. Apart from being herding stocks, these dogs are tenacious vermin hunters.
The Lancashire Heeler is a friendly dog that gets along well with people, with other dogs and with smaller pets. This breed is exceptionally considerate and gentle with children. However, owners should not leave very small children alone with the dog. It should be understood that dog’s temperament varies. A bitch with puppies may show an aggressive behavior as she is protecting her brood. These dogs are born heelers and even if they are trained to be well mannered companions, there will always be a time when their heeling nature would surface. Obedience training will somehow eliminate the dog’s tendency to nip people’s and other animal’s heels.
Training must be started while the dog is still young. Puppies learn very fast. Positive training methods should be applied as they are known to deliver more favorable results. Mature dogs would be a challenge to train as most would have a mind of their own and can be very stubborn.
The dog is cuddly and the happy nature makes it an ideal house pet. This dog however is not for everyone. The dog would do well in an apartment as they are small and relatively inactive indoors; some can even be couch potatoes. A Lancashire Heeler would adapt in any kind of living environment, even in cold weather as the dog would simply grow thicker fur. These dogs however are working dogs. They have boundless energies and owners must ensure that they are given chances to exercise. This is why the dog is not for a busy owner who does not have the time to take the dog to walk an hour everyday. This dog is not recommended for a home with babies or toddlers as the dog is an ideal companion of older children.
A Lancashire Heeler needs very minimal grooming. The coat would need to be brushed 2 to 3 times a week to keep the coat shiny. A rubber grooming mitt would keep the hair tidy. The dog sheds heavily twice a year and during this time brushing daily is recommended to remove dead hair. The dog may be bathed more often to accelerate the shedding process.
The Lancashire Heeler’s origin is quite uncertain although this type of dog is known to have existed in the 1600s. It was thought that the dog was developed from breeding the Welsh Corgi with the Manchester Terrier. These dogs were used by Lancashire farmers to drive cattle and sheep over rough tracks as there were no real roads back then. These little short legged and long bodied dogs are most useful as they prod the stock by nipping the heels without causing harm to the animals. The cattle and the sheep must not be bitten hard lest they became lame and their worth be reduced. The Welsh farmers also use large dogs to herd the stock. The large dogs were trained not to bite the stocks. The job of these long legged dogs is to bring wayward animals to the herd. After the drive, some dogs wandered off or were left in Lancashire and from these two breeds came the Lancashire Heeler.
Another theory believed that the Lancashire Heeler was the result of breeding Yorkshire, Drover’s Cur, Norfolk Heeler and the London Smithfield Collie. These are extinct breeds but the Lancashire Heeler is said to resemble these dogs. The Lancashire Heeler during the early times does not have the black and tan colors. The breed almost became extinct and efforts to revive the breed resulted in the present black and tan colors.
Interest for this ancient breed was revived in the early 1960s. This resulted to the formation of the Lancashire Heeler Cub in 1978. The breed was included in the Rare Breed Register of the British Kennel Club in 1981.
Presently the breed can be found in farms in the northwestern part of England and still used to work with cattle and sheep. Although considered to be rare as the approximate number of this breed is only 5000 worldwide, the breed is gaining popularity as companion dogs in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and in United States.