Looking for a small dog with a ton of energy and rare? Well, you would be 1 out 5,000 if you went with England’s smallest herding dog, the Lancashire Heeler. While they may be the smallest pastoral breed around, there’s no doubt how big of a heart this breed has.
Much like a true terrier, courageous and brave, at one point in time, this rare breed was as crucial of a dog that there was in England.
Unfortunately, current numbers don’t tell the same story. However, there is an upside to this breed’s story and there seems to be optimism behind the Lancashire Heeler.
So what makes this breed such a wonderful home companion?
Here is what you need to know about the Lancashire Heeler.
There are few breeds with transparent histories. In fact, that’s the fun of learning about different types of dogs. You really never know when a majority of dogs first began pawing around. With the Lancashire Heeler, the same is true. While a consensus of people indicate that England was the place and 16th century seems about right, there’s no actual proof in the figurative pudding.
With that in mind, the Lancashire spent a ton of its development in the West Lancashire town of Ormskirk. Interestingly, some still call the breed the Ormskirk Terrier. And while the breed carriers the word “Heeler” in their name, the Lancashire is a true terrier at heart. Some suggest a Black and Tan Terrier and the Welsh Corgi make up this breed’s foundation.
Historians do contend that the Lancashire Heeler’s greatest development took place during the tail end of the 1700’s, and certainly during the bulk of the 19th century. The beacon of the Industrial Revolution was in Lancashire, England in the 1800’s. Food demand drove markets to prosperity and cities to grow exponentially. Farmers and industry folk had dogs help drive livestock for years, usually bigger.
The Lancashire Heeler would nip at the heels of cattle and sheep and drove the stock from the boats to farms, yards and markets. Sheep exports out of Ireland gave this breed much more purpose and demand since the Heeler was a hard and intelligent worker.
Additionally, when they weren’t driving livestock to the markets, or hunting rabbit, the breed was scaring away rats or killing them. Heelers became quite productive and it is easy to see why their popular was immense during the 18th and 19th century.
Unfortunately, farming methods and the way farmers would practice getting their livestock to the market was changing. Suddenly, the Lancashire, which spent a good portion of its time in Ormskirk, a small town in Western Lancashire, found itself diminishing. The number of Heelers began to plummet.
Facing extinction, a fancier and breeder, Gwen Macintosh, didn’t want to see that happen understanding the breed’s significance. Macintosh began breeding and promoting the breed until forming the Lancashire Heeler Club in 1976. It was her efforts, that would help the breed gain recognition with England’s Kennel Club in 1981.
However, in countries outside of England, the breed was still rare. It wasn’t until after 2000, that the Heeler would gain recognition with the United Kennel Club. Fortunately, the American Kennel Club would allow the breed to compete in companion events since 2009 after receiving acceptance into the Foundation Stock Services in 2001.
Today, the breed still works as a herding dog just as well as they compete in show rings. Additionally, they make wonderful companions as well.
As a small breed, both male and female Lancashire Heeler’s should stand between 10 to 12 inches. With regards to weight, male and females should weigh between 9 to 17 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
This is a busy little working dog, that loves to stay busy and wants to make a difference for their people and family. Out on the trail, the Lancashire Heeler is a fearless and courageous hunter. They have wonderful instincts and a deep desire to please their people. Alert and responsive, your Heeler won’t miss a beat on the hunt. Also, their intelligence allows them to be effective pastoral dogs. Needless to say, work is an important element for this breed.
At home, they are loving and affectionate. Expect a close bond with the Lancashire Heeler. They thrive off interaction and mutual contact. Their outgoing persona is welcoming especially after an engaging and active day at work. They’ll meet you at the door and welcome you home.
Yet, they do have a bit of an independent side to them. Whether that is the Lancashire Heeler being playful or making you earn their work ethic; you can anticipate a bit of stubborn streak with this breed. However, they are easy to train and do aim to please.
This breed can very vocal and may let you know exactly what is on their mind. If they aren’t happy, don’t worry, the Heeler will let you know. That’s the terrier in them but they do have enough of that small dog charm to balance out that feisty nature. Some say that this breed can even smile and that is why the American Kennel Club describes them as “always happy.”
All in all, you get a wonderful companion, who is faithful and courageous during hunting season. When work is done, they are easy going with mild temperaments. They love to play and welcome plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
A Lancashire Heeler is generally healthy with few problems to concern yourself with. In fact, most of the issues that the breed suffers from are complications breeders can deter by using ethical breeding standards. If you purchase yourself a Heeler, be sure you buy from a reputable breeder and not someone operating a puppy mill. Make sure that the breeder can provide you the proper health clearances and will supply you with the documents you need. In addition, you should schedule routine visits with the veterinarian to maintain that good bill of health. In all likelihood, if you do that along with preventative measures, you should expect your Lancashire Heeler to live between 12 to 15 years.
Most of the issues facing this breed pertain to their eyes. The first condition being Collie Eye Anomaly. No, this isn’t just a “Collie thing,” as others like the Aussie Shepherd and the Lancashire can suffer from this congenital disorder. The good news is that this disorder is detectable but if you don’t pick up on it, Collie Eye is a recessive eye disorder that produces irregular development of the Choroid or the layer of tissue under the retina. CEA can lead to loss of vision but is avoidable with a reputable and ethical breeder.
Staying with the eyes, Primary Lens Luxation is a painful hereditary disorder where the lens moves from its original position resulting in inflammation and possibly causing Glaucoma. This is common with Terrier breeds, the Aussie Cattle Dog and Chinese Crested.
Cataracts can be found with this breed as well. This can lead to night blindness or even complete blindness. Cataracts is the cloudiness of the crystalline lens.
Persistent Pupillary Membrane is a big concern for this breed. PPM is excess of tissue in the dog’s eye. Some describe it as looking like cobwebs. PPM can appear in various locations of the eyes like the Iris to the lens or the Iris to the cornea. PPM usually leads to cataracts, loss of vision or impairment.
The Lancashire Heeler Association warns future breeders and owners about Patella Luxation. Although it is unclear how many cases of Patella Luxation the breed suffers from, it is enough of a problem for the association to issue a warning. Patella Luxation is when the knee cap slips out of place leading to issues with or around the knee including lameness and discomfort.
Dog authority, Ria Horter, claims in an article about the Lancashire Heeler, that this is a breed that definitely needs work. The breed should stay busy. Plenty of mental and physical stimulation is a good idea. Obedience, rally, herding events and agility are all activities for the Heeler.
The breed does better with a yard and space to run in. Likewise, they probably won’t be the best fit for an apartment. Regardless of their size, this is a dog that needs a challenge and a role. You shouldn’t leave this breed alone for long periods of time. You’ll want to involve them and spend plenty of time with your Heeler.
Although the American Kennel Club doesn’t recommend smaller children around the Heeler, others disagree. They say the breed is faithful and loving. So in that case, it is best to supervise interactions between your Lancashire Heeler and children. Heelers probably aren’t going to run off but again, a fence is a good idea. They may get a bit curious with smaller animals and exude prey drive. These are things to keep an eye out for.
You can trim their nails once a month to prevent overgrowth and protect them from splits and breaks. Bathe as you deem necessary and always check their ears for infections.
Regular exercise is a must, just as early socialization and training is.
There is no specific diet the Lancashire Heeler needs. You should provide them with a high quality formula. Meat should be the first ingredient and preferably a protein source from an animal.
Your Heeler may take an interest to certain foods like cottage cheese or eggs. Fruits and veggies are a good mix to keep your Heeler in balance. Chicken, turkey, beef and fish should suffice.
Owners tend to recommend 1 to 1.5 cups of top quality dry kibble per day. Of course, you should break that up into two or three meals. This helps reduce the chances of Bloat and obesity.
Calorie intake may be important if your Heeler is shredding them rapidly. On average, a 9 to 17 pound dog with a typical energy regimen should get between 360 to 580 calories per day. That’ll go up for a moderately active dog of the same weight class. In that case, the Heeler should get between 600 to 970 calories per day.
As always, you should provide your Lancashire Heeler with fresh drinking water.
A Lancashire Heeler has a double coat. The undercoat has a fine appearance or texture, while the outercoat is dense and harsh. The coat is waterproof. This helps protect the breed from less than ideal conditions. There shouldn’t be any hint of wavy look to the coat and a slight mane should exist around the neck.
According to the United Kennel Club, live and tan, black and tan are acceptable coat color options. The markings should be a rich tan and you can expect to see it around their muzzle, cheek, chest, knees and their hind legs.
Fun Lancashire Heeler Facts
- Did you know that the Lancashire Heeler made it first appearance at the Cruft’s Dog Show in 1988 with 38 Heeler entries?
- The FCI gave the breed provisional recognition in 2016.
- According to the American Kennel Club, there are only 5,000 Heelers worldwide.
- The Kennel Club in England list the Heeler on their “Vulnerable Native Breed” watch list. For example, if a breed has under 300 registrations, the Kennel Club considers them at risk. In 2010, there were only 134 Heeler registrations. Even worse, in 2015, the breed had only 81 registrations and just in 2017, 119 registrations.
Rare but important, that’s one way in describing the Lancashire Heeler. They are fun, upbeat and if you believe in the legend, they even smile.
Throughout their time, it is understandable as to why the likes of Macintosh felt the need to spare the breed from extinction. Working as hunters, drovers and helping drive away vermin such as rats, the Heeler has always had an important role either on the farm or in someone’s home. As more people become aware of this breed’s promise, it would be surprising if they don’t catch on with dog lovers everywhere.