Breed Information

Description of a Lancashire Heeler

The Lancashire Heeler was originally a drover's dog

The Lancashire Heeler is the smallest UK herding dog.  The coat is smooth with an undercoat which keeps the dog dry in all weathers and it may have a slight mane round the neck in winter. The dog is usually black and tan, but liver and tan is now recognised by the Kennel Club. Bitches are preferably about 10ins (25cms) high, the dogs being slightly larger up to a maximum of 12ins (30cms).

Working characteristics of the Lancashire Heeler

As well as their primary purpose of working on farms, herding cattle and sheep, they were used in the past to drive cattle to the slaughter houses. They also used their 'terrier like'hunting instincts to catch rats and rabbits. They have now become more common as pet dogs and, since being recognised by the Kennel Club, have become successful show dogs with several Champions being made since 1999.

Many have now been trained to compete in Kennel Club agility tests, obedience competitions and working trials to which they are well suited.

Temperament of the Lancashire Heeler

There are several Lancashire Heelers that have become "Pets As Therapy" dogs, giving pleasure to The Lancashire Heeler has an inventive mindpeople in caring institutions such as nursing homes.
They enjoy sitting on laps and being stroked, emphasising their good temperament.
As with most breeds there is a wide variation in Lancashire Heeler breed types and temperaments. It is important to see several breeders to make sure that you buy the dog with the temperament and type that suits you. In general, Lancashire Heelers are very happy dogs, extremely affectionate to their owners and very keen to please.

As a Breed Lancashire Heelers learn very quickly, but owners are often foiled by a rather stubborn nature and a very inventive mind. If the owners persevere with kind, firm handling, they will find that their dog will respond.

Lancashire Heeler - suitability as a pet

Lancashire Heelers are normally very outgoing and are friendly to people, but very occasionally if not socialised correctly some may show signs of nervousness. They may be sharp with other dogs, especially when on the lead; as in all breeds they benefit greatly from early socialisation with people and dogs.
It is very important that they attend a training class (obedience and/or ring craft) to be socialised and to learn basic manners. Lancashire Heelers are ideal dogs for active people of any age who are able to give them the attention they require. They are particularly suitable for families with older children. Care should be taken with socialising and training in a home with babies and young children as a wilful Heeler will compete for attention and if not checked can be prone to try and 'herd' the younger ones.  Country life or town life with open spaces nearby would be equally suitable, because they benefit from free running in safe areas such as parks and open countryside. A dog proof garden is important, if they are left unsupervised, as they are very good escapologists and can get out of the smallest hole and climb or jump over a low fence! The Lancashire Heeler is a robust healthy small dog with few inherent health issues.  The most important of these are hereditary eye disorders for which there are now DNA and screening tests.  When buying / adopting a Lancashire Heeler ALWAYS ensure that you have evidence of such testing of puppy and parents.  See Eye Problems In The Lancashire Heeler and Buying A Lancashire Heeler Puppy

Chris Norman / Janice Jones

Know your Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler. Fin & N Ch FinW-05 Rantalaukan Harmonia
Lancashire Heeler Head

Traditionally Lancashire Heelers are shown free standing and moved on a loose lead, not stacked or strung up, and tails and ears not held up. Some dogs have tipped ears, which although not seen that often are perfectly acceptable, although the majority have erect ears.

Whilst the heads of immature puppies sometimes need time to flatten, the skull of an adult Lancashire Heeler should be broad and flat between the ears and the head wedge shaped, to avoid injury whilst 'heeling'. For this reason the eyes are almond shaped, as a round, protruding eye would be susceptible to injury from a cow's hoof. Dark eyes are preferred.

A strong jaw is needed and a correct scissor bite is called for, with under or overshot mouths to be discouraged. A moderate length of neck is required to allow the dog to turn his head to nip the heels.

Lancashire Heeler Front and Feet

The front should be strong but not too stuffy to allow freedom of movement, with elbows firm against the ribs. A slight turnout of the feet is acceptable, but not exaggerated like the bowed 'Queen Anne' fronts we used to see in the breed.

Lancashire Heeler Topline

Toplines should be level, with good spring of rib, and the body short coupled, with sufficient length of back to enable the dog to twist and turn, but not so long as to cause weakness.

The Lancashire Heeler is shown on a loose lead. Lancashire Heeler CH Normansville Lone Star
Lancashire Heeler Legs and Feet

Strong hindquarters allow the Lancashire Heeler the power to drive in and deliver the required pressure on the cow's heels and therefore well turned stifles and let down hocks are required, with parallel hind legs both on the move and standing when viewed from the rear. The Lancashire Heeler breed standard asks for small, firm and well padded feet. These are the 'shock absorbers' which enable the dog to work all day and should be nice and tight, not splayed or long.

Lancashire Heeler Tails

Tails are often the subject of much discussion. Provided the tailset is correct, the tail carriage is not the most crucial feature of the dog. Tails are often seen carried down, particularly when standing, usually coming up on the move, and although the standard asks for it to be carried over the back in a slight curve, this can vary from an upright tail to one resting on the back or down to one side. Only rarely will you see a Lancashire Heeler with a tail curled in a tight ring, like a Pug. If two dogs are of equal merit, the tail carriage can be brought into the equation to decide the winner. Judge the whole dog, not just the tail!

Lancashire Heeler Ch. Jestikka Glenord. First liver and tan Heeler champion
Lancashire Heeler Colour and Markings

Another area that causes a problem for judges unfamiliar with the Lancashire Heeler breed is that of colour and markings. Black or liver with rich tan markings. Black should be black with no brown (agouti) hairs, and liver should preferably be a rich dark colour. Tan can range from rich mahogany to a much lighter shade, often fading with age. Tan appears on the muzzle, cheeks and often (but not always) above the eyes. It is also on the legs, with desirable thumb marks just above the feet, but again several top winning dogs have not had them and they should be considered 'the icing on the cake'. Tan is also inside hind legs and under the tail, and although not mentioned some have a 'bow tie' on the chest.

Perhaps we should consider the original Lancashire Heeler breed standard, formulated in 1978. which asks, that "description of the marking should not be too detailed". It also stipulated that "the preferred colour should not include any white whatsoever", with the proviso that a small white spot on the fore chest should not debar an otherwise good specimen from being placed, but at the same time should not be encouraged, with white anywhere else to be penalised.

Lancashire Heeler Coats

Lancashire Heeler Coats should be sleek and shiny, hard and weatherproof, with a fine undercoat which should not show through. Coats should not be too long nor too wavy. Some dogs carry more coat, depending on the time of year, often with a mane around the neck.

Lancashire Heeler Movement

Movement is best seen if the Lancashire Heeler is on a loose lead and should be brisk, smart and free, not hackneying, plaiting or toeing in.

Lancashire Heeler Height to Length Ratio

I would like to draw your attention to the clause in the current standard which refers to the height/length ratio. The original standard stated "the body length taken from the shoulder point to the set-on of tail to be approximately one inch more than shoulder height". At some point this appears to have been translated to "one inch longer than height at withers (measured from withers to set on of tail)" which would give a much longer body length than originally intended. Perhaps a better description might be 'slightly longer than height at withers' which negates the need for precise measurement.

Lancashire Heeler Character

The Lancashire Heeler has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the farmyard, with dogs regularly featuring in group placings at shows. There has been some concern recently that it has become one of a number of vulnerable British breeds. Responsible breeders are not too bothered that it is not a more popular breed, as although most enthusiasts would not be without one, they are not the breed for everyone. They are not lap dogs, and require firm handling from a young age and something to keep them occupied if they are to live happily alongside your family and other pets. If not checked, they can revert to type, and will 'heel' both people and animals.

Whilst there can still be considerable variation in types seen in the show ring, the Lancashire Heeler has not split into separate 'working' and 'show' types, and judges must keep in mind the purpose for which they were originally bred. It must be judged as a farm worker, and not as a toy or a terrier.

Lancashire Heeler Size

The standard calls for an ideal size of ten inches for bitches and twelve inches for dogs, but size alone must never outweigh breed type. Indeed, it is possible to have a line up which consists of substantial bitches and smaller dogs; both are equally acceptable, provided they do not lack breed type, and the dogs look masculine, and the bitches feminine.

Lancashire Heeler Health Observations

Although the Lancashire Heeler is generally a healthy breed, often living into the late teens, one aspect that has to be borne in mind is the possible occurrence of eye problems. Some cases of early-developing Hereditary Cataracts were detected in the early days, and more recently Persistent Pupillary Membrane (P.P.M.) has been found to occur in some puppies. Collie Eye Anomaly (C.E.A.) has also been detected at litter screening in a few dogs of certain lines. Regular eye testing of adults and litter screening is carried out by most breeders and buyers should require to see certificates before purchase. It is now possible to have a DNA based test for C.E.A., so future generations should be free of this problem.

However the most worrying eye problem that has come to the fore in recent years is Primary Lens Luxation, (P.L.L.) which often does not show until the dog is over three years of age. Thankfully as a result of research carried out by the Animal Health Trust in conjunction with Cambridge University (funded in part by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust) there is now a DNA test for this disease, and so it is possible to discover whether dogs are clear, affected or carriers of the condition and DNA testing should be undertaken before mating, with the puppies tested as well unless both parents are clear.

Sadly, some dogs already bred will be diagnosed as affected and by the time the first clinical signs of PLL are evident it is often too late to save the sight, so regular eye tests are still essential if there is to be any hope of catching this dreadfully painful, usually blinding condition in the early stages, and possibly saving some vision by either surgery or medication. Regular testing also helps to identify any other as yet unknown conditions before they become widespread.

Now that the blot on the landscape that is P.L.L. can be dealt with I see no reason why the breed should not continue to go from strength to strength.

Jacky Cutler


Lancashire Heeler Breed Feature

This article appeared in the July 2007 edition of Dogs Monthly and appears here by kind permission of Jacky Cutler. *Please see the Health Pages for up to date information on PLL.

Lancashire Heeler Foxthyme ElizaWith Lancashire Heelers having only been recognised by the Kennel Club since 1981, there is very little in the way of documented history. However, whilst there is no definitive record of their origins, it is generally accepted that a type of Welsh Corgi was used to drive cattle to the north west, where a small black and tan terrier type dog was introduced, resulting in a general purpose farm dog, combining the qualities of both ratting and cattle heeling (which it achieves by nipping the heels and ducking out, earning it the nickname of the 'nip and duck dog'). Lancashire Heeler Ch. Bowanne Yule Delight
The Heeler has been known as a purebred in its native county for upwards of one hundred and fifty years, where it is also known as the 'Ormskirk Terrier' or 'Ormskirk Heeler'.

Gwen Mackintosh from Norfolk (of the famous 'toffee' family) took a liking to a Heeler owned by a relative back in the early sixties, and began to breed them, mostly for family and friends. With her interest in the world of showing pedigree dogs she started keeping records and Lancashire Heeler, Bille Bean. Another fine example of the less common tipped earsthe breed was put on a more formal footing. Together with several enthusiasts Gwen formed the Lancashire Heeler Club in 1978. They formulated a breed standard and began their own register, with dogs being examined to see if they met the criteria for registration, and held shows judged to their own standard. Gwen served as President of the club until her death in 1992.

Negotiations with the Kennel Club followed and in 1981 recognition was granted as a rare breed. Initially, they only accepted dogs registered with the Lancashire Heeler Club, but as these dogs were bred from, their progeny were also accepted. This system continued until 1989, when the Kennel Club announced that the register was to close.

Once accepted they were able to be shown at licensed shows. In 1982, Blackpool Championship Show scheduled classes for the breed, and they also began to appear at Crufts in the 'Not Separately Classified' classes. Lancashire Heeler Ch. Tushielaw Clyde In 1988 they were given their own classes, and Best of Breed was Acremead Biscuit of Kalo, bred by Gwen Mackintosh and owned by Miss Kathie Kidd and her mother Barbara. Kathie held various positions on the committee of the Lancashire Heeler Club, eventually retiring as Chairman in 1992, and is the author of the only book written on the breed to date, 'The First Book of the Lancashire Heeler', which was published in 1990 and updated with a second edition in 2002.

Best of Breed at Crufts in 1989 was won by Tushielaw Clyde, owned by Sarah Whybrow. This was a great achievement in itself, but Clyde went on to be Best of Breed at Crufts an incredible six times between 1989 and 1995.

In 1996 the reign of Foxthyme Material Girl began, Lancashire Heeler, Ch. Material Girl with the first of her four Crufts Best of Breed awards. Owned by Colin and Denise Russell, Jess won in 1996, 2000, 2001 and again in 2004, at the magnificent age of ten. She became the first British Champion and is the breed record holder on nineteen Challenge Certificates.

Another milestone for the breed was achieved in 1999 when Challenge Certificates were allocated. The first Dog C.C. went to Doddsline Kristen, owned and bred by Norman Johnston, with the Bitch C.C. and Best of Breed going to Laura Martin's Lausteph Waltzing Matilda. Lancashire Heeler, Fin & N Ch FinW -05 -06 Rantalaukan Harmonia, Lancashire Heelers now grace the show ring in a number of other countries. The Swanndale Kennels of John and Julie Swann have also had some good wins at Crufts, with Ch Doddsline Lord at Swanndale being awarded Best Dog in 1997, 2000 and 2001, and Ch Swanndale Man in Black taking Best of Breed in 2006.

There have been twenty champions in this country, although the first ever champion was in Sweden, who have the second largest population of Heelers. Enthusiasts in Finland, Holland, Norway and the USA have also discovered this enchanting breed, and we have even seen dogs being imported into this country from abroad.

Lancashire Heeler, Ch. Jestikka GlenordIn 1999 changes were made to the Breed Standard, the most important of which was the acceptance of liver and tans, where previously only black and tans had been accepted. There is one liver and tan Champion, Jestikka Glenord, owned by Colin and Denise Russell.

The size of the breed is what gives it its charm, and the ideal height should be 10 - 12 inches. A more romantic description is that they should be small enough to fit in a 'poacher's pocket'. If they are allowed to get too big they will lose the ability to 'nip in and duck out' when heeling cattle, and if they become too small they will resemble a toy breed and not be up to the job they were originally bred for. They should be sturdily built and slightly longer than they are high. The head should be flat and broad, tapering towards dark, almond shaped eyes, and the skull should be on parallel planes to the muzzle. Lancashire Heeler, Featwella Jake the Lad. Tipped ears are icluded in the Lancashire Heeler Breed Standard

Front legs should be straight but feet may turn out slightly. In the past, some dogs had excessively bowed front legs, giving a 'Queen Anne' effect. The Breed Standard gives a good description of colour and markings, although the depth of colour and amount of tan can vary.

Although the majority have pricked ears, some have tipped ears, which are perfectly acceptable. Tails may be carried either up or down, usually coming up in a slight curve over the back on the move.

Registrations have fallen in recent years, with only 173 being registered in 2006, Lancashire Heeler, Lankeela Local Hero (Foggy)which has led to the breed being classified as 'vulnerable' by the Kennel Club. One reason for the decline in numbers is that some people have limited their breeding due to the incidence of Primary Lens Luxation*, an inherited eye condition for which there is no DNA test available at present, and careful study of pedigrees is the only tool available for breeders to use in trying to avoid problems. However, thanks to a grant from the Kennel Club Health Foundation Fund, research is ongoing by the Animal Health Trust and Cambridge University to formulate a test, once they have identified the gene responsible.

Although generally a healthy breed, Foxthyme Chocolate Mousse demonstrates that Lancashire Heelers move at speed, in or out of the water. usually living well into their teens, they can suffer from some eye conditions, and it is important to ensure that parents and pups have all been eye tested.

Apart from their role as a farm worker and show dog, Heelers have also been successful in Working Trials, Obedience, Agility and Flyball, and several have qualified as PAT dogs. Fortunately the breed has not split into 'working' and 'show' types and have been known to come straight from the farm into the show ring due to their short, sleek coat which requires very little grooming. They moult about twice a year, losing their undercoat over a few days, and with a quick brush they are soon back to their best.

They are placed on a table for the judge to examine them, and shown standing freely and moved on a loose lead. There have been several successful Junior Handlers who have learnt their trade with a Heeler.

Lancashire Heeler Puppy, Grote Rue

Despite being adaptable to many roles, they are not the breed for everyone, and need an owner who will give them firm boundaries. Although they thrive on human company, Danish Ch. Foxthyme Herbie goes Dutch they are not lap dogs, and require firm handling from a young age and something to keep them occupied, if they are to live happily alongside your family and other pets. They make excellent watchdogs, their loud bark belying their small stature, and some have a tendency to 'heel' people and animals. Some have a rather endearing 'Heeler smile', curling their top lips back when you talk to them. One thing many owners find is that they are addictive; one is never enough!


Jacky Cutler

The Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler Community - Best of BreedsLancashire Heelers

The Lancashire Heeler is the smallest herding dog in the UK.  Although most known for their primary purpose as a drover or herding dog, their terrier like instincts also make them good ratters and mousers.  Fearless enough to take on a herd of cattle alone, these intelligent, playful dogs also make excellent and loyal pets and companions
The biggest of hearts and personalities are packed into this compact and robust little parcel, some of which also possess the breed trait of a beguiling smile or perform meerkat impersonations! Surprisingly, for these most beguiling of characters, the Lancashire Heeler is still designated by the Kennel Club as a vulnerable breed.

Breed Rescue

Occasionally, dogs find themselves in need of new homes, due to no fault of their own.  The Community Welfare Fund is a breed specific rescue and welfare organisation set up to help dogs, and their owners, at all times of need.  It is a Kennel Club registered Breed Rescue supported by the KC registered Lancashire Heeler Club, The Lancashire Heeler Association.  You can find more details of the Welfare Fund here.

If you are interested in tracing your dogs pedigree take a look at our database project The Lancashire Heeler Pedigree Database

Lancashire Heeler Community Website

This site contains breed information, history, owner and breeder stories of interest, and information about activities such as showing, agility and tracking.  The community is a non-commercial, on-line Lancashire Heeler Club providing space for all owners, breeders and enthusiasts to contribute. We hope you enjoy browsing the articles and pictures and participating in our competitions.  Please feel free to send us articles and pictures  for inclusion on the site.  Newcomers may like to start by browsing out 'Frequently Asked Questions section (FAQs).

Enjoy browsing our articles and pictures provided by enthusiasts around the world.

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