Meet the Lancashire Heeler, the AKC's Newest Dog Breed

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Vera Reva/Shutterstock

Say hello to the Lancashire heeler - the American Kennel Club’s 201st recognized dog breed and the newest member of the Herding group. Although small in stature, Lancashire heelers are active and sturdy dogs ready to compete with 200 other dog breeds at thousands of U.S dog shows.

“A small, powerful herding dog that thrives on human interaction, this breed would make a great companion for active families that can provide a great deal of love and attention," said Gina DiNardo, American Kennel Club’s Executive Secretary.

These small dogs have long bodies and short coats, often black and tan or liver and tan. The Lancashire heeler is a solidly built dog that is around one foot (30 centimeters) tall at the shoulders and weighs up to 17 pounds (7.7 kilograms). 

Traditionally, Lancashire heelers worked on farms as ratters and herders. Today, these feisty dogs participate in various canine sports and pursuits.

“They are gritty little dogs, and they are very intelligent little dogs,” said Patricia Blankenship, who has bred Lancashire heelers for over a decade. “It’s an enjoyable little breed to be around,” she added. 

The official breed standard calls for Lancashire heelers to be courageous, happy, and affectionate to owner. The owners of these pooches say that happy heelers sometimes pull their lips back and smile. 

These small but powerful dogs won’t be content to lounge around all the time. They are highly energetic and just as skilled in performance sports as they are in conformation. 

Lancashire heelers can be found competing in agility, herding, obedience, rally, barn hunt, tracking, disk dog, dock diving, and therapy trials. “There are even a couple that have competed in Earth dog and weight-pull events,” said Sheryl Bradbury, President of the United States Lancashire Heeler Club (USLHC), according to AKC. “It’s a breed that will work hard all day and is happy to curl up at your side and watch the TV news at night.”

“The breed is different but in a good way,” said Jeff Kestner, Club Chair of Judges’ Education Committee. “It’s not a run-of-the-mill dog. Its eyes and expression are like magnets. Being a herding breed it's extremely intelligent - it definitely needs a job to do.” 

According to Bradbury, the biggest misconception about the Lancashire heeler is that it’s adorable and sweet and the perfect size to sit on your lap. “I always caution the buyers to not let a puppy’s cuteness fool you. The minute it is off your lap it may be chewing your shoes or nipping at your heels. Conversely, it will be your loyal best friend.”

This cute breed often develops a strong bond with one household member. They will like to interact with the entire family but will pick a favorite person. “It is great with children as long as the children understand how to respect the dog,” added Bradbury. 

The breed’s origin is packed with mystery but they were first bred in the United Kingdom. The Lancashire heeler is regarded as a “vulnerable native breed” and faces extinction in its homeland. The United Kingdom’s Kennel Club has added an average of just 121 Lancashire heelers to its registry in recent years.

Being recognized as a dog breed doesn’t mean that the breed in question is newly created. To officially recognize the Lancashire heeler, the American Kennel Club required proof of a minimum of 20 litters bred with a three-generation pedigree. 

This guarantees that the breed is established and sustainable. According to Bradbury, there are around 400 Lancashire heelers nationwide but there’s no doubt we’ll see more of these dogs in the future. 

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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