Life With Piper, My Blue Heeler Border Collie Mix Mutt
Of all of the pages and pages of posts I’ve shared over the years, the one that still gets the most reads and comments is the post I shared about raising our pup, Piper.
People far and wide have emailed me asking about her temperament, how I think she’d fare with young kids, etc., so as Pipes heads into adulthood, I thought I’d share an update on my little body guard and BFF.
To start, I thought I’d share photos of what her mom and pops looked like:
I chose Piper from a litter of four pups from a farm up in Northern Ontario. I always joke that I “saved” her from a life of hard work herding cattle — the lucky little spoiled bum!
And now, she’s a few months away from turning two and she’s 32 lbs.
(The remaining photos are of Piper from 10 weeks, to now.)
Stats aside, before I go on to describe her tendencies, I think y’all have to know one thing: just how darn intelligent this breed is. And why I say this first is because there are so many sites out there that box them in as good family pets, bad family pets, great for single people, bad for single people, good for first time pup-owners, bad for first time pup-owners, and I have to just say to heck with most of that.
These dogs are smart.
You can train them to do almost anything, so anyone who claims they’re not meant for this person or that family doesn’t do these pups justice. Every breed has its pros and cons, so if you aren’t willing to deal with or combat one behavior or another, maybe getting a dog isn’t a good idea.
We’ve taught Piper how to back up to let people pass her, we’ve taught her not to bite or nip people, to leave her food or treats until we give her the go-ahead, and most importantly, how to be gentle if she’s grabbing something from your hand. I’ve never owned a dog before, and you could say that I chose a hell of a breed to raise as my first, but Piper has taught me that how they turn out is mostly at the hands of your handling and training of them. Of course, each pup has its own quirky personality, but if you’re strict and diligent when training and able to take on the alpha dog role, they can be groomed for any family.
Case in point: this weekend. My entire family spent a few days at a cottage, and at any given time, some people were on the dock, some by the lake house, some up by the cottage, and she could be found running back and forth between all of the groups, keeping everyone corralled. If someone were to leave, she was immediately at attention and would alert the rest of the gang.
She’s the perfect mix of guard dog and silly goof. In fact, one of her favorite people to visit is the neighbors young son who’s no taller than her when she’s standing. Admittedly, she’s too protective — to the point where if I jump rope, or use a chair to reach something high, or if a car rolls into the driveway that she doesn’t recognize, she gets upset and barks. It may be annoying at times, especially because it’s never been justified as something actually dangerous, but the fact that she’s so dutiful in her protection of us is sweet.
And then when she’s not on alert at her post, she’s the goofiest and most fun-loving dog there ever was. All she wants to do is play, and while she loves rough-housing, she’d never hurt you. The moment your hand finds its way in her mouth and you blurt out “gentle” or “no biting”, she immediately stops and licks. And yet, she can also be the meekest, shiest girl of all time.
In that post I shared about raising her, I mentioned how aggressive and assertive she was as a puppy, but once we stood our ground and taught her that we were alpha, she fell into place and there are times when all it takes is a stern “come here” for her to come walking over, ears down, eyes on you. When she knows it’s serious, she listens. Of course, when it’s not important, or when she knows it’s not consequential, she’ll be a little shit and nanna-nanna-boo-boo, but when it counts, she’s respectful.
Last but not least, as she’s matured through puppy-hood, she’s also become exponentially more cuddly. In the first year of her life, there was no hope of snuggles. She did not care to be up against you, or even pet that much for that matter. I had relented to the fact that she just wasn’t a cuddly dog, and I became okay with it. But now, there are times when I can’t get her off my lap! I think as she’s grown and come to learn that we’re her people and her safe place, she’s become comfortable surrendering and relaxing with us. I even have to kick her off the bed some nights because she’s too close!
I may be biased, but the mix of a heeler and collie is adorable and combines intelligence and energy with extreme loyalty and tons of personality. She’s become such a part of my life, and I can’t imagine a day or week without her. There’s just nothing like her welcoming and erratic kisses when you get home at the end of a long day! She’s a sweetheart, and was worth every frustrated tear I shed raising her.
Now, onto a few things that, at their worst, can be annoying:
- She pulls when on a leash. We’ve tried training her to stick by our sides, and it works for a while, but it always comes back, but if that’s one of the few annoying things about her, I can handle it.
- She has a tendency to get nervous and can be skittish. She takes a while to warm up to some people, and if we walk at night, she’s terrified the entire time.
- She barks if people that she doesn’t recognize approach the house or ring the doorbell. I half-appreciate this one — she’s a great guard dog — but as you can imagine, it can be annoying at times.
That’s about it!
As for things and products that have come in handy:
- Her Kong! Fill it with big kibbles that don’t fall out when tipped and she’s occupied for 1-2 hours.
- Her Puppia. Because she pulls, I’d rather not strangle her with her collar, so Puppia’s line of harnesses are ideal.
- Her Tandem & Co. collar, leash, and food bowls. Made by hand in Montreal.
- Charlee Bear treats. Pretty well the only treats we buy! Amazing for training and playing.
- Burt’s Bees dog shampoo. Nuff said.
- A no brainer for a high-energy dog, we adore Chuck It.
So if you’re on the fence about getting a blue heeler, or blue heeler border collie mix, fret not, these are amazing dogs!
I can’t tell you the amount of people who’ve come up to me gushing over her and sharing stories about their own beloved heeler. It’s a mighty fine club to be a part of and I have no doubt I’ll be telling tales about Piper for decades to come.
So I’ll leave y’all with a few final words of advice for this amazing breed(s): if you’re strong, consistent, and you train well when young, you’ll have yourself a gem of a BFF! Feel free to comment with any questions 🙂