The Lancashire Heeler: The AKC’s Newest Addition

The AKC started 2024 with a bang and welcomed its newest member: the petite Lancashire Heeler!

Mar 5, 2024By Jessica Montes
the lancashire heeler akc newest addition

One look at the adorable Lancashire Heeler, and you’ll wonder where it came from and which breeds led to such a compact and cuddly pup. Maybe you’re more curious about its temperament and exercise needs. We’ll cover these and other fun facts about the newest American Kennel Club (AKC) addition below.

Newly Recognized but Not New

Lancashire Heeler
Photo by Svenska Mässan

The AKC’s recognition doesn’t make this a new breed. It does mean that Lancashire Heelers have a national club in the US, there was interest from breeders, and those pups can now compete in the AKC’s 22,000+ events each year. This process began in 2001 when they joined the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, a recording-keeping program that can lead to a full registry. In 2007, the United States Lancashire Heeler Club (USLHC) was formed. A decade later, the club began the process of joining the Miscellaneous Class.

Before this, Lancashire Heelers were first recognized by the UK’s Kennel Club in 1981 and have a history dating back to the 17th century. The United States Lancashire Heeler Club reports that the breed’s origin and ancestors are unclear. However, one widely accepted theory is that Welsh Corgis and Manchester Terriers mixed in the Lancashire market area, leading to these small dogs.

Why is it Called a Heeler?

Dog cattle
Photo by Ingrid Knorr

Breed names often tell us where a variety was developed, their breeder’s name, or recognizable behaviors. The “Lancashire” part in the name has a clear origin, but what is a Heeler? This second part describes these pup’s herding style where they will nip at the heels of animals to get them to continue walking. It’s not a common technique, and it’s present in one other breed: the Australian Cattle Dog.

Texas Heelers have the title in their name, too. These dogs were developed in the US and are a cross between Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds. However, this is a newer breed, and it doesn’t have set appearance or temperament standards; depending on which pet parent it follows, the Texas Heeler may or may not nip at animals’ heels.

Another thing heelers have in common is their never-ending supply of energy. They need large, enclosed areas to run around for hours and feel their best when they have a job.

The Best of Both Dog Worlds

Photo by Valeria Boltneva

Lancashire Heelers are an adorable mix of their ancestors. Imagine the fur patterns of a Manchester Terrier with a Corgi’s petite frame. They are similar in size to Corgis, measuring 10-12 inches at the shoulder, but only weigh half as much at 9-17 lbs. These pups come in two fur colors, black & tan and liver & tan, and have the Terrier’s golden eyebrows and markings on the body. In addition, they have a short double coat and fuller tails that curve over the back like a Corgi.

A look at the Lancashire Heelers ears will show another ancestral mix. The ears are pointy like a Manchester Terrier but are shorter and don’t fold over, like their smaller dog parents. The AKC’s Lancashire Heeler breed standards prefer lifted, alert ears, and they consider drop ears “undesirable.”

As a smaller dog with a longer life expectancy, a healthy Lancashire Heeler can live to see its 15th birthday!

Lancashire Heelers Love Exercise

Heeler running
Photo by United States Lancashire Heeler Club

Not only are Lancashire Heelers the newest AKC addition, but they are also the smallest of all herding breeds. An energetic, playful personality with a love of running means these pups are the happiest with several types of exercise. Multiple walks a day and running around in a backyard or family room are absolute musts! They can release their energy at dog parks or homes with toys, balls, and games of fetch.

If you are short on time, consider investing in doggy puzzles, which can extend feeding times, keep your pets entertained for longer, and stimulate their minds. You can also hire a dog walker whenever you are at work or out of town. You could also ask a friend or neighbor to take your pup on a stroll. This frequent activity will keep them happy and reduce the chances of obesity.

Health Concerns of the Lancashire Heeler

Heeler sitting
Photo by United States Lancashire Heeler Club

Lancashire Heelers are a healthy breed, but they are prone to a few diseases. Like terrier breeds, they are at risk for primary lens luxation (PLL). This occurs when the fibers that hold the eye lens in place become dislocated, leading to inflammation or glaucoma. Most PPL symptoms cause pain and can lead to partial or complete blindness if not detected early on.

Because PLL is inheritable, responsible breeders will test dogs and their litter for signs of this condition. Dogs with a high risk of passing the gene on aren’t chosen to breed and create more litters. If you’re unsure about your dog’s vision, have a vet conduct an eye exam. If PPL is present, they may recommend surgery, medication, or topical ointments to lessen your pup’s pain.

These Dogs Are Known for Their “Smiles”

Photo by Sheryl Bradbury

This breed is also known for another physical trait; its smile! A happy Lancashire Heeler will let its owner know by moving their lips into an upward curve known as the Heeler Smile. In an article with USA Today, veterinarian Dr. Lore Haug agrees that dogs smile at us out of joy. Dr. Haug also shared that Terriers and cattle dogs are more likely to show a toothy grin. It’s a form of greeting specifically for humans because pups don’t smile at others. Instead, smiling is a form of active submission that shows they feel comfortable and will not attack or threaten us.

Your canine might also smile to avoid getting in trouble. If they’ve misbehaved, they will pull back their lips in hopes that their cute appearance will help lessen their punishment.

Other breeds that smile include:

  • Alaskan Eskimo Dogs
  • The Bichon Frise
  • Corgis
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Shiba Inus
  • Papillons
  • Icelandic Sheepdogs

Vulnerable Breed Status

Lancashire Heeler face
Photo by Norwegian Lancashire Heeler Club

The United Kingdom’s Kennel Club listed the Lancashire Heeler as an endangered breed in 2003. A small gene pool and a high risk of passing down diseases, such as PLL, caused a decrease in the population. These pups are still vulnerable based on low registration numbers that are below 300 each year. In 2022, there were only 149 registered Lancashire Heelers in comparison to other vulnerable breeds. For reference, Bull Terriers received 293 registrations, and 281 people enlisted Border Collies.

Similarly, the USLHC president, Sheryl Bradbury, estimates that there are around 400 Lancashire Heelers in the US. If breeders maintain ethical practices and test their pups for inheritable diseases, healthy litters will be born, and national and global numbers can continue growing. The Kennel Club encourages people to adopt rarer breeds that fit their lifestyle as opposed to only looking for the most popular dogs.

These Dogs Are Part of the AKC Now

Lancashire Heeler Body
Photo by United States Lancashire Heeler Club

The Lancashire Heeler joins the club for dogs who were recognized by the AKC within the last few years. They join last year’s addition, the Bracco Italiano. This rare, large hunting dog was developed in Italy from the Segugio Italiano and the Asiatic Mastiff breeds. Bracco Italiano looks like a red-and-white bloodhound, but it helps hunters catch feathered game.

Back in 1878, the AKC began by recognizing nine breeds:

  • The Pointer
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • Gordon Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Sussex Spaniel

This list has grown to 201 breeds with origins around the globe. Rarer breeds, such as the Alaskan Klee Kai and Japanese Terrier, are part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service and have begun their path toward full recognition. There are currently 73 breeds in this group so any one of them can join the new dog breed club in upcoming years.

These Dogs Love Agility Course Training

Heeler Agility
Photo by Norwegian Lancashire Heeler Club

Lancashire Heelers aren’t primarily used for herding anymore, but their instincts can help with training for agility courses, rallies, and other dog sports. Although small, they can’t say no to playtime and will thank you for the extra activity. Setting up a space where your dog can jump over rods, balance on wobble boards, and dance through weave poles can give them hours of entertainment. Just make sure all obstacles are an appropriate size and height for their shorter bodies.

Because it’s in their DNA, these pups can participate in herding competitions. To complete a trial, dogs will herd livestock through a course based on their handler’s directions. There are also obedience trials for the eager-to-please Lancashire Heelers. These have varying levels of difficulty where dogs begin at the easiest level following commands like “sit” and “stay.” They progress to more difficult tasks, like following non-verbal commands and finding one scented item that’s in a group of identical objects.

These Dogs Have a Low Maintenance Coat

Heeler dogs
Photo by Norwegian Lancashire Heeler Club

Unlike other dogs that require daily brushings –we’re looking at you Chinese Crested– this breed has a low-maintenance double coat. Their fur is short and dense so you can get away with brushing them once or twice a month. It’s also waterproof, meaning they are okay in rainy and snowy weather. A monthly bath will wash off any debris and dirt.

Even with a short coat, the AKC rates them as a 3/5 on the shedding scale. They are moderate shedders, and you are likely to find fur in their doggy areas, on furniture, and around your home. Lancashire Heelers aren’t the best pet for people with dog allergies. Although human allergies are related to a dog’s saliva, not fur, a large amount of shedding can trigger reactions. If you have allergies but want a four-legged pal, you could benefit from adopting a hypoallergenic breed, such as a Toy Poodle or Bichon Frise.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.