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Lancashire Heeler

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

Lancashire heeler standing on a rock ready to run

The Lancashire Heeler is a small low to the ground English dog, bred to be a farm worker helping especially with cattle driving and herding. It was also used to hunt small prey like rabbit and rats. Today in the UK it is more often kept as a companion than working dog but it also does do well in dog show events and competitions like agility, obedience and herding. It has a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years and has also been called the Ormskirk Terrier and Ormskirk Heeler.

The Lancashire Heeler at a Glance
Name Lancashire Heeler
Other names Ormskirk Terrier, Ormskirk Heeler
Nicknames LH
Origin England
Average size Small
Average weight 6 to 13 pounds
Average height 10 to 12 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Dense double coat with a fine under and short, hard and flat topcoat
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black and tan, liver and tan
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Good to very good
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair will be left around the home
Drooling Low to moderate – not especially slobbery
Obesity Average – measure food and make sure it is well exercised, low set dogs need to watch their weight or face back problems
Grooming/brushing Low to average – easy to brush, do once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – will be some barking not should not be constant
Exercise needs Moderate – needs daily exercise but easy to meet its needs
Trainability Moderate – some experience would make it be a bit easier
Friendliness Very good
Good first dog Very good
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Good but socialization is essential and supervision may be needed
Good with other pets Very good with socialization but can have a high prey drive around small animals
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Very good due to size as long as it gets out daily
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy dog breed but some issues can include Eye problems and patella luxation
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $195 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $705 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations The Lancashire Heeler Club Rescue, Lancashire Heeler Community, Lancashire Heeler Dogs for Adoption and Rescue, also check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Lancashire Heeler’s Beginnings

The Lancashire Heeler’s origins are not known exactly though it is accepted it descends from a cross between the Welsh Corgi and another black and tan small terrier type dog. It was bred small but it was still hard working and bold. It was used for many years by farmers for help with herding livestock and also as a ratting dog. Ratting dogs were also used in towns in places like stables so it is possible the Lancashire Heeler was used in that role there. However its numbers went into decline when the need for cattle dogs dropped. It actually became extinct for a while as a result, as today’s dogs are a recreation of the breed.

New Lease on Life

It was re-created by a Norfolk breeder in the UK called Gwen Mackintosh in the 1960s. She used dogs that had the Lancashire Heeler line in them and bred those with Manchester Terriers. Efforts were made to keep them as similar as possible to the old Lancashire from the past. For example though the dog is rarely used today to herd cattle it retains that ability. In 1978 Gwen Mackintosh with other breeders and fanciers started the Lancashire Heeler Club in the UK and created a breed standard. In 1981 it received recognition from the Kennel Club. But in 2006 it was listed by them as a vulnerable breed since numbers being registered were under 300. In 2009 it was recognized by the UKC but it has yet to gain it from the AKC. In 2016 it was temporarily recognized by the FCI but its future depends on whether the numbers registered can be raised.

The Dog You See Today

The Lancashire Heeler is a small dog weighing 6 to 13 pounds and standing just 10 to 12 inches tall. It is a low to the ground breed like the Corgi so it has short legs and a long body. In terms of coloring though it looks more like the Manchester Terrier. Its short legs are sturdy and have paws that turn out a little. The chest is deep and the back is strong. Its tail is set high and is carried over its back. It may be a small dog but it is sturdy looking. Its head is in proportion to the rest of it and it has ears that are large and erect is preferred though drop ears can happen. The ears are set wide apart as are the eyes. The coat is actually season dependent. In the winter it has a mane and the coat is longer and more plush. In the summer it shortens and is more sleek and shiny. Common colors are black and tan or liver and tan.

The Inner Lancashire Heeler


The Lancashire Heeler is a friendly dog with a happy and eager to please disposition and makes a great family pet and companion, but is also hard working, attentive and alert and can still be used as a working dog today. With strangers it is wary but with the proper introductions and good socialization it should learn not to over react to them. It is devoted to it family and friends and has some terrier traits being lively, independent and territorial. It will bark to let you know if anyone is entering its territory or the home so can be a good watchdog. Otherwise its barking should just be occasional.

It is still good at herding today but as a family pet that can translate to nipping at heels so that needs to be trained to stop. It does not like being alone for long periods of time and likes to have its people around it. It is essential it is treated like a dog not a baby just because of its smallness. Small dog syndrome happens when dogs are not given the firm and consistent leadership they need. It can be good with new owners and also likes to be fairly active as it is energetic and loves to play though some can have their lazy moments.

Living with a Lancashire Heeler

What will training look like?

This dog is moderately hard to train, it is intelligent but it is also independent and stubborn. It is important as its owner and trainer you are very firm, in control and consistent. Set the rules and adhere to them. Offer it praise, use treats, reward its successes and encourage it as positive training methods will be more effective. It does not respond well to heavy handed methods. It is really important that along with basic obedience training you also ensure it starts socialization as early as possible. Dogs that are well socialized are happier, more confident and a lot easier to live with. Bring it to different places, bring different people to it, animals, sounds and situations so it learns what are acceptable responses and what are not. Make sure training includes a command to stop it nipping at people’s heels.

How active is the Lancashire Heeler?

The Lancashire Heeler is an energetic dog, it can work all day so it may be small but do not think that means it will sit in your lap all day. While some may have more lazy moments than others it still needs at least 30 to 45 minutes a day in walks, some physical play with you and some puzzles and games that keep it mentally stimulated too. It can live fine in an apartment as long as it gets enough exercise outside each day. It is also a good idea to give it somewhere safe where it can go off leash on a regular basis and explore and run.

Caring for the Lancashire Heeler

Grooming needs

Using a firm bristled brush the Lancashire Heeler is easy to groom and how much it needs brushing varies with the season. Its shorter and sleeker summer coat may need less then the longer winter coat. Brush as needed to keep its natural oils stimulated and its coat tangle and bur free. Avoid giving it a bath too often, a lot of owners set a schedule for bathing, for example once a week, but that is too frequent and can damage those natural oils. Bathe it when it needs one and just as a shampoo designed for canines. The shedding can vary from season to season too but in general it is low to moderate.

You should take good care of its dental and oral health by brushing its teeth at least two to three times weekly. This will prevent tooth decay and gum disease as well as help prevent bad breath. Use a dog toothpaste and toothbrush. Its nails need to be trimmed when they are too long, taking good care as cutting too low can hurt your pet and cause bleeding. This is because of the nerves and blood vessels in the lower part of them. Have a groomer do it for you if you are not familiar with dog nails. Also check its ears once a week for signs of infection then wipe them clean. Use an ear cleanser and do not insert anything into them.

Feeding Time

It is suggested that a dog of a small size will need about ¾ to 1½ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. How much exactly will vary from one dog to another, depending on its metabolism, activity level, age, health and size. Take care with your Lancashire Heeler as weight gain can cause back problems. Make sure it has access to water that is kept as fresh as possible.

How is the Lancashire Heeler with children and other animals?

The Lancashire Heeler is very good with children, it is happy to play, can be energetic and is affectionate and loving too. Keep in mind though that it can nip at their heels due to its herding instincts. Make sure your children are taught how to touch and play with them nicely and that should include not putting weight or pressure on the back, and taking care how they are picked up and put down. Always supervise young children really for the dog’s sake! With good socialization it can be friendly with other pets and if raised with them. But it can see small animals like rodents as prey to chase. It can be aggressive towards other dogs and good socialization and supervision is needed.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The LH has a life span of 12 to 15 years and is generally a healthy breed but a few issues can include eye problems, patella luxation and back problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people causing bodily harm, over the last 35 years in Canada and the US the Lancashire Heeler is not mentioned. This does not mean it cannot snap or become aggressive, there are really no completely safe breeds. But with socialization and training this breed is not as likely, along with enough attention, stimulation and exercise and a good diet.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Lancashire Heeler puppy is going to cost about $900 for one of good quality bred by a decent breeder. For something of top quality from a highly sought after breeder this is going to cost you even more. If you manage to find one in a shelter or rescue this will be more affordable initially at $50 to $400 but keep in mind most rescues are mixes and most are not cute little puppies. Do not turn to other options such as buying from advertisements, backyard breeders, pet stores and puppy mills. These are ones to turn away from for many good reasons.

Once you have found a puppy or dog you have fallen in love with you need to make sure you have certain things at home. It will need some basic items like a carrier, crate, leash, collar, bowls and such. These initial costs come to about $120. Medical needs for its first vet visit, (which should happen shortly after bringing it home), for things like shots, a check up, deworming, spaying or neutering, micro chipping and blood tests will be another $260.

There are also long term ongoing costs for things like medical, food and miscellaneous costs to cover. A good quality dry dog food plus treats is going to be about $75 a year. Medical basic needs like pet insurance, check ups, tick and flea prevention and shots are another $435 a year. Miscellaneous items, basic training, license and toys are going to be at least another $195 a year. This gives an annual estimated cost starting at $705.


Looking for a Lancashire Heeler Name? Let select one from our list!

The Lancashire Heeler is a spirited and happy dog and is active for a small dog so be prepared to be outside daily for at least 30 minutes. It needs a certain amount of mental stimulation too as well as the physical. It does not shed a huge amount but there will be some hair to deal with and care should be taken with its back on letting it jump down from too high, how you pick it up and how children play with it. It may be small but it can be strong willed so needs an owner ready to be firm and ensures it is well trained and socialized.

Featured Image Credit: LNbjors, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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