Breed Spotlight
By Jessica Freni

This week we’re exploring an upcoming AKC breed—the Lancashire Heeler—with Kelly Herrera. The Lancashire Heeler has recently been approved for full recognition and is designated for the Herding Group effective January 1, 2024. Pictures provided by Kelly Herrera.

How long have you owned Lancashire Heelers? What attracted you to this breed?

I have owned a Lancashire Heeler for about two and a half years. I fell in love with a friend’s new pup and just had to have one as my own. I went home after meeting her and frantically researched anything and everything Lancashire Heeler! The size was a huge draw as I live in a small home, and a big dog would be a lot! I came from Lhasa Apsos, so

the confidence and toughness of this breed was right up my alley! I quickly learned how rare and hard to find these little guys were! I was bummed. Luckily a littermate of the pup I had met unexpectedly became available. It was meant to be. I met his breeder, Sheila Mesick, owner of Prestige Lancashire Heelers, and we instantly clicked.

What have been the challenges of exhibiting a MISC breed? Are there particular challenges to showing Lancashire Heelers? What is something you would like judges to especially consider in judging the Breed?

So when it came to showing this breed, I fully realized how few there are in the States. The challenges, to begin with, were getting dogs entered into shows so we could get points for the Certificate of Merit (CM). Gaining these points is one of the many requirements to move the breed into the AKC Herding Group. With lots of planning and coordination, we managed to gather a total of five Lancashire Heelers together for a weekend of shows. It was great to see it! This was my first show dog, so it was all new and a challenge to show. I quickly learned that my dog loves to show, and we have flourished!

I would love Judges especially to consider the importance of correct conformation in this breed as it relates to the jobs these dogs have been bred to do. Because Lancashire Heelers are a working breed, they should look like dogs that can easily put in a full day’s work, whether as a drover moving cattle to market or pasture or as a hunter eliminating pests (mice, rats, rabbits) on the farm. They are substantial dogs with short legs that should have plenty of bone and muscle. I hope judges will look for a firm, level topline, well-laid shoulders, muscular hindquarters, and a natural tail set on high.

What is the ideal home for a Lancashire Heeler? What homes prove a challenge for Lancashire Heeler? What is the breed like to live with in terms of grooming, activity level, compatibility with other dogs or animals, grooming, biddability, etc.?

An ideal home for a Lancashire Heeler would be active and structured. Access to any kind of dog sports and training is important. A challenge would be a home where there is lots of downtime. These little dogs need a job! Regular stimulation and exercise are huge. Lancashire Heelers have a lot of go! While they are 100% in on whatever you want to do, they are also perfectly happy spending a rainy day on the couch watching movies! Training, for the most part, is great with a Lancashire Heeler. Sensitive yet stubborn, a balanced approach to training and discipline is best. They are quick to pick up new tricks and happy to do them over and over if you ask! Biddable is a good descriptor. Lancashire Heelers are very friendly and outgoing but loyal to their people. They do well with other dogs if approached appropriately and make friends easily.

Grooming is easy! They have a wash-and-wear coat. While it is a double coat, shedding is light to moderate, depending on the time of year. A good wash and brush out once in a while is all they need.

What challenges are Lancashire Heelers facing (such as health or breeding challenges)? What kind of health testing is required of the breed? Are there difficulties finding Lancashire Heelers?

Overall, Lancashire Heelers are a healthy breed. Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) was common in the breed. With strict DNA testing, it has almost been eradicated from the breed. The same applies to Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) and Choroidal Hypoplasia (CH). Not all potential eye conditions are uncovered by genetic testing. Some, like Coloboma, require an annual exam by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The Lancashire Heeler community knows these few risk factors, and reputable breeders screen for these conditions.

Also, Patellar Luxation is a risk within the population, and all breeding pairs should be screened by a clinical exam. By making sure that we avoid breeding a carrier to an affected dog, a carrier to another carrier, or any dog with unfavorably graded patellas, we aim to produce healthy puppies and protect this breed.

With roughly 300 Lancashire Heelers in the United States, we must do our best as guardians and stewards of this breed to protect, preserve, and better this breed for the future! We face a significant challenge in protecting our genetic diversity and avoiding genetic bottlenecks. Ethical breeders take pains to keep the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) low when selecting pairs for mating and avoid repeatedly using the same sires or dams.

What can the established show community do to help the breed as it gains full AKC recognition (Do you feel as though the breed overall wants to be AKC recognized?)

This April, just last week, after five years in the Miscellaneous class, Lancashire Heelers received AKC approval. They will move to the herding group in January 2024!

What would you like to see for the future of the breed?

I would love to see the Lancashire Heeler flourish not just in the United States but also around the world. I would love to see them come off the Vulnerable List in the United Kingdom and see Health testing and responsible breeding become the norm so we can continue to enjoy the Lancashire Heeler for generations to come!