Kelpie Dog – Everything you need to know

Kelpie Dog Basic Information

Name: Kelpie Dog

Size: Medium

Height: Males: 17 to 20 inches & Females: 17 to 19 inches 

Weight: 25 to 45 pounds for males and females

Coat: Short, Rough

Lifespan: 10 to 13 years

Color: Black, red, chocolate, black with tan markings, red with tan markings, smokey blue, and fawn

Energy: High

Origin: Australia

Hypoallergenic: No

Activities: Detection work, therapy, service dog work, dog sports, herding

Barking Level: High

Shedding Level: Medium

Litter Size: 4 to 7 puppies

Group: Herding

Other Names: Australian Sheepdog, Australischer Kelpie, Barb, Working Kelpie, Australian Kelpie

Breed’s Original Pastime: Herding, Guarding

Different Types of Australian Kelpies

Since its origin, the Kelpie breed has developed into two distinct types; the original Working Kelpie and the more recent class of Show Kelpie –breed type created to present and participate in the show rings and more often seen as a pet rather than a working dog.

  1. Working Kelpies 

As evident from their names, Working Kelpies are bred for the sole purpose of helping out in herding flocks of sheep, whether in blistering heat or freezing cold, very easily. This is why most working kelpies have a double coat, which sheds out in spring in temperate climates helping them regulate their body temperature in any weather. Hence the farmers disregard the dog’s appearance and focus and nurture the dog’s agility overall. These working kelpies also help reduce the expense of hiring several workers as it makes for a cheap yet efficient worker.

  1. Show Kelpies

Kelpies that are bred explicitly under the ANKC registrations are known as Show Kelpies. They are mainly registered for show mainly in the following colors: red, smoky blue, black, chocolate, fawn, black and tan, and red and tan. There is also a limited registration option for the other colors of this breed. Show Kelpies have a more heavy build and are found to be shorter than working Kelpies as the working Kelpies are the ones that are more athletic in nature. 

Over the years, Show Kelpies are becoming very popular as family pets, companion dogs, as people now realize how easily this dog breed can be trained, followed by a very low maintenance grooming routine – every pet owner’s dream!

Kelpie Dog History

Although the name suggests that the Australian Kelpie dog has its origins in Australia, this dog breed actually descended from Scotland. Kelpies originated from Collie type dogs imported from Scotland in the late 1800s but were developed to withstand the heat and dry conditions of the vast open spaces of Australia. This new dog breed was found to be helpful to Australian farmers in managing their enormous flocks of thousands of sheep in challenging weather and terrain. A female dog that belonged to this specific breed, that is now known to the breed’s foundation, was named so after the shape-shifting aquatic spirit mentioned in Celtic mythology. When Kelpie was eventually bred, her puppies were impressive sheepherders and this is how Kelpies came to be known across the world. 

Most of these dogs were black and tan, longhaired with semi-pricked ears, average height, and the Collie breed. A few of them had straight fur and erect ears but were also Collie-like. These dogs’ litters also created red puppies. The ranchers admired them for their intellect and willingness to work independently. 

The Australian Kelpie was later introduced to other nations. This breed was particularly useful in the United States, where it readily adapted to the climate, landscape, and livestock variety. Australian Kelpies are also used for various activities worldwide, including tracking, therapy, support dog practice, and dog sporting success, but they are most frequently used for herding. They would take up preparation, exercise, and a lot of mental stimulation when kept as pets.

Kelpie Dog Breed Overview

Australian Kelpies can perform numerous canine sports, search and rescue activities, nose work, dog support, and more. They have a strong demand for energy and exercise.  

Ensure that their natural herding impulses are carefully restrained and used from an early age; otherwise, the heels of infants, other animals, and even visitors can become infected due to your dog’s instinct to herd by nipping ankles. In this case, it would be wise to redirect your pet’s herding instinct by engaging in exercise and even sports.

This breed is not the ideal fit for apartment living due to their high energy, and they could act out if left alone for extended periods. They may adjust well if they have a responsible owner who disciplines and engages in exercises along with them. As Australian Kelpies are territorial in nature and may also nip at ankles due to their herding instincts, proper training should be given from an early stage in their lives, particularly regarding socializing behaviors. These characteristics, on the other hand, make them natural watchdogs.  

Australian Kelpies can be boisterous and difficult to manage if not well trained. With the proper instructions, all of their negative traits can be mastered into beneficial and outstanding abilities, and their intellect makes this teaching very simple. Their grooming requirements are limited, their well-being is usually top-notch, and they make faithful and caring companions with the right owners. 

Kelpie Dog Pros and Cons

Loyal, friendly and hard-workingRequires daily mental stimulation
Low-maintenance coatBarks a lot
Intelligent and highly trainableRequires lots of exercises

Kelpie Dog Highlights

  • The Australian Kelpies are still used to help herd livestock with little supervision in the United States and Australian regions.
  • Australian Kelpies can learn search and rescue, detection work, guide dog duties, therapy work, agility and dog sports, and more.
  • The Australian Kelpie coat comes in various colors, including black, chocolate, red, fawn, and smokey blue, and some also have tan markings.
  • Australian Kelpies can be loving pets as long as they are well trained and given tasks that keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
  • Australian Kelpies often have double coats that hold an outer weather-resistant layer. Their coats need minimal grooming, though they shed more heavily in spring and may need more brushing during this season.

Kelpie Dog Personality

The general look should be like a lithe, energetic dog of exceptional consistency, with challenging muscle condition paired with great limb firmness and the capacity to function tirelessly. It must be devoid of any weedy undertones.  

The top of the Kelpie’s skull is moderately rounded, with a distinct stop between the skull and the muzzle. The muzzle is relatively shorter than the skull. Kelpie’s bite is a scissor bite. The almond-shaped eyes are average in size and form. The ears are medium in size and cut to a fine point at the tips. The neck is muscular and slightly arched, with a modest length. 

Legs that are both sturdy and straight. The body is a little longer. The tail is medium in size, set short, and well wrapped in a brush-like coat. The coat has a short, dense undercoat and a hard, straight, weather-resistant outer coat. Black, black and tan, red, red and tan, fawn, cocoa, and smoke blue are the colors you found these dogs in.

Friendliness Overview

Affectionate to FamilyMedium to High
Kid-FriendlyLow to Medium
Stranger FriendlyLow to Medium

Adaptability Overview

Adapted to ApartmentLow to Medium
Good for New OwnersLow to Medium
Sensitivity LevelMedium to High
Tolerates being AloneLow to Medium
Tolerates Cold WeatherMedium
Tolerates Hot WeatherHigh

Trainability Overview

Easy to TrainHigh
Potential to Nip, Chew, BiteHigh
Prey DriveMedium to High
Tendency to Bark or HowlMedium to High
Wandering PotentialMedium to High

Kelpie Dog Physical Features

The head is proportionate to the dog’s size, with a moderately rounded skull and broad between the ears. A straight profile of the forehead leads to a marked stop. The cheeks are round to the fore face, cleanly chiseled and defined, rather than gritty and prominent. The muzzle is significantly shorter than the skull. The lips are tight and clean, with no looseness. The nose is the same color as the rest of the body. The almond-shaped eyes soften the overall fox-like look produced by the general form and contours. The eyes are almond-shaped, average in size, and have well-defined edges. They have an articulate and willing look. The eyes should be brown to match the color of the coat. It is appropriate for blue dogs to have a lighter colored eye. The ears are pricked and taper to a fine point at the tips, with fine but sturdy leather at the middle. They are set widely apart on the skull and inclining outwards, somewhat bent on the outer side, and moderate height. Hair is abundant on the insides of the head. The lower incisors should be just behind but meeting the upper incisors in a scissor bite, and the teeth should be sound, solid, and equally spaced.

The neck is of average length, sturdy, somewhat arched, steadily molding into the shoulders, free of throatiness, and with some ruff. 

Shoulders should be smooth, muscular, and well slanted, with shoulder blades close together at the withers. The upper arm and shoulder blade form a right angle. Elbows don’t move in or out. When seen from the front, the forelegs should be muscular, with solid yet polished bone, straight and parallel. To maintain movement flexibility, the pasterns should have a gentle slope, as seen from the foot. 

With a firm level topline, solid and well-muscled loins, and decent flank depth, the ribs must be well sprung, and the chest has to be deep instead of being broad. The dog’s length, measured from the fore chest to the buttocks in a straight line, is greater than the withers’ height.

With the croup very long and sloping, the stifles well turned, and the hocks reasonably well let down, the hindquarters should exhibit width and endurance. From the hocks to the foot, the hind legs are straight and parallel as seen from behind, not too close nor too far away. 

With close-knit, clearly arched toes and sturdy short nails, the feet should be round, strong, and deep in pads. 

During rest, the tail should hang in a moderate curve. It may be lifted through movement or enthusiasm, but the tail can never be carried through a vertical line drawn across the root. It comes with a proper brush. Set it in place to fit in with the sloping croup and extend roughly to the hock. 

Gait / Movement
The Kelpie must be completely sound in construction and action to achieve the almost infinite endurance required of a working sheepdog in large open spaces. Cow hocks, bow hocks, loose shoulders, or limited weaving or plaiting movement are significant faults. The dog’s mobility should be unregulated and unstoppable, and he should be able to switch rapidly. When trotting, the dog’s paws appear to get closer together at ground level as the tempo increases, but as it comes to a stop, the dog stays four squares.

Kelpie Dog Temperament

Kelpie is a working dog that has a sturdy build and is blessed with loads of energy. This is why  Australian Kelpie is one of the most known and active working dogs globally. They are an essential part of the Australian workforce because of their ease of training and enthusiasm for the job. They are ready to respond to any signal sent by their masters, even if it is sent from a distant place. Kelpies are loyal dogs in all. They get along well with children whether they’ve been living with them since puppyhood or have been appropriately socialized.

Kelpies work all day, including in high temperatures, in their native Australia, occupying 1,000 to 4,000 acres. The breed stares or ‘gives the eye’ in a similar way to the Border Collie on tractable stock, but it uses its nipping capacity to herd more stubborn cattle.  

Thousands of sheep may be herded by Kelpies from farm to pen to vehicle. When a flock of sheep is as densely crowded as Times Square on New Year’s Eve, they will seek the shortest route to the other side, which is usually a straight line. The Kelpie will hop on the back of the closest sheep and sprint lightly around the herd to get to the other side. They can be trained as seeing-eye dogs for blind people and also make outstanding watchdogs. 

The Australian Kelpie is not an attacking dog, but he will be defensive of his family and possessions when necessary, even though it means putting himself in danger. This breed’s intense intelligence is accompanied by a high degree of superiority.  

They need an owner who can maintain natural composure while exercising strict control over the dog at all times. This breed will succeed with the right kind of owner and the right amount of everyday metal and physical activity.

Kelpie Dog Exercise Needs

The Australian Kelpie is a working dog who needs a lot of exercise, ideally in the form of a task.  They are workaholics who will engage physically until they tire out completely. They must be taken on long walks regularly as they make for an excellent jogging partner. Although allowing this breed of dog to walk ahead of you on your long walks is not a good idea. To reinforce that as the owner you are the alpha, this dog must be walked either beside or behind you.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh
Playfulness PotentialMedium to High

Kelpie Dog Grooming

The grooming requirements of the Australian Kelpie are low to moderate. The coats of Australian Kelpies can be short, rugged, or sleek, and they come in several beautiful colors. Black, red, chocolate, black with tan markings, red with tan markings, smokey blue, or fawn are some of the colors available. Weekly brushing can help to remove dead hair and minimize shedding. They sometimes have two coats, with the exterior coat being weather resistant. Since Australian Kelpies shed more frequently in the spring, they need more brushing at that time, but otherwise, these dogs shed on average.

As pet owners, you can responsibly decide to bathe this variety of dogs only when necessary, as it will lead to stripping of the natural oils from its weather-resistant coat, which will eventually dry out its skin. Their nails automatically file down when they move, but they can be checked for damage and trimmed if needed. 

Brushing teeth daily is advised by a vet. Their ears should be cleaned and tested for any sort of debris, tics, or infection.

Grooming Overview

Shedding AmountMedium
Drooling PotentialLow
Easy to GroomMedium to High

Kelpie Dog Health

The Australian Kelpie is usually healthy. However, they tend to have several health problems.

Health Overview

General HealthMedium
Weight Gaining PotentialLow to Medium

A few conditions may be genetically predisposed to the breed, which owners should be aware of:  

  • Hip Dysplasia: Kelpies are considered to have hip dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America studied 140 Australian Kelpies’ hip X-rays and discovered that 8% of them were dysplastic. That’s an exceptionally high number for a working dog, where the sound structure should be paramount.  
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive Retinal Atrophy (which often results in blindness), cataracts (which occur between the ages of 4-6 years), collie eye anomaly, and coloboma are all eye disorders that affect Australian Kelpies.  
  • Neurological Disease: Although it is rare, Cerebellar ataxia is a severe neurological condition that may affect Australian Kelpies.
  • Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA): Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA), or Cortical Cerebellar Abiotrophy, is an inherited condition that can cause the neurons in the cerebellum to degenerate and die at a dog’s young age. Veterinarians assume it is caused by a metabolic problem that affects the Purkinje cells in the cerebellum.
  • Cryptorchidism: It is a condition in which one or both of the testes stop functioning or descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.

Kelpie Dog Diet and Nutrition

The Australian Kelpie should be fed high-quality dog food, either professionally produced or made at home with your vet’s permission. The dietary plan should be adjusted according to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs run the risk of being overweight if not monitored properly, so ensure to track their calorie intake and portion size for each meal until you, as an owner, learn what works best for your pup’s health.

Kelpie Dog Living Condition

Apartment life is not recommended for the Australian Kelpie. They are working dogs who require a lot of open space to run around and are happiest when they have a task ahead. Their all-weather coat enables them to survive in both hot as well as cold environments comfortably. 

Did you know?

  • The word “Kelpie” is derived from Gaelic, which means water sprite
  • The breed is familiar by his shortened name, “Kelpie.”
  • Full-Black Australian Kelpies are known as Barbs
  • Australian Kelpies have been assigned the Herding Group designation
  • Since July 10th, 2017, the Australian Kelpie has been recorded into the Foundation Stock Service
  • Australian Kelpies are excellent watchdogs that can be trained as seeing-eye dogs

Kelpie Dog Club Recognition

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • NAAKR = North American Australian Kelpie Registry
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • UKC = United Kennel Club

Adding an Australian Kelpie to Your Family

Kelpie Dogs Rescue Groups

  1. Australian Kelpie – Rescue Shelter
  2. Australian Kelpie – Rescue Me

To Buy a Kelpie Dog Now

Australian Kelpie
Adopt Now

Australian Kelpie
Buy Now

Kelpie Dog Photos

Kelpie Dog Videos

Australian Kelpie Dog – Dogumentary TV

Australian Kelpie Dog – Animal Planet

Australian Kelpie Pet Profile – Bondi Vet

Kelpie Dog Facts – Rocadog

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