The Australian Kelpie originated from Collie-type dogs that were imported to Australia from Scotland and were then developed to withstand the harsh terrain and extreme weather of the Australian outback. They are herding dogs through and through, with a unique independent nature that allows them to look after flocks with little instruction and direction from their owners. They are incredibly athletic and agile animals with tons of energy and an almost unlimited reserve of stamina, and they can happily herd livestock all day in hot and dry weather.
These dogs are still used today in Australia as hard-working herding animals, and their independent nature, intelligence, and energy make them perfectly suited for the job. Of course, this can be challenging when they are placed in an urban environment, and they need a ton of exercise to stay happy and healthy and are happiest when given a job to do. Without this, they can swiftly become destructive and take out their frustration on your furniture!
15 – 20 inches
25 – 45 pounds
12 – 15 years
Black, tan, cream, blue, brown
Active families, farmers, active singles, and couples
Intelligent, agile, athletic, loyal, enthusiastic, independent
That said, they are intelligent dogs that are generally easy to train and thrive on the process. It’s a great idea to incorporate their training into a dog sport of some kind. They perform well in search-and-rescue work and as service dogs due to their decades of experience in the outback.
If you are looking for a high-energy, loyal, and athletic companion, the Australian Kelpie may be a perfect choice. Read on to find out more about this highly athletic breed.
Australian Kelpie Characteristics
Australian Kelpie Puppies
Australian Kelpies are not couch potatoes nor are content to relax on the sofa all day. These dogs need a ton of exercise. Before bringing home a Kelpie puppy, it’s important to know that you’ll need to devote at least 2-3 hours a day to exercising them. They make ideal pets on small farms or in homes with large backyards and other dogs to play with, but they are not suited to apartments at all.
An Australian Kelpie is a massive responsibility, arguably more so than many other dog breeds, because of their abundant energy. As long as they have a strong, confident owner and get plenty of mental and physical stimulation, they can make wonderful pets, but it will take a large investment of time to get there.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Australian Kelpie
The Australian Kelpie is the epitome of a working dog and can work in harsh, hot conditions for hours without direction or any sign of slowing down. For farm work, especially in harsh conditions, they are almost beyond compare, but as a companion animal in an urban environment, they can be a real challenge to properly care for. These dogs are certainly not for novice owners, but those with a great deal of experience and time should be able to train them relatively easily. They are happiest when given a job to do and can execute commands without much persuasion from their owners. Indeed, this is why they are so widely used in herding on massive expanses of land, as they can get on with their job without much direction from their owner.
This independent streak is ideal for farm work, but it also means that they will need a similar challenge to be properly stimulated in an urban environment, which can be challenging at the best of times. Despite this independent nature, they are loyal animals that do not enjoy being left alone for long periods and will quickly become destructive when they are. They love being close to their human family and form powerful bonds with their owners, so much so that they are not very trusting of strangers and can be territorial at times.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
Australian Kelpies can make great family dogs, provided that they get plenty of socialization and proper training early on. They are loyal pooches that get attached to their owners and make great watchdogs because they are wary of new faces. They are incredibly energetic, though, and easily excitable, and this can be an issue around very young kids, as they can easily knock them over in their excitement.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
Australian Kelpies have a long history of herding, so any smaller animals in your home (including kids!) may be seen as a flock to keep in order rather than friends. They are generally friendly dogs, though, and with proper socialization, they are rarely aggressive toward other members of their pack. They do have a reputation for chasing cats, so you’ll need to do proper introductions slowly and carefully.
Things to Know When Owning an Australian Kelpie
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Australian Kelpies are extremely active and energetic dogs that require a diet that can match their energy output. Animal-based protein is at the top of the list, and you need to make sure that the food you give them has this listed as the first ingredient. High-quality dry kibble is great, and around 2 cups a day split into two meals a day is perfect, but we highly recommend adding in lean meats occasionally too, as this will give them the extra energy boost that they need.
Surprisingly enough, even with their high energy, these dogs are prone to getting overweight, and most professionals recommend against feeding them treats or too many table scraps; stick to high-quality dog food. Foods with too many filler ingredients, like corn, wheat, and soy, may quickly lead to obesity.
Australian Kelpies need a ton of exercise to stay healthy and happy. These dogs are accustomed to spending hours out on farms running for miles a day, and this needs to be mimicked as closely as possible if they are not used for working. They’ll need at least 2 hours of intensive exercise a day, but the more, the better. They are intelligent dogs that need to be mentally stimulated too, so regular games like fetch or puzzle-solving will keep their powerful herding instincts in check.
With dogs that have as much energy as Kelpies, it can be exceedingly difficult to give them the required amount of exercise. You may need to employ uncommon techniques, like weight vests or even treadmills, to tire them out. It’s also a great idea to run or cycle with them — on a leash, of course — as this intensive exercise will help tire them, and they’ll love it!
With their independent nature, Australian Kelpies can be a handful for novice owners to train, but in general, they are intelligent dogs that enjoy the process. You’ll need to have a firm, confident hand in training one of these dogs, and consistency is key. They are boisterous, confidant animals but highly sensitive too. Harsh training methods will not go down well with Kelpies, and we highly recommend reward-based techniques to make training as smooth and successful as possible.
Early socialization is a key part of training that is often overlooked and essential to successfully training a Kelpie, and it should begin on the day that you bring them home. With their independent nature out in the field, doing what they need to without much need for directions, they are trustworthy animals and should be treated as such. Many Kelpie owners stress the importance of treating your Kelpie as an equal as opposed to an animal to direct, and this will further forge your bond and make training far easier.
With the right methods, they are obedient animals that are known for being loyal and staying close to their owners, and training is a great way to cement this bond. Indeed, good training with one of these dogs is essential, as their high energy can be a great deal to handle.
The grooming needs of Australian Kelpies are fairly low, as they have short, coarse coats that only need a light brushing once a week or so to remove any dead hair. With their active nature, they should wear down their nails on their own, but you’ll need to brush their teeth regularly to avoid dental problems and bad breath.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Australian Kelpies are healthy dogs in general, with few genetic disorders. But like all dogs, they are subject to several health issues, especially structural issues stemming from their active personality. This includes hip and elbow dysplasia and luxating patella, as well as eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy and Collie eye anomaly. Cerebellar abiotrophy is also a possibility, a neurological condition that affects movement.
Male vs. Female
The final decision to make when bringing home an Australian Kelpie is whether to get a male or a female. There are a few minor differences between the two, as males are slightly bigger and said to be more energetic than females, and females mature quickly and are thus easier to train. However, these are small differences, and both males and females are wonderful pets.
It’s important to note that upbringing and training have a far larger impact on temperament than sex, and spaying and neutering will further reduce any hormonal differences.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Australian Kelpie
1. They are one of Australia’s most popular breeds
Being born and bred in Australia, the Kelpie has long been one of the most popular breeds in their homeland. Kelpie crosses are also a highly popular breed, as they tend to be healthier and less energetic than purebred dogs. The country has much to thank the Kelpie for, as a large part of Australia’s economic success came from the livestock industry, particularly sheep, in which the Kelpie had a large part to play.
2. They have Scottish heritage
The word “kelpie” is Gaelic for “water spirit,” a shape-shifting spirit that inhabits the lakes of Scotland, according to their folklore. Kelpies originated from Collie-type dogs that were imported into Australia from Scotland, and many breeders surmise that these dogs were then crossed with native Dingoes to create the Kelpie.
3. They are incredibly versatile
Australian Kelpies are expert herders, and they are most used and known for working with livestock, though they are capable of much more than that. Kelpies are incredibly versatile animals that have been widely used as search-and-rescue animals, in drug detection, and as service dogs and therapy dogs. Their high intelligence and enthusiasm make them adept at almost anything that they are tasked with.
The Australian Kelpie is a true working dog with almost endless amounts of stamina and energy. They are highly intelligent animals and as loyal as they come. Having been developed as working dogs, they do best when given a job to do. This working history makes them a great companion on a farm, but raising one of these dogs in an urban environment can be a real challenge, especially for novice owners. They need a ton of exercise, and without putting them to work, it can be difficult to meet these requirements.
They are affectionate and friendly dogs that get attached to their owners, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated and loyal companion. If you are looking for a working dog on a farm or you need an energetic exercise companion, the Australian Kelpie may just be the perfect choice.
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Featured Image Credit: K.A.Willis, Shutterstock