Australian Kelpie: The Ultimate Breed Guide 2020
The Australian Kelpie can easily be identified by their compact, muscular frames, and their multi-colored coats. Their coats are short and coarse (quite opposite to the Retriever’s coats), their coats are weather-resistant as they had to face all weather conditions when out working in the fields. Their coats come in black, black and tan, chocolate, and a blue and fawn variation. The Kelpie has long, and arrowheads, with a rounded skull shape to go with their pointed ears, and their brown rounded eyes.
The Kelpies have an alert and durable presence about them, with their strong necks, deep chests that have adapted to hold more air than your normal dog breed, this is to help with running for long distances and contributes to the breed's amazing stamina.
The Australian Kelpie was bred as a working dog, normally to work herding sheep, they are very intelligent, energetic and most importantly they are eager to be given a task. They need to be consistently engaged.
The Australian Kelpie was bred to work hard, they are known to have boundless energy and as such, they are not suited for apartment living, they need space to run and work. A bored Kelpie can become a destructive Kelpie, taking out their frustration on many shoes, socks, and the odd couch. This is why the Kelpie has a low score of 2/5 stars for apartment living.
The Kelpies are a very smart breed of dog, they are loyal but typically to one person of the house. They are fairly easy to train but have a need to feel stimulated and it can be a challenge to keep them occupied. It’s for this reason that the Australian Kelpie is not suited for the first time or novice owners and has a rating of 2/5 stars.
The Kelpie, when they choose their partner, are very loyal to that person and do not enjoy being alone for too long, unless they have work to do. They thrive in a small pack but be careful with smaller animals like small dogs, or cats, the Kelpie was used in hunting, and because of this, they do have a high prey drive. Their prey drive has a high score of 4/5 stars, which leads to their score of 3/5 stars for being dog friendly. Larger dogs or those around the same size are ideal, the Kelpies have a low score of 2/5 stars, the best situation would be to take you Kelpie to work if possible.
The Australian Kelpie is used to being outside in all weather conditions, their coats may be short but it has adapted to become weather resistant, keeping them dry in the rain, warm when it's cold, and cool in higher temperatures. As their name suggested they are best suited for hot weather with a score of 5/5 stars, and they are able to work in the cold. In extreme winters they may need a warm fuzzy blanket as they score 3/5 stars when it comes to their cold tolerance.
The Australian Kelpie’s breed standards describe them as energetic, alert, and eager, with a mild and tractable disposition; they are widely known for their loyalty and devotion to their work. The Kelpies are considered the workaholics of the dog world, they love working and strive to do it well, no matter the job. Keep in mind that the Kelpies were bred as a herding dog and has often had to work alone in the past, this has led them to be able to not only work alone but think for themselves as well, this means that in the Kelpie’s eyes you are a partner and not the boss. This is also something to remember while training as well as it will make a big difference. This doesn’t mean that they will only respond to one person, they are affectionate with all members of the family, they just tend to stick with one person, the Kelpies have a score of 4/5 stars when it comes to family affection.
The Australian Kelpie’s herding experience has some downfall to it as well, when out in the field they have to be alert to any changes so to protect their flock better, this carries over into their everyday lives. They are wary of new people, new surroundings and even new objects in their already familiar surroundings, this does make them good guard dogs but early, frequent socializing is key to making sure that your Kelpie isn’t overly wary or suspicious of new people or new surroundings. The Kelpies' suspiciousness has earned them a low score of 2/5 stars when being friendly with strangers and children.
The Australian Kelpie is generally a low maintenance breed to care for, they have a low 1/5 star rating for drooling and their short coarse coats don’t shed that much. A weekly groom will keep any shedding to a minimum, the only time you’ll really notice their hairs around the house is during spring, when they’re losing their winter coats, during this time a brush twice a week will help keep the loose hairs off your couch. The Kelpies have earned 3/5 stars for shedding.
Australian Kelpies often work outside and this outside activity helps to keep their nails naturally short. Their nails should never be long enough for you to hear them clicking on the floor, to help avoid this a monthly nail trim is advised. The Kelpie’s do need to bathe regularly, but it’s a good idea do bathe them once every month or two, this is help with parasites, ticks, and fleas, and it gives you the opportunity to give your Kelpie a thorough inspection and make sure they have no lumps, bumps, sores or infections. Overall the Kelpie has earned 4/5 stars for being easy to groom.
The Australian Kelpie is used to burning tons of energy and as a result, they need food that can provide high amounts of energy to replace what was used. The Kelpie enjoys some variety in their food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, but these should only make up 10% of their daily intake, a fresh carrot or apple also helps to keep their teeth strong and clean. If possible, try and stick to the below-listed portions. Though your Kelpie can probably eat a lot more, constantly overfeeding the dog will easily result in obesity--and a fat Kelpie might have joint, breathing, and digestive issues
The best dog food for an Australian Kelpie is premium dry kibble. This high-quality food, while more expensive and difficult to obtain, contains essential nutrients these energetic dogs need to maintain their health and activity levels. Some of the top recommended brands are Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain-Free Dry Dog Food by Nature’s Variety, where it has a much higher protein content than average dog foods. Another top brand would be Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food, where it has high levels of protein mostly made up of chicken and eggs.
The Kelpie’s are a very smart breed of dog, so much so that they are able to develop adult dog instincts while still in their juvenile age. They start their training from the moment you bring them home, whether you notice it or not, they train through observing. When trying to teach them something new, it helps to show them what you are asking, by giving them a demo if possible, this can be done two ways, one you can have a senior dog who already knows the tricks show your kelpie pup what is being asked of them.
Kelpie puppies use their mouths to inspect their surroundings, normally through chewing or mouthing, it may seem cute but it should be taught early on that mouthing or chewing on people is not okay. Having an option of chew toys can help your Kelpie during training, teaching your Kelpie puppy to play with their toys opens the door for them to safely express their behaviors, some puppies will take to trying to herd their chew toys.
It’s important to remember what Kelpies were originally bred for, they are used to having to not only herd sheep and cattle but protect them from outside dangers as well, this has given them a high prey drive and as a result, it’s advised that the Kelpie breed is not raised with smaller animals. Their history has led the Kelpie to be suspicious of strangers, that is why it is important to socialize and desensitize your Kelpie from a puppy. Puppy schools and dog parks will be a great help to your Kelpie puppy, expose them to many different people and animals, this will help them not be so wary as they mature and it will prevent them from nipping at strangers, whether their adults or kids.
Despite all the Kelpie’s quirks, they are easy to train, below we have listed some tips and tricks to help ease you and your Kelpie puppy into training:
Due to the Kelpie’s intelligence, they see you as a partner and during training, you must keep this in mind, they will be eager to make you happy and try to do everything you ask of them. In this regard, the Kelpie is sensitive and responds best with a gentler hand, keeps your tone of voice soft but firm, and have plenty of treats ready to praise them with once they successfully completed a task before them.
Just like with people, practice makes perfect. Make training part of everyday life and you will see how quickly your Kelpie puppy becomes a master at the simpler tasks in no time. Spend some time every day with your Kelpie puppy, this will not only help with their training but it will also bring you two closer and strengthen your bond.
It is important for your Kelpie puppy to know the difference between right and wrong, when disciplining your Kelpie it helps to use a stern voice and a firm “no”. If possible try to not punish them beyond that, because of their sensitivity, your Kelpie puppy has a high chance of losing trust in not only themselves but you as a partner.
Overall the Kelpie has a score of 5/5 stars for their trainability.
There are two types of Australian Kelpies, you have the Working Kelpie variety and the Show Kelpies. In the beginning, there weren’t many differences between the two but over the years, and due to selective breeding, these two varieties of Kelpie have become distinctive.
Let’s take a closer look:
Those who breed the Working Kelpies do so with trying to enhance their herding ability, to make them better suited for their work because they are focused on their work abilities, these breeders don’t pay too much attention to their coat colors. As a result, the Working Kelpies can be found in many different color patterns, such as chocolate, fawn, tan, smokey blue, red, and sometimes white, though you’ll most likely find a mixed combination of three.
They typically have inexhaustible energy and stamina that is able to carry them for over 50 km a day if they were allowed to run free. The herding ability of the Working Kelpie is unmatched and their problem-solving ability gives them a unique advantage to carry out their work efficiently. The Working Kelpie is extremely agile, more so than their Show counterparts, often showing this by jumping on the backs of sheep or cattle to quickly reach the other side of the herd.
Those who breed the Show Kelpies have different standards to those who breed the working Kelpies in such that these breeders are focused more on the look of the Kelpies breed and as such the kelpies are limited to particular colors and the breeders have a preference to solid colors over a mix of colors in their coats. According to the breeders, the Show Kelpie must be solid in color. They come in black, red, chocolate, fawn, tan and smoky blue. They must have a short double coat and their ears must be pricked.
The Show Kelpies are very intelligent, like their Working cousins, but they aren’t as agile. Do not be fooled however, they are still more agile than most breeds and will show this in an obstacle course during the shows. The Show Kelpie usually has very little or no skill in herding. However, Australia has added Herding as a category in their dog shows. Competitive Herding is a dog sport where herding dogs move animals around a field, fences, gates, or into enclosures with guidance from their human partner. These shows are normally taken place on hill farming areas, where sheep range widely on largely unfenced land and has become quite popular in many farming nations, including Australia.
Rangers needed a tough breed of dog that were accustomed to the harsh working conditions and long days on the farm. Although many had thought that the Kelpie was partly descended from dingoes, recent studies have proven this to be false, the Kelpie has more history than that. The ancestors of Kelpies can be traced back to Collies that were bred in England in the 1800s, and these collies were mostly black or dark brown in color. These Collies were shipped to Australia to work on the farms as herders.
The first known Kelpie was a black female pup with floppy ears owned by Jack Gleeson in 1872. She was given the name Kelpie after the shapeshifting mythological water spirit, later on, she was known as Gleeson’s Kelpie to differentiate her from her pup, King’s Kelpie. It was Kelpie’s grandpups, King’s Kelpies litter that brought the breed into the spotlight by winning awards in Herding Shows.
An earlier Kelpie had a pup named Barb. He had a coal-black coat, which became important as he was named after the horse, The Barb who had won the Melbourne cup in 1866. Consequently, black Kelpies became known as Barb Kelpies or Barbs.
It was only recently, in 2014, that the American Kennel Club or the AKC added the breed as the Working Kelpie to its Stock Foundation Service
Kelpie crosses are not very common and are often unpredictable, but when they are seen the Kelpie is normally paired with other working dogs. The most popular Kelpie crosses are the Australian Kelpherd and the Collpie.
The Australian Kelpherd is a result of breeding and Australian Kelpie and a German Shepherd, they have a wide powerful chest and a straight, saber-like tail. Their head resembles that of the Shepherd and their ears are big and pointed at the tips. The Kelpheard’s coat is short and dense, with a developed undercoat that is weather resistant. The coat colors vary from black and grey to black, and their most color pattern is the combination of black and tan, closely resembling both their parents. They make loyal family companions, but like their Kelpie parent, if not taught to socialize from a young age, the adult Kelpherd will be wary of new people and new animals.
Collpie is the pup of an Australian Kelpie and a Border Collie, and like both its parents, the Collpie has a strong herding instinct. This means that they are going to prefer large open spaces where they can run and use up their energy. In terms of looks, the Collpie is quite varied, they do, however, often closely resemble one of their parents, the mix being 70/30 in terms of traits and appearance. Like both parents, this dog has boundless energy with no “off” button, they are strong, and athletic and are ideal for families who are outdoors a lot.
Collpie takes after the Collie when it comes to friendliness, they are fun-loving and very affectionate with everyone they meet, this would mean that they would have to watch children around them at first. The Collpie is not an aggressive breed, but they may be too rough in play until they learn better.
If the Kelpie is taught to socialize from a young age, with other animals and people, they will learn to overcome their wariness of the unknown. The Kelpie is best suited to a family that matches their energy levels and with lots of space to run! When raised in a family home, Kelpies are known to be loyal and devoted to their family, as well as being loving and affectionate.
The Kelpie isn’t an aggressive breed but they won’t hesitate to protect family members, animals, or property, often without regard for their own safety. They are master escape artists (going over and under fences) and you must stay one step ahead of this brilliant breed.
Kelpies are known to be naturally gentle and live well with other pets and children, keep in mind that they have a high prey drive and must be taught from a young age how to socialize properly with others, both human and animal alike. If brought up in the family unit, your Kelpie will be a loving part of the family. As long as Kelpies have enough space to run and use up their energy, you will have a very happy, loving dog on your hands, they are best suited for those very active families who enjoy the outdoors.
Without physical and mental stimulation, Australian Kelpies become bored and hyperactive and will drive you crazy with obsessive, destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their energy
The Australian Kelpies are generally a healthy, hardy breed of dog, but they are still prone to diseases and disorders such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cerebellar Abiotrophy, Cryptorchidism, Luxating Patella, and Cutaneous Asthenia. Each of these is treble and your Kelpie will be able to live a happy life with some assistance when needed.
Their average lifespan is between 10 - 12 years, though because they are such an active breed they are also prone to physical injuries when out on the job. This may weaken them in their golden years.
This is where the retina, the tissue lining the back of the eye that is responsible for vision, begins to degenerate. The process begins in affected dogs in middle age, and may first be noticed as night blindness, and could eventually lead to complete blindness in the Kelpie. Sadly, there is no medical cure or a way to slow the progression of retinal atrophy. Although they may be blind, these Kelpies are still capable of living normal, happy lifestyles.
Cerebellar abiotrophy is a progressive neurological disease that affects movement. It has no treatment, but researchers are seeking a genetic marker for the disease. Affected dogs seem normal at birth but soon the symptoms would be visible. You would notice poor coordination, bad balance, and a high-stepping gait. Unfortunately, there is no treatment yet for this disease.
Cryptorchidism is the state of having only one testicle. In some instances, a testicle is retained inside the body. If surgically removed it will be harmless to the Kelpie, however, if it’s not removed the dog will be susceptible to testicular torsion, also known as the "testis", and cancer would be a higher risk.
Luxating patella is a condition in which one or both knees are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. The symptoms include severe lameness, chronic pain, and inflammation of the knee. In mild to severe cases, corrective surgery is recommended; this surgery allows the Kelpie to live a normal, healthy life.
Cutaneous asthenia is an inherited connective tissue disease. Clinical signs are caused by abnormal collagen formation and include loose, fragile, and easily torn skin. Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for this disease other than trying to teach your Kelpie to avoid injuries.
The Kelpies coat is short and dense, they have a double coat, with a thick undercoat to help protect them against the elements. Their coats are adapted to withstand long periods of time outside in all weather conditions and have become somewhat weather-resistant. Unless your Kelpie is a working dog, with lots of contact with sheep and other cattle, they only need a bath twice a year, however, if they are working then depending on how dirty they are when coming home they may need a bath then or once a week. When the Kelpie is out working you don't have to brush it as often, they will lose the extra hair naturally while running around, if your Kelpie isn’t working then a weekly brush to help keep the shedding under control is recommended.
If you Kelpie is active, their nails should be worn down naturally, however, it’s still a good idea to check them every few weeks and make sure that they’re wearing properly and trim them down if needed. For those working Kelpies, it’s a good idea to check their ears after every workday, make sure that there aren't any visible ticks, infections, or parasites.