A Loyal Sheepdog: Australian Kelpie

Pet Type


May 6, 2020

There are many, many different reasons why people choose to adopt a specific dog breed. Some people adore the way particular breeds look, especially designer breeds of dogs. Other people adopt dogs for their personalities and attitudes.

After all, it is important to make sure that you and your dog are going to get along well for the next decade or two. While it is not nearly as commonplace as it once was, many people out there still adopt dogs based on their capability to get work done. One common example of this is the police dogs that roam the streets.

However, many people who work on farmland realize that dogs, especially dogs that were bred to have natural herding talents, can make life much easier. Because of this, there are many, many different dogs that specialize in herding farm animals. One such dog includes the Australian Kelpie.

While you might read the name of “Kelpie” and think of the mythical creature, these dogs are just as memorable as legends that share their name. These dogs have a personality that makes them an excellent choice as both a herding dog on the farm and a family companion inside the house. These dogs might not get along too well with other pets, especially smaller animals. They are also not entirely suitable for apartment living. However, if you can provide enough space for your new dog to run around in, you can rest assured knowing that the Kelpie will be a loyal companion. 

Where Did the Australian Kelpie Come From?

As you might be able to imagine, the Australian Kelpie originates in Australia. Originally, black collies were the dog of choice to help herding animals on the various farms across the country. It was especially important that the herding dog of choice was capable of driving off some of Australia’s iconic wildlife, including dingoes.

To turn Britain’s black collie into something that could withstand Australia’s harsh climate, they were bred with a number of different breeds to create a dog that could handle the temperatures, handle the wildlife, and still remain a friendly and loyal dog after a long day on the farm. In about 1872, the first dog of this kind was given the name Kelpie. Mythology-lovers might recognize this name as the same name as a shape-shifting Celtic water spirit, and the person who named the dog was inspired by this mythological creature.

As Kelpies became one of the staple herding dogs across Australia, the country began exporting them out to other places around the world, as they are very capable working dogs. Typically, you will find these dogs working in areas such as detection, therapy, service, and sports, among its original task of herding animals on the farm. There are still plenty of people who choose to keep these dogs as family dogs, but do keep in mind that they require a notable amount of training, exercise, and mental stimulation to stay well-behaved.

What Does the Kelpie Look Like?

With its undying reserve of energy, the lean, athletic appearance of the Kelpie makes a lot of sense. These are fairly medium-sized dogs that were bred to work on the farm day-in and day-out. This means that they need to have the energy to keep up with this kind of work, alongside the instincts and focus. These dogs share a lot of traits with their collie ancestors, although their coats have been heavily adapted to fit the Australian climate. These dogs have powerful legs and a tough neck. Their snouts are long and their ears are usually large and triangular. They tend to have relatively short tails. They stand at about 17 to 20 inches in height.

Their coats tend to be short and coarse, able to withstand the heat of Australian summers without the Kelpie overheating itself. However, the coat provides enough protection from the elements to keep sand, stone, and grit out of the fur while it is working. Additionally, the cold nights also do not bother these dogs that much, given how short their coats are. These dogs are often single-color dogs, typically ranging between brown and black in color. Some dogs may have markings around the head, neck, stomach, and legs.

How Does the Kelpie Behave?

As a working dog, the Kelpie thrives off of having a job or task to complete. It will work diligently on its task, putting its boundless energy and focus into making sure the task or job at hand is completed exactly as the dog was trained how to do it. These tasks can be as simple as obedience training tasks or running an agility course perfectly.

More commonly, these tasks often involve herding animals on the farm or pacing the land to make sure that there are no predators roaming around. When the dog has a task to do, it might come across as cold and aloof at first, as the dog will be focusing on its task. However, once the job is done, these dogs will warm up to the people that they trust, allowing for pets and cuddles if it feels up to it.

As a home dog, these dogs are high-maintenance energy-wise. They have a lot of energy that needs to be used up somehow. Once you make sure that this need has been fulfilled, you will have a loving, outgoing, and docile family friend. These dogs are naturally a cautious breed, meaning that it could take a little bit of time for the dog to open up to you or anyone else in the family. With that being said, once your dog gets to know you, it will require a fair bit of socialization to make sure that its needs are met and that the dog stays happy, which is something that many dog owners are willing to provide.

When all is said and done, these dogs take a lot of work as house pets, but it is well worth it in the end to have a dog that is calm yet loving.

What Kind of Care Does the Kelpie Need?

With its neat, short, and straight coat of fur, these dogs are very easy to care for when it comes to grooming. Generally, you can stick to brushing your dog’s fur once a week to make sure that dead fur and anything else in the dog’s coat is removed.

As a primarily outdoor dog, you may have to acclimate your Kelpie to baths from a young age, as there’s a good chance your dog will come home with a fair bit of dust in its coat. These dogs do have a tendency to shed seasonally, which means that you will have to brush your dog quite a bit more during these times. Aside from that, you won’t need anything special to handle the Kelpie’s coat.

Energy-wise, it is crucial that you keep these dogs doing something. They have a considerable amount of energy that they need to expend, and if you do not do this, then they will unleash that energy on the furniture in your home. Keeping the dog busy with jobs, whether it is being a watchdog, copious walks and mentally stimulating toys and games, or running agility courses, is an important part of caring for a Kelpie. If your dog is already working as a herding dog on a farm, then you won’t have to do much else in terms of exercise.

How Is the Kelpie’s Health?

As with all purebred dogs, there will always be some degree of risk that comes with health. All purebred dogs are at an increased risk for developing hereditary conditions. A reliable breeder should be willing to discuss this history and possibility with you when you are looking to adopt a puppy.

Generally, the Kelpie is a healthy breed. It is prone to inheriting a few conditions, mainly surrounding the eyes. These conditions include the collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, and cerebellar abiotrophy. Cerebellar abiotrophy is a progressive neurological condition that affects your dog’s movement. These dogs have an average life expectancy of 10 to 13 years.