Australian Kelpie: The Ultimate Guide 


Work isn’t just a four-letter word to the Australian Kelpie, it was the one thing that he was bred to do and it’s the one thing that he enjoys doing the most.

The Kelpie’s relentless enthusiasm and energy make this whirlwind who doesn’t know how to slow down or stop the perfect companion for anyone who believes in making the most out of every single second and that life is meant to be seized by the lapels and lived to its fullest. 

Australian Kelpie

That doesn’t mean that the Kelpie isn’t a great family dog, it is as long as you can keep up with it. And if you can manage to keep up with the Kelpie, it’ll become a loyal and affectionate four-legged friend that’ll never let you down.

The thunder from down under might seem like he’ll never take his foot off the gas pedal, but when he does he’ll happily find a place on the family couch and settle down for belly rubs and all the back scratches that you give him. 

Even though they’re relatively common in Australia, the Kelpie is something of a rarity in the United States, and as they’ve only been added to the AKC’s (American Kennel Club) Foundation Stock Service in the last decade, trying to find out everything that you’ll need to know about the Kelpie as a prospective owner can be almost as difficult as trying to keep up with them.

That’s why we’ve stepped into the breach and put together this go-to guide to the Australian Kelpie, to help you to figure out if this easy-going whirling Aussie dervish is the right dog for you. 

Key Facts Of The Australian Kelpie

But before we, and you, jump feet first into the all-encompassing and inviting world of the Kelpie, there are some basic facts and figures that you’ll need to think about and consider prior to trying to find one to call your own.

We know how incredible these dogs are, and how easily they can and will steal your heart, and how easy it is to get swept up in the moment without thinking about the bigger, and longer, Kelpie picture, that’s why you need to pause for a moment and think about what owning one really involves. 

Kelpies are a lifelong commitment, and you’ll need to be aware of how much time you’ll need to invest in exercising and caring for one, and ultimately how much a Kelpie will end up costing you.

Even though we’re sure that it’s just another formality on your road to Kelpie ownership, and that you’ll end up ticking every box, we thought we would list the fundamental Kelpie facts you’ll need to know before you go looking for your new best pal.

Average Lifespan

They may zip through each and every day at almost one hundred miles per hour, but as they get older, just like we all do, the Kelpie will eventually begin to slow down. That said, he won’t actually slow down until he’s well into double figures,  so you can realistically expect to be chasing a Kelpie around for somewhere in the region of eleven to fourteen years. 

Minimum Exercise (per day)

And in order to make sure that he uses up all of his natural energy, you’ll need to exercise a Kelpie for at least two hours a day. Preferably one hour in the morning and one in the evening. 

Coat Length

The Kelpie is a double-coated, short-haired dog. He was bred to work in the heat of the Australian outback which is why his coat is short. 

Minimum Cost Per Month

They’re not expensive dogs to look after or care for, and even when you’ve allowed for the cost of pet insurance (which is a must-have to help ward off any unexpected Kelpie related emergency room bills) and the right dog food to make sure that you boy stays happy, healthy and active, a Kelpie should cost a minimum of ninety to one hundred dollars per month.

Appearance

The Kelpie has the build and poise of a Border Collie and the ears and shape of a German Shepherd (which is a little odd, as the Shepherd doesn’t feature in their genetic make-up).

They tend to be either red, cream, brown, or black (or a combination of all four colors) and their coats can either be rough or smooth, with the former usually being a little longer than the latter. 

Size

The ANKC (Australian Kennel Club) classifies the Kelpie, both working and show dogs, as a medium breed. 

Average Height

Kelpies, both male and female, are usually between thirty-nine and fifty-one (fifteen to twenty inches) centimeters tall at the shoulder 

Average Weight

And male and female dogs tend to weigh between twelve and twenty (thirty to forty-five pounds) kilograms. 

Temperament

Kelpies are smart, bright, and energetic dogs who are devoted and loyal to their families and owners and are always eager to please their human companions

Apartment Living

They’re high-energy working dogs who need a lot of space and a large yard or garden to run around and play in. Kelpies and apartments don’t mix, and if you don’t have the room that a Kelpie needs to charge around, and meet every day head-on, then they’re probably not the right dog for you. 

Good For Novice Owners

Kelpies need a lot of exercise, so if you love the great outdoors, and you’re looking for a companion to share your adventures with, then regardless of whether or not you’ve owned a dog before, a Kelpie can make a great pet. They’re easy to train and eager to learn, and as long as you want to run, jog and walk as much as they do, the Kelpie could be the perfect dog for you and your family. 

Sensitivity Level

Like all intelligent dogs, the Kelpie’s can-do attitude often masks an incredibly sensitive personality. They don’t respond well to negative chastisement or punishment and need to be trained and taught how to behave in public and around people and dogs with positive reinforcement and a treat or reward-based program. 

Tolerates Being Alone

They’re pack animals and they like to be around and spend time with their families and they can be prone to separation anxiety. If they’re left alone for too long, they can become vocal (meaning that they’ll bark a lot) and their fear that you might not come back combined with boredom, can make them behave in a destructive and disruptive fashion. In other words, if you leave them alone for too long, they’ll chew anything and everything that they can lay their teeth on. 

Tolerates Cold Weather

For a dog that was bred to work in the Australian outback, the Kelpie has a surprisingly thick coat. They can handle the cold as long as it doesn’t get too cold, but if temperatures regularly dip below freezing, they might need to wear a coat if they’re going to venture out into and enjoy a Wintery wonderland. 

Tolerates Hot Weather

 The breed was born to work all day in one of the hottest places on Earth, the Australian Outback, which means that a Kelpie can cope a lot better in the heat than you can. 

Affectionate With Family

Kelpies are loyal and affectionate with all of the members of their family, and while they’re not traditionally “cuddly” will curl up to sleep next to the members of their human “pack” and enjoy being fussed and petted. They will, more often than not, choose a favorite person and have a reputation for being a “one-man dog”. 

Kid-Friendly

Because they’re loyal, affectionate dogs with a calm nature, Kelpies are great with children. They’ll happily play with, and keep the youngest members of their pack safe, but in order to make sure that they don’t become too exuberant with them you’ll need to ensure that your Kelpie gets its daily dose of exercise. 

Dog Friendly

As long as they’re socialized from an early age, they’ll be absolutely fine with other dogs and can, and often do live happily with cats.  Even though Kelpies can be independent dogs, their even temperament and easy-going nature mean that they don’t often exhibit aggression toward other dogs, even if they’re not properly socialized. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Kelpies tend to be friendly toward everyone, and the only time they ever usually display any aggression toward people they don’t know is if they think that they’re going to hurt the people that they do know.

If they’re introduced to strangers properly and said strangers don’t pose any threat to their families, Kelpies are more likely to lick them to death than growl at them. 

Health & Grooming

Australian Kelpie

They breed them tough in the Outback and the Kelpie is a hardy, robust dog that doesn’t fall prey to any day-to-day ailments. They are susceptible to a number of breed-specific genetic conditions, but before we talk about them, and explain what they are, we’re going to spend a little time talking about some of the more commonplace things that you’ll need to think about, like much a Kelpie sheds, how much grooming it needs and how likely it is to leave trails of drool in the corridors and rooms of your home. 

Shedding

The bad news is, as they’re double-coated dogs, Kelpies do shed heavily so you’ll need to break out the broom or the vacuum cleaner at least once a day if you want to keep your home fur free.

Grooming

The good news is, as long as you thoroughly brush a Kelpie once or twice a week, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of excess dog fur that ends up on the floors and furniture of your home. 

Drooling 

And, apart from the odd lapse while they’re waiting for their dinner bowl to hit the floor, Kelpies aren’t droolers. So you won’t end up wading through any unwanted and unexpected puddles of dog drool if you share your home with one. 

General Health

They’re generally healthy, robust, strong dogs, so you won’t have to worry about any day-to-day health problems, as the breed isn’t plagued, or bothered by them. 

Common Health Problems

Most of the genetic conditions that Kelpies are susceptible to are due to their biological ancestry, and the fact that the breed is closely related to the Collie.

That means that like Collies, Kelpies can suffer from hip dysplasia (in which the ball joint of the hip is malformed, which makes movement painful for s dog and can also lead to them developing arthritis) and Collie Eye Anomaly, which can lead to premature blindness. However, just because your Kelpie might fall victim to either of these conditions, it doesn’t mean they WILL develop them. 

Potential For Weight Gain

Because of their jaw-dropping energy levels, Kelpies don’t tend to become obese. That doesn’t mean that they can’t, as they enjoy their food as much as other dogs do, but top does mean that they’re less likely to gain too much weight. If your dog does start to look like they’re piling on a few too many pounds though, it’s wise to intervene quickly and either carefully begin to monitor their diet or change it (if you possibly can) for a healthier one. 

Trainability Of The Australian Kelpie

Every dog benefits from being trained and socialized from an early age, and the Kelpie isn’t any different. A well-trained Kelpie is a happy Kelpie, and the happier your dog is, the healthier he’ll be. 

Easy To Train

Kelpies have an innate desire to please, and as such are eager to learn and easy to train. They can be notoriously independent though, but with a thorough and well thought out training program that uses positive reinforcement and reward-based methodology, Kelpies should master the basics in next to no time and will display a willingness to learn as much as you want to, and can, teach him. 

Intelligence

They’re incredibly bright dogs and are among the most intelligent members of the canine kingdom. They learn quickly and can and will easily adapt to all sorts of new situations. 

Potential To Bite

While they have a tendency to be “mouthy” as puppies, as long as Kelpies are properly socialized while they’re young, and taught not to use their teeth while playing with, and greeting strangers,  they are unlikely to ever bite anyone. 

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

They do like to “talk” though and will bark at anything unexpected, so you’ll need to be prepared for the fact that the Kelpie is a very vocal dog and might sour your relationships with your neighbors, especially if they’re used to living on a quiet street. 

History

The Kelpie is an offshoot of the Collie which was originally brought to Australia in the late eighteenth century to herd sheep and cattle, The Collie was bred with other dogs in order to make it a more effective working dog in the heat and dust of the Australian Outback, and the Kelpie was the eventual result. The first dog that was officially known as Kelpie was born in 1872, and the breed took its name from the name that the dog’s owner, Jack Gleeson gave it, which is a Gaelic word that means ‘Water Spirit’

While the Kelpie is officially recognized as a breed by the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), and is able to enter competitions, it isn’t officially recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club), but is part of its Foundation Stock Service. When Kelpies were first introduced, and exported to America and Argentina they were used for the same purposes as they had been in Australia, as working dogs who were particularly adept at herding sheep, cattle, and goats. 

Costs

Even though they’re only part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, the organization does recognize a list of breeders, and depending on the breeder and the bloodline of the parent dogs, a Kelpie puppy can cost anywhere between twelve hundred and sixteen hundred dollars. There is, however, a much easier, more humane, and affordable way to give a Kelpie a home, and that’s by adopting one. 

While they don’t usually end up in your local shelter, there are dedicated rescues for Australian Kelpies who are just a phone call or an email away. You could always get in touch with them, as your new best friend could be waiting for you to take them home. And as we always say, it won’t just be the dog that you rescue who will be eternally grateful to you, your bank balance will be too as it’s always far more affordable to adopt a dog than it is to shop for one. 

Fun Facts Of The Australian Kelpie

Despite the fact that it was widely believed that Kelpies were descended from wild dingos after their DNA was thoroughly tested, that particular myth was dispelled once and for all as it had no common markers with the native Australian canine.

They were bred from Collie stock, and the dogs that Kelpies still most commonly resemble are Collies.  

In two thousand and seventeen, an Australian Kelpie called Abbie Girl won the World Dog Surfing Championship in California. Which is rather apt and fitting as the breed’s name comes from the Gaelic word for “Water Spirit”. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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