Boasting an athletic build and vibrant personality, the Australian Kelpie breed are a quintessential working dog breed. Members of the breed will thrive when working in tandem with dog owners who possess natural leadership qualities and flourish particularly when put to work herding. If we had to describe their temperament, we’d say this breed are teacher’s pets, in comparison to Labrador Retrievers who are class clowns by nature!
If your idea of a perfect day off is relaxing on the sofa with a book in hand, an Australian Kelpie isn’t for you. These dogs are suited towards individuals who enjoy nothing more than being out in the wilderness and hiking to their heart’s content. If the latter description sounds exactly how friends and family describe you, we encourage you to read on below to discover more about this fantastic breed.
History of the Australian Kelpie
Australian Kelpies came to originate in the 19th century largely due to farmers. Tired of incompetent convicts (as it was in those days) aimlessly herding their flocks of sheep and cattle, these workers longed for dogs capable of carrying out such work. Sheep numbers had increased to such an extent that wire fences had to be put up and sheep were running free. Australian farmers’ hankerings for a capable working dog only grew when rumors reached Australia about Collies from the British Isles and their impressive herding skills. Accordingly, Collie type dogs were imported to Australia from Scotland. The first Australian Kelpie belonged to Jack Gleeson in 1872 from Scottish man George Robertson.
However, those who know Scotland well know its “dreich” weather entirely contrasts the scorching summers of Australia. In order to combat this, the imported Scottish Collies were bred to survive living in these hot, dusty climates. Rumor had it that Australian Kelpies were at some point bred with dingoes – Australian wild dogs that roam free around the continent. Certainly, this would explain how Scottish Collies transformed from dogs used to the wet, wind, and rain into dogs capable of surviving harsh weather conditions. However, this theory was recently disputed in 2019 by researchers at the University of Sydney, who found no detectable DNA belonging to the dingo in the Australian Kelpie breed. As the history of the Australian Kelpie is shrouded in mystery, we guess we’ll never know which other dog breed Collies mated with the produce the emblematic Kelpie breed.
Nowadays, Australian Kelpies are all the range – in fact, there are estimated to be around 100,000 Kelpies working in Australia presently. The breed has also spread to other corners of the world, from Canada to New Zealand. They’ve also made quite a name for themselves in Sweden where the breed is famous for their prowess at rescue work.
Quick Facts about the Australian Kelpie
They thrive as working dogs: In human terms, these canines certainly aren’t the types to slog through the uninspiring 9-5 job, only fueled by the thought that they’ll be able to kick back and relax after work. Quite the opposite; a stereotypical Australian Kelpie is comparable to go-getters that only use their home as a place to sleep and spend their lives at the office. Members of this breed will be unable to cope with a life lounging in front of the television and must be kept mentally stimulated. If you fail to provide your Kelpie with something to do, you’ll find that your pup will take on a volunteer role with an objective to completely trash your home.
The term “Kelpie” is testament to the breed’s Scottish roots: In the folklore from the Scottish Lowlands, kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits that lurk in the lochs. We can’t say that the typical personality of an Australian Kelpie matches the enigmatic nature of these spirits. Quite the opposite; a typical Australian Kelpie doesn’t luck but rather, always makes their presence known.
All-black Australian Kelpies are endearingly referred to as Barbs: Traditionally, the noun barb can be defined as an unkind remark deployed as a criticism, or a sharp curved point at the end of a fishhook. In this instance, however, Barbs are all-black Australian Kelpies. This name stuck as one of the first Kelpies, Sally, mated with Moss to produce an entirely black Kelpie pup named Barb who was the first all-black Australian Kelpie to exist. This jet-black ball of fluff was named after “The Barb” – an Australian bred black racehorse who had secured victory in the Melbourne Cup of 1866.
Australian Kelpies are fierce surfers: Not only do Australian Kelpies thrive on farmland, on their days off they too enjoy catching some surf. And some Kelpies have even got pretty good at surfing, too. In 2017, an Australian Kelpie named Abbie Girl surfed her way to victory in the World Dog Surfing Championships in California for the second year in a row. Abbie Girl’s surfing prowess was likewise rewarded all the way back in 2011 after she successfully surfed a 107.2 meter long wave down at California’s Ocean Beach!
There are two separate Kelpie registries: If you’re wondering why it’s necessary for Kelpies to have two different registries, it’s as there exists two different variations of Kelpie. On one hand, the working Kelpies are by far the most popular. On the other hand, we have the Show Kelpie – the attractive double coated variant who partakes in dog shows regularly. To have a shot at winning one of these notoriously prestigious events, a Show Kelpie must boast a coat of one solid color like red, chocolate, and black.
The breed is recognized by most major breeding organizations: One point of controversy is that Australian Kelpies aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club, although their website includes a detailed article regarding the temperament, necessary training, and health of the breed. Nevertheless, Australian Kelpies are a recognized breed by both the Canadian Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
Things You Should Know
Are you interested by what you’re hearing about this remarkable breed so far? We’ve assembled a few sections detailing several facts about this hardy breed if you believe you’d be capable of rising to the challenge of taming a Kelpie.
Like all dogs, Australian Kelpies are more prone to developing health conditions that their Collie parents suffer from. We’ve analyzed several of these hereditary conditions below, so you’ll be able to identify them quicker if the need to ever arises.
Hip dysplasia: Every dog owner has heard of hip dysplasia – when the hip joints form improperly in large puppies, therefore causing arthritis. If you notice that your young Australian Kelpie often struggles to get up from their bed or is reluctant to climb stairs, take them to the vet so they can start your dog on arthritis treatment if your concerns are accurate.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This nasty inherited disease is when a Kelpie’s eyes are genetically programmed to become blind after several years. Although dogs who suffer from PRA won’t be in pain, the condition is unfortunately incurable. All you can do is make your dog’s life easier by taking them out less at night and ensuring they won’t hurt themselves off low-down corners.
Patellar Luxation: Among the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs, patellar luxation is when a Kelpie’s kneecap slides out of place. If you’ve started to notice that your Kelpie, while running along, picks up one of their back legs to kick it out sideways, this is unfortunately not an adorable characteristic, but them popping their kneecap back into position.
Given an Australian Kelpie’s incredibly active lifestyle, they should be fed high-quality food that sustains them throughout their taxing days on the farm, rather than feeding them cheap kibble awash with fillers that only allows them to experience short, sugar-induced bursts of energy. Checking the guaranteed analysis will alert to you the percentage of crude protein, fat, calorie content, and so much more about your Australian Kelpie’s kibble. It’s a legal requirement to include a guaranteed analysis of a kibble on packaging, so keep on looking if you haven’t spotted it already.
If you feel up to it, why not feed your Australian Kelpie a delectable slab of fresh meat every so often? Real turkey, fish, and beef exist among a Kelpie’s top snacking options – although we wouldn’t recommend feeding your pup salmon, given the high amounts of mercury within it. High-quality meat always contains large amounts of protein and carbohydrates that a working dog requires to stay healthy and lean.
For more guides on choosing the right dog food, you may wish to check out our reviews of the best dry dog food, organic dog food, grain free dog food, wet dog food and puppy food.
Boasting an average lifespan between ten to thirteen years, Kelpies can stay at your side for more than a decade if you give them the required amount of care and sustenance their bodies crave. A large aspect of caring for your Australian Kelpie is training them to become a kind, loving canine. As Australian Kelpies take to training like fish take to water, you should commence training as soon as they come to live in your home. Kelpies are easy to housetrain and teach new tricks, so stick with training and they’ll emerge out of it as a fantastic companion. Sticking with a training regime is even more important during an Australian Kelpie’s “teenage years”. As is the case with many head-strong and intelligence breeds, young Australian Kelpies “try out” their owners to see how far they’ll allow them to bend the rules. Persist throughout this stage and your Kelpie will revert to being a pup eager to please once more.
Finally, truly caring for the Australian Kelpie breed is sacrificing the opportunity to welcome one into your life because it wouldn’t be fair on them. Unlike dog breeds like Chihuahuas and Greyhounds who fit right in with the lifestyle of a “working” family, Kelpies are the opposite. Being far too intelligent to sit idly around, chances are they’ll become destructive around the home. Similarly, you must also consider how much space you’ve got for such a large and energetic dog, as an apartment simply won’t suffice.
If you’re lucky enough to own an Australian Kelpie with only one coat, giving it a good brush every five to seven days to check for fleas is recommended. Dogs owners with double-coated Australian Kelpies, however, have got their work cut out for them! To combat these variant’s incessant shedding, we recommend investing in a FURminator.
Apart from double-coated Australian Kelpies, the breed’s hygiene is largely the same as other dog breeds. Clean their ears once a month, trim their nails approximately every two weeks, and brush their teeth once a week to prevent plaque and tartar build up which may engender gum disease later in life. Dogs of this breed certainly aren’t high maintenance and won’t necessarily enjoy this pampering; they’d much rather be out working!
For more help on dog grooming, you may wish to read our guides on the best dog nail grinders, dog dryers, dog clippers, dog paw washers and dog thinning shears.
Typical Australian Kelpies pride themselves on being independent and certainly won’t require their human’s praise to carry out work tasks. However, just because members of this incredibly intelligent breed are more than capable of thinking for themselves doesn’t mean that they’ll go against their owner’s wishes. Their unshakable loyalty towards their owners always shines through.
Regarding the breed’s attitude towards children, Australian Kelpies will predominantly enjoy having them around their home – and you’ll certainly get a laugh when you notice your Kelpie attempting to herd your child! However, Australian Kelpies are known for becoming irked when children are welcomed into the space they have frequented from puppyhood. Therefore, if you’re considering adopting or trying for a child, owning an Australian Kelpie may be better suited for another point in your life.
To sum up, Australian Kelpies are work dogs through and through. Their high energy levels and insatiable appetite for herding make them the perfect co-worker to have beside you on the farm. However, these naturally curious pups absolutely must follow a rigorous exercise program and be entertained to keep them from becoming destructive.
- Australian Kelpie – AKC