An athletic and hardy dog, the Australian Kelpie is a great choice for active people who want a canine companion to keep up with them. They possess keen intelligence with the drive of a true working dog.
The Australian Kelpie originated in the 1800's in Australia by crossing collie breeds from Scotland to create a working dog that could handle the harsh climate. It's rumored some wild Dingoes were bred into the mix. They were bred and trained specifically for herding livestock such as sheep and do so on their own without an owner. They still do livestock work in Australia and the U.S.A. today although they now perform many tasks, including search and rescue, detection, assistance work, performance dog sports, and just living as a beloved companion animal.
Australian Kelpies are medium-sized dogs weighing around 31 to 46 pounds. They are compact dogs with an athletic build designed for running and working. Their average life expectancy is 10 to 14 years of age. They have distinctive pricked ears which may have led to the rumor there's Dingo in their bloodline.
The Australian Kelpie has a short double coat that keeps them comfortable in all types of weather. Typical colors are combinations of blue, black, red, or fawn with tan, although there are some solid coat Kelpies that are black, red, fawn, chocolate, or smoke blue. They don't require much grooming other than a biweekly brushing. They do tend to shed at some point during the year, and you may have to brush more often in the spring. Baths are only required if they have gotten themselves into something and need cleaning off.
Like most herding dogs, Australian Kelpies are extremely intelligent and independent. They are known to be loyal and friendly to their human families but can be wary of strangers unless well socialized as a puppy. They are also known to bond more closely to one person in the household but will still engage the entire family. They do well with children but might not be the best around smaller children as their herding instincts can cause them to nip and chase children around like sheep. They also do generally well with other dogs and cats, but they may try to herd them as well. They can be protective of their household and shy around strangers and while they are not guard dogs, you can count on them to warn others away from your property.
Australian Kelpies are not a good choice for apartment and condominium dwellers unless you're someone who goes out and exercises heavily every day. These dogs were bred to be out in the open working hard all day long, and they can quickly become destructive and develop behavior problems in a small space. Due to their intelligence, they need mental enrichment to keep them happy which can include training, learning tricks, and interactive dog toys and games.
Because of their canine smarts and focus, Kelpies are easy dogs to train. Moreover, training is an excellent way to engage their brains. They excel at many types of dog sports, particularly those where they have to be at a distance from their handler such as agility and herding competitions as well as sports like competitive obedience and Rally. They do require early socialization to be comfortable with strangers and children.
Australian Kelpies are hardy dogs that are generally healthy. They are however at risk for some genetic conditions:
- Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a disease of the brain which can affect a dog's movement, vision, and coordination.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia is a painful disorder of the musculoskeletal system that can lead to lameness.
- Luxating Patella is a disorder of the kneecap where it becomes dislocated.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy leads to degeneration of the retina in the eye which results in partial to full blindness.
Where Can You Get an Australian Kelpie?
If you're looking for a purebred puppy, you can search for breeders on the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club websites. There is also the North American Australian Kelpie Registry that focuses more on Kelpies bred to be working dogs. If you prefer to rescue, you can look for Kelpies up for adoption on RescueMe.org and Petfinder.com, as well as through breeders.
Is the Australian Kelpie the Right Dog for You?
The Australian Kelpie is definitely not the dog for a person who enjoys lounging on the couch and relaxing during their time off. If you want a dog that will run, hike, and go all out with you, the Kelpie is a perfect, compact companion dog, provided you properly train and socialize them.