The Australian Kelpie is an intelligent, strong working dog with almost inexhaustible stamina. The breed is as devoted to its owners as it is to its work, making it an ideal companion for those looking for a dog that plays as hard as it works.
The name Kelpie is Gaelic for “water sprite.” Despite disagreement over the origin of the breed, the Australian Kelpie likely descends from medium-sized, longhaired, black and tan dogs from Scotland.
Australian Kelpies are hard working sheepdogs. These skilled shepherds managed sheep across millions of acres in Australia, protecting and rounding up their flocks. The dogs could travel more than 30 miles in a single day, working in hot, dusty climates without a break.
Australian Kelpies are agile, active, muscular dogs with supple limbs, level toplines, and deep chests. Their keen expressions express their intelligence and restless desire to work.
Australian Kelpies have short, dense undercoats and outer coats with hair that is straight, hard, and lies flat. Their coats are longer under their bodies and behind their legs, and around the neck where it forms a ruff; it’s shorter on their heads, front of the legs and feet.
The breed comes in several colors: black, black and tan, red, red and tan, fawn, chocolate, and smoke blue.
These working dogs have pricked ears that come to a fine point at the tips and medium-size, almond-shaped eyes that give them foxlike expressions. Their forequarters are muscular with strong but refined bones, and their hindquarters show breadth and strength. Australian Kelpies also have round feet with strong, deep pads and close-knit, well-arched toes, and short nails.
Australian Kelpies have a natural aptitude for work and incredible stamina, so it should come as no surprise that these dogs do best in homes where there are jobs to do or opportunities for regular exercise. Kelpies are also used to wide open spaces and prefer living situations where there is a fenced yard or lots of room to roam. With sufficient opportunities for fast-paced, high-intensity activities, these alert, eager dogs will be loyal and devoted to their families.
Australian Kelpies are not the right fit for all families. Their strong herding tendencies could lead them to chase cars, corral children, or herd other pets, and, despite their friendly natures, it can take time for these dogs to warm up to strangers.
Feed Australian Kelpies a high-quality dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, senior) and consider a diet formulated for active breeds. These high energy dogs don’t tend to become overweight, but portioning out their food with a measuring cup and limiting treats to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories can help keep Kelpies fit and trim.
Australian Kelpies have waterproof double coats that require regular grooming. Brush them at least once per week to remove dead hair and, during spring and fall when these dogs blow their coats, brush them with an undercoat rake several times per week. Keep their ears clean, and their nails trimmed.
Like all breeds, Australian Kelpies benefit from a regular dental care routine that includes at-home teeth brushing and professional cleanings.
These dogs need more than just a short stroll around the block. Australian Kelpies require lots of exercise; take them hiking, running, or swimming or let them race around the dog park to help them use up some of their limitless energy. Once Kelpies are well-exercised, they are ready to relax with their families. These highly intelligent dogs also excel in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, and, of course, herding.
Without adequate exercise, the breed could become bored and destructive. Mental stimulation is important, too. Puzzle toys and games such as hide and seek can help keep their minds engaged.
Australian Kelpies are intelligent and eager, making them great students. Training can feel like an important job and provide important mental and physical exercise that Kelpies need for their wellbeing. These dogs love spending time with their owners and will see training as a bonding experience; regular socialization can help Kelpies feel more confident with strangers.
Focus on positive reinforcement and rewards-based training. Avoid repetitive activities, which will cause Australian Kelpies to lose interest in training. Fast-paced games and activities are best to keep them engaged.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Cindy Elston, DVM, MPH