Did you know the Australian Kelpie is named after the Scottish word for a type of fairy, known for their mischievous and hard-working nature?
According to the Australian National Kennel Council, the Kelpie is “a tough and dependable breed, capable of working long hours in the toughest conditions.”
It’s therefore not surprising the Kelpie is one of the most loved dog breeds in Australia.
The History of the Australian Kelpie
We consider Kelpies as an iconic Australian breed, but in actual fact they originated from Scotland.
The closest ancestor of the Kelpie is the Scottish Smooth Collie (or Farm Collie), imported into Australia in the late 1800s as a herding dog.
You may have been led to believe a Kelpie is part Dingo, but despite the similarities in appearance this is not true.
No, Kelpies are not Half-Dingo!
There are two theories which suggest the Kelpie is half-Dingo. The theories are plausible which is why they have become so widely believed, but genetic research from the University of Sydney found no genetic evidence to support these theories.
The most prominent theory is a man named George Robertson crossed a Collie with a Dingo to create a breed better suited for herding sheep in the harsh Australian climate.
Another theory relates to a man named Jack Gleeson, who created the Kelpie breed as a Border Collie Dingo cross to combine the herding instincts with a more rugged constitution.
Research has suggested the Dingo became native to Australia having crossed a land-bridge from Papua New Guinea which no longer exists, with the closest relatives being the Papua New Guinea Singing Dog and the African Basenji.
In fact, genetic science shows little commonality between the Kelpie and the Dingo, and efforts are being made to reclassify the Dingo as a separate species in the hope they can be better protected.
Australian Kelpie Characteristics
As an Australian yourself, you’ll find it easy to understand why the Kelpie is such a great companion. They’re resilient, independent, and are a great fit for rural Australian living. They’re also great as family members due to their intelligence and trainability.
The Australian Kelpie makes a fantastic working dog due to their traits, and their energy levels are up their with Border Collies. You can also consider them hardier than their Border Collie rivals, which makes them more “Aussie”.
Visually the Australian Kelpie has a distinctive appearance, with many falling in love with the breed from the movie Red Dog (or Red Dog II, whatever the sequel was called?).
They have a muscular build and a short, dense coat which comes in a variety of colours – namely black, red, and chocolate brown.
Australian Kelpies are considered medium-sized dogs, weighing in between 14~21kg with a height of 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder.
The Kelpie coat is dense and short-haired, and their upright ears and alert, intelligent eyes really give them their distinctive look.
Intelligence & Trainability
Kelpies are known for their high intelligence and trainability. They are quick learners and can be trained to perform a variety of tasks, including herding, agility, obedience, and even search and rescue. If you’re looking at the Kelpie breed as a family dog, then they are also easy to house train and will quickly become a respectable member of your household.
Kelpies excel at problem-solving and can think independently, which can be both a blessing and a challenge for their owners. Considering some of the tips and tricks in the boredom busters guide will help you get the most from your Kelpie, so make sure you check them out!
Energy Levels & Exercise Requirements
Kelpies are highly energetic dogs who require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. They were originally bred for herding sheep, which means they have a strong instinct to run and work.
If you have a Kelpie as a family dog you will need to exercise them daily (probably twice daily), including long walks, runs in the park, or hikes. As an intelligent breed they benefit from having a job to do to keep them occupied, so keep that in mind.
Temperament & Personality
Kelpies are loyal and devoted dogs and you will find them to bond closely with you and your family. They are known for their alertness and have a strong protective instinct, being loyal to their “pack”. If you have kids then Kelpies are generally a great family addition who bond well with all.
What Should you Feed an Australian Kelpie?
It’s easy to assume a working dog food will suit a Kelpie to a tee, but this is not as true as you may think.
Working dog foods are often high in grains and starches, with the assumption being a working dog will burn off the calories. In fact, the length of a Kelpie’s digestive system strongly suggests a meat-focused diet will better support their wellbeing and muscular frame.
Like most domestic dogs, opt for a dog food with a focus on quality meat proteins and animal fat rather than carbohydrates.
Common Q’s about Australian Kelpies
In this section we’ll look at the common questions asked by Aussies considering bringing an Australian Kelpie into their home:
Australian Kelpies are highly intelligent dogs who are known for their problem-solving abilities and quick learning. They are often compared to Border Collies in terms of intelligence, and are considered to be one of the smartest dog breeds.
Kelpies are generally not known for being quiet dogs. They are very active and energetic, and often need an outlet to express this energy. Without mental and physical stimulus a Kelpie can be prone to barking, but with proper training and socialisation they will quickly learn when and when not to bark.
Be warned, Kelpies can be destructive if they are not given enough exercise and mental stimulation, especially in the puppy phase. They are highly energetic dogs, and if you don’t give them plenty of activity and playtime they will become bored and destructive.
Kelpies are known for being loyal and affectionate with their owners, but they can also bond with multiple people. They love to be part of your pack and will bond with everyone in the family. Usually, however, they will become more loyal to who they consider the pack leader. Despite their loyalty to the pack, Kelpies will still be friendly to others and other dogs.
Kelpies are adaptable dogs and you will find they can sleep in a variety of locations of their choosing. They may prefer to sleep near their owners, but they can also sleep in a crate or a designated dog bed. We may assume as a working breed they prefer to be outside, but this is not true and not as beneficial – it is better to keep a Kelpie as an inside dog.
Although Kelpies thrive in wide-open spaces for exercise, they cope better psychologically as inside dogs where they can bond with the family. If you do choose to keep your Kelpie outside, it’s important to provide them with adequate shelter and protection from the elements.
Kelpies can be prone to anxiety if they are not properly socialised and trained. It’s important to expose them to a variety of people, places, and situations to help them develop confidence and prevent anxiety. You should begin to socialise your Kelpie puppy at the earliest possible opportunity, enrolling in puppy classes or puppy training.
The lifespan of an Australian Kelpie is typically 10 to 14 years. With proper care and nutrition, they can live long and healthy lives.
Caring for Australian Kelpies
Kelpies are active dogs and require a diet that is high in protein and fat, preferably from animal ingredients. In Australia we have a great deal of high-quality dog food which is not only complete and balanced, but formulated with appropriate ingredients. It’s important to monitor your Kelpie’s weight and adjust their diet as needed to maintain a healthy weight.
Kelpies have short, dense coats which are relatively easy to maintain. Brush your Kelpie regularly to remove loose hair and dirt, and make sure to regularly train their nails and keep their ears clean. If you choose not to feed raw meaty bones, make sure you keep their teeth clean with regular brushing or high-quality meat chews.
If you feed your Kelpie well and look after them they are generally healthy dogs. The breed can be prone to hip dysplasia and sometimes eye problems, but regular veterinary check-ups can help you avoid these problems at the outset. Exercise and mental stimulation goes a long way to promote overall wellness in Australian Kelpies.
Do you have an Australian Kelpie?
If so, please rave about them in the comments section below. Why do you love them?