Australian kelpie breed overview
- Average Weight (Male)* — 48.0 pounds
- Average Weight (Female)* — 43.5 pounds
- Breed Size — Small
- Height — 15-20 inches
- Life span — 10-15 years
- Breed Temperament — Playful, independent, loyal, sensitive
- Coat length & texture — Double coat with weather-resistant outer layer
- Coat color — Several different colors are present in the kelpie coat, including black, red, fawn, chocolate, and smokey blue. Some also have tan markings. The coat a kelpie has as a puppy will typically be the coat they have as adults.
- Exercise needs — High
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Barking — Active barker
- Intelligence — High
- Origin — Australia
- Breed group — Herding group (American Kennel Club)
*Methodology: Average male weight, female weight and breed size are based on calculations from our database of more than 1,000,000 pets.
Australian kelpie temperament and characteristics
The Australian kelpie is a highly affectionate and energetic dog. They are also extremely intelligent and love to please their humans, so they are typically very easy to train. Because they’re a herding breed, they may need to be trained not to excessively herd other dogs, pets, or people. They are a great addition to families with children or other pets, and in fact, do well with a large pack of humans and animals around to interact with.
Another quality of herding breed dogs is they typically do best when they have things to do. Working with your kelpie on agility training or dog sports such as fly ball would be excellent for your high-energy pup.
History of the Australian kelpie
The origin of the Australian kelpie begins in the nineteenth century where Australian sheep farmers faced a growing problem. Sheep populations were growing dramatically and they did not have enough people to watch over the flocks. To help solve this problem, collies were imported to the continent from Europe and crossbred with wild dingoes to create a herding animal that could survive the harsh Australian climate. Crossbreeding eventually resulted in what became known as the Australian kelpie, a hearty animal who was capable of working practically nonstop.
The kelpie’s versatility to adapt to unpredictable and severe climates served it well when it came to the United States, as they are able to acclimate to all forms of weather. Today, kelpies serve as loving household companions, but are also often still found as active working dogs for livestock around the world. An Australian kelpie who is kept as a housepet will need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep their energy levels satiated.
Caring for your Australian kelpie
Bringing a new puppy into the home will add plenty to your to-do list! First, you’ll want to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. To protect your furniture and other valuables, you’ll also want to puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And while the thought of losing your pup is something no one wants to think about, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Below you’ll find some basics to help care for your new Australian kelpie.
The Australian kelpie was bred to be a herding dog, so they will need more exercise compared to other breeds. At least two hours of exercise a day is the goal to shoot for these herders. While this may seem like a lot, their exercise can be split between morning and evening walks and plenty of time playing with toys. Agility training exercises are an excellent option for this highly intelligent breed. Keeping a kelpie’s mind stimulated with a variety of games will help keep your dog’s brain happy. They also would do well participating in a dog sport such as fly ball.
A pretty low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming, Australian kelpies have a short, dense undercoat and a double coat. Their outer coat is coarse and weather-resistant, which makes taking them for walks in the rain or snow much easier than other breeds. The best grooming plan for a kelpie includes weekly brushings and a bath once every few months. If you plan to show your Australian kelpie, the breed standard of the dog’s coat is between 2-3 cm in length. Be sure to keep an eye on your kelpie’s nails—if they aren’t filing down on their own, you should plan to trim their nails once or twice a month. And, brushing your pup’s teeth a couple of times a week will help fight plaque and tartar buildup, prevent heart issues later in life, and keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh.
Diet and nutrition
Because Australian kelpies are such an active breed, they require a healthy portion of high-quality dog food to keep up with their energy levels. Puppies should be fed frequently, usually around three to four times per day and transitioning to two times per day as your kelpie grows into adulthood. As puppies, a kelpie’s feeding schedule should be consistent, which will help them with training and housebreaking. Most adult kelpies need around two cups of food a day spread out over multiple feedings, but as all dogs are different, it’s important to read up on what is an appropriate amount for a medium-sized dog.
Training your Australian kelpie
With their high intelligence and eagerness to please their humans, dog owners of Australian kelpies find they are relatively easy to train. Of course, it also takes a dedicated dog owner who will be consistent with dog training methods and schedules. Kelpies can be a very sensitive breed, so it’s important to always lead training sessions with positive reinforcement and plenty of praise for good work, and gentle corrections when they fall short.
Outdoor training is an excellent option for this herding breed. Their natural instincts to move around and be outside will help you and your pup bond as you train with them. Because kelpies are so intelligent, agility training with your dog could turn into your pup participating in agility events! Agility show kelpies are highly competitive dogs in the show world.
Breeds similar to the Australian kelpie
Not quite sure that an Australian kelpie is the right dog for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Collie. Slightly larger than an Australian kelpie, the collie has a long and silky coat that requires more grooming.
- Australian shepherd. About the same size of a kelpie, the Australian shepherd’s energy is through the roof. If you want a dog who will play and run nonstop for hours, this is your breed.
- Border collie. Border collies are also around the same size of a kelpie and have comparable energy levels, though with a longer, silkier coat.
Common Australian kelpie health problems
Kelpies are generally a healthy breed, though they may develop some health issues to watch out for. Speak with your dog’s breeder or shelter to help determine if your new puppy may be prone to certain genetic health concerns.
- Hip dysplasia. A common problem in large breed dogs, hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip socket that can cause painful arthritis and can result in costly surgeries. An active lifestyle, healthy diet, and confirming if your kelpie may be genetically predisposed to this issue can help minimize problems with this condition.
- Cerebellar abiotrophy. A developmental disorder of the brain, cerebellar abiotrophy causes the degeneration of cerebellum tissue. There is genetic testing to determine this condition, although at this time, there is no treatment for it.
- Collie eye anomaly. This genetic disorder affects many types of herding dogs and occurs when part of the eye does not develop properly. Vets can test and treat collie eye anomaly (CEA) in puppies at around six to eight weeks of age.
- Progressive retinal atrophy. This term is used to describe a group of degenerative diseases that affect photoreceptor cells in the eyes. The disease can eventually lead to blindness in the dog.
Cost of caring for Australian kelpies
Adding a kelpie to your family will bring plenty of joy, but will also incur costs for the duration of your dog’s lifespan. Pet health insurance is an excellent option to help reduce out-of-pocket costs for your pet. Alternatively, starting a pet savings account is a great way to provide additional resources to offset emergency costs. While kelpies aren’t prone to an excess of health issues, expenses for your pet’s health will vary throughout their life. If your Australian kelpie develops a condition such as hip dysplasia, you may spend around $1,500 per affected leg on surgery for your pup.
Australian kelpie fun facts
- Their names are rooted in mythology. The breed name “kelpie” comes from Celtic folklore, which are water sprites that can appear as humans or horses.
- They’re related to the Australian dingo. It is likely that dingos were interbred with Australian kelpies throughout their history.
- They are capable of doing many jobs. Kelpies are highly skilled at a variety of jobs, including being a therapy, guide, detection and search, and rescue dog.
Australian kelpie frequently asked questions
Can kelpies be a house dog?
Kelpies make excellent pets provided they are given plenty of exercise and attention.
What is an Australian kelpie a mix of?
It is thought that Australian kelpies are a mixture of the Scottish collie and the dingo.
Do Australian kelpies like to cuddle?
Australian kelpies do love to give affection and cuddle with familiar humans, though their high energy levels may not allow them to stay cuddled up for long.
Are Australian kelpies cattle dogs?
While kelpies have been used as cattle herders, they were originally bred to be sheep herding dogs.
Are kelpies a good family dog?
The naturally gentle and very loving kelpie makes an excellent family dog, and is great with young children.