Australian Kelpie Dog
Information, Behavior and Training

The Australian Kelpie dog is a relentless workaholic that thrives when given a job. If you are looking for a working dog blessed with superior intelligence and a strong passion for work, this is the breed for you.

Yet, while a Kelpie's passion for keeping busy is treasured by many farmers, this trait is also what makes him unsuitable for many homes.

Do your research well before considering this breed; if you don't own a farm, you will need to provide plenty of substitute activities to keep this breed healthy and happy.

Whether you are thinking about buying a puppy or adopting an adult dog and want to know if this is the right breed for you or just want to learn more about this breed, I hope this article will help you find the answers to your questions.

Australian Kelpie Information and History

Also known as Kelpie, Barb or Australian Sheep Dog, the Australian Kelpie dog is believed to have originated around 1870 in Australia. Descended from both British and Scottish working collies imported to Australia in the early 19th century, and perhaps the occasional Dingo, Kelpies were selectively bred to work in the harsh, hot and dusty Australian landscapes alongside Merino sheep.

This breed's herding style includes eyeing, barking and gripping the sheep, often without any form of guidance from humans. Still as of today, the Australian Kelpie dog is used by many ranchers for moving stock.


No other dog had a bigger role in the development of Australia's sheep industry than a Kelpie.

In the United States, in addition to working with many different types of livestock, Kelpies are often entered in various herding trials. In Sweden, they are often used as rescue dogs. The Australian Kelpie dog is currently not recognized by the American Kennel Club but it's recognized by the United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

It's estimated that the breed has been present in North America since the turn of the 20th century.

Two Australian Kelpie Puppies

Breed Profile

The general appearance is of an active, muscular dog capable of engaging in untiring work. Kelpies should convey lively energy without appearing gawky.

The body is compact, muscular and free from any suggestion of weakness. The moderately long neck is slightly arched and blends smoothly within the shoulders. The chest is deep, with well-sprung ribs. The tail is set low but is sufficiently long to reach the hock and curve slightly at rest. During movement, it may be carried higher.

When viewed from the front, Kelpie's forelegs present as parallel and straight. The strong pasterns are typically sloped to allow flexibility. The rear legs boast parallel pasterns when viewed from behind. The feet are strong, round in shape and feature well-arched toes.

The overall expression is of an intelligent dog with a fox-like appearance. The eyes are almond shaped and brown in color. Lighter eye colors are accepted in gray dogs. The ears are pricked as if ready to capture the slightest sounds. The color of the nose should harmonize with the coat color. The strong, white teeth are meant to meet in a scissor bite.

The Kelpie's double coat boasts a short, rough and weather-resistant outer coat and a dense, soft undercoat. Short hair is mostly seen on the head, ears and feet. The longer hair forms a ruff around the neck and a brush on the tail. Accepted coat colors include black, black with tan markings, gray, gray with tan markings, red, red with tan markings and tan.

    Height Weight
  Male 17 to 20 inches 25 to 45 pounds
  Female 17 to 20 inches 25 to 45 pounds


Independent, intelligent, sharp-eyed and quick-thinking, the Australian Kelpie dog is an overall fanatical workaholic. You must always stay a step ahead of a Kelpie if you want to have success, but not all are up to the task. This is one of the many reasons why this breed does best with an experienced owner.

Australian Kelpie Dog

With a history of herding sheep, these dogs can become zealous gatherers of anything that moves: other dogs, cats, even cars. Problems arise though when your Kelpie tries to herd people and starts circling, poking, pushing and even nipping a rambunctious child. It's imperative to discourage these behaviors from early puppyhood.

While these dogs generally get along with children, close supervision is always a must. With other dogs and pets, Kelpies do fairly well, especially when introduced from an early age. However, supervision is always recommended as fleeing cats and small animals may trigger this breed's prey drive.

Early socialization is a must if you want to own this breed. Shyness or suspiciousness may arise in under-socialized Australian Kelpie puppies. Make sure you start the socialization process early, when your Australian Kelpie dog is still a young puppy. When it comes to protecting property, Kelpies make excellent watchdogs.

Australian Kelpie training requires a confident owner that is very consistent in providing gentle guidance. Australian Kelpie pups are highly intelligent and catch up rather quickly.

Best Owner and Living Conditions

When given a task, Kelpies will work until they literally drop. Therefore, the ideal owner is a farmer with loads of livestock to herd. But if you don't own any sheep or livestock, you will need to find other venues to keep your dog challenged and happy!

Because these fellows are master escape artists, you must do whatever it takes to contain your Kelpie. This involves erecting a high fence to prevent jumping and preventing underground digging.

The Australian Kelpie dog is definitively unsuitable for a sedentary life; therefore, it makes a poor candidate for an apartment or condo.

Activity and Exercise

A bored Kelpie is a troublesome Kelpie; whereas, a tired Kelpie is a good Kelpie. With no outlet for pent-up energy and mental stimulation, expect obsessive, destructive behaviors to arise. If you lack a farm, your pet will be more than happy to accompany you on your hiking, jogging and hiking adventures.

This is a breed that was not meant to be just a companion. Australian Kelpies were bred to work on farms and their behaviors are often inappropriate in a household setting. But while you cannot suppress this breed's hardwired desire for exercise, you can channel it through such sports as dog agility, obedience and Treibball. It's also a good idea to take him for several VERY long walks every day.


Despite having a short coat, Australian Kelpies shed more than you may expect. An occasional brushing will do for most of the year, but you may want to brush a bit more often during shedding season.

Bathing too often you will remove the oils that keep your pet's coat weather-resistant, so bathe only when necessary.

Health Concerns

This breed is, overall, healthy and strong but, like all breeds, is susceptible to some health conditions. Hip dysplasia, luxating patella and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) are a few conditions found in this breed.

Visit dog health problems to learn more about dog diseases and health care.

If you are looking for a healthy puppy with a good temperament, make sure you consult with reputable Australian Kelpie breeders.

Even healthy dogs get sick. While many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, there are many others that you may handle on your own. Learn how to save time and money (and how to prevent small problems from becoming big problems) by diagnosing and treating dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Australian Kelpie with Sheep

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy is 10 to 14 years.

Final Thoughts...

If you have a vivid interest in the Australian Kelpie breed, you first will need to make sure you can provide this breed with proper outlets for energy and mental stimulation. Next, you will need luck in finding an Australian Kelpie breeder. While these dogs can be found just about anywhere in Australia, in the United States, the Australian Kelpie dog is quite scarce and can be quite a difficult find.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Australian Kelpie rescue and adoption center. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

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Want to learn more?

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? Then check this Australian Kelpie Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.


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Australian Kelpie Dog » Dog Breeds

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