Kelpie dog breed characteristics, origin and care

Australian Working Kelpie breed characteristics

  • Size: Medium
  • Traits: Intelligent. Energetic. Friendly.
  • Maintenance: High maintenance, regular brushing, bathing, and clipping required (can be expensive and time consuming)
  • Best Suited To: Very active owners, including families, on large properties. Not an apartment dog.

High-energy. Responsive. Workaholic. The Australian Working Kelpie is the ultimate herding dog. Able to travel long distances and drove countless head of sheep in the freezing cold or boiling heat of the Australian outback.

If you live on a country property with a variety of livestock to herd, the Australian Working Kelpie might be the right fit for you.

Where I'm From

The Australian Working Kelpie's originates from far off Scotland where various breeds of sheepdog (Collies) were used to herd sheep over varied, rough terrain. As Australia increased its population, it developed into one of the largest sheep farming countries in the world in the 1800s. At that time, various working dogs made the long journey down under with new immigrants to the fledgling nation.

The dogs were put straight to work rounding up stock with only the strongest dogs surviving the extreme outback conditions. A mix of hardy dogs, perhaps crossed with the dingo, eventuated into the Australian Working Kelpie we know today.

The Australian Working Kelpie was officially recognised by Australian government in 1902. It was one of the country's first registered dog breeds.

What I Look Like

The Australian Working Kelpie is a medium-sized dog with an athletic build and a smooth coat. They are slightly smaller than their show or “Bench" Kelpie cousins that are more often pets. Their shiny coat comes in solid black, red, fawn (brown), blue (dark grey) and cream or a mix of these colours, frequently a striking combination of black-and-tan or red-and-tan. Though they were bred for their temperament and skills over looks, with a slim build, pointy ears and medium-length tail they still make a rather handsome dog.

How I Act

Australian Working Kelpies are enthusiastic, energetic and loyal dogs. Obedient and intelligent, they love being put to work with a variety of herding tasks. They can be good with children if raised together from a young age. Though like all dogs, Kelpies should be supervised when around children.

Australian Working Kelpies are relatively easy to train given their on-the-job linage, and understand simple signalling from their masters. Often stockmen will seek out the pup that bonds with them best, and further develop that important relationship as the dog grows. This also makes training Kelpies for future fieldwork easier.

However, some Kelpies are highly independent and can try to do their own thing if given any leeway. Consistent training from a young age is a must. They require a firm and patient master that can quickly manage any self-governing streak.

Australian Working Kelpies were bred for working farm life. They need a lot of exercise to stay healthy and do not tire easily. This makes a Working Kelpie quite challenging, if not unfeasible, to keep in an urban environment.

If you are super active, Kelpies can make a great long-distance jogging buddy and can run up to 60 kilometres per day. If you are not, your Kelpie might exhaust you and will become destructive without enough stimulation.

Looking After Me

The Australian Working Kelpie is a relative healthy and hardy breed used to extreme conditions of heat or cold. Still, ailments that potential owners should look out for include eyes diseases such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which can cause blindness, and hip dysplasia.

It is advisable to check the temperament and medical history of a puppy's parents and view veterinarian clearance certificates to ensure you get a healthy dog. Be very wary of uncertified backyard breeders.

Australian Working Kelpies live for 12-15 years.

They are not fussy eaters. They should be fed high-quality dog food once or twice a day depending on packaging recommendations. If they are working all day, or even if not, the occasional meaty bone wouldn't go astray.

The Australian Working Kelpie comes with a water-resistant double coat that can be smooth, short or rough. They are low-maintenance in this regard only requiring a weekly brush and occasional bath. However, if you are keeping your Kelpie indoors be warned that they do shed a lot and will need to followed around with a vacuum cleaner at times.

Am I the pet for you?

The Australian Working Kelpie best suits stock herding life on large farming properties.


  • Kelpies are perfect herding dogs. Smart and robust, they are able to quickly learn commands and round up animals when properly trained under the guidance of an experienced master.
  • Kelpies have the 'look'. They use their hypnotic eyes to manage the stock they are herding. If that doesn't move a stubborn herd member, their ankle nipping certainly will!
  • Kelpies can be excellent guard dogs and very protective of their masters.


  • Kelpies are fantastic if you live on a farm. But their inbuilt droving impulse mean they may try to herd inanimate objects such as bikes and cars as well as other animals, children included!
  • Kelpies are extremely high energy, which is fantastic if you want them to work on a farm or need an energetic running mate but are not ideal urban pets.
  • Kelpies can be destructive if bored or not given enough daily exercise.

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