Kelpie Breed Profile

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This week’s breed in focus is the Kelpie. Bred for herding, they are Australia’s most popular working dog and thrive when working on the land. They were initially developed in the late 1800’s to work on Australia’s sheep stations. Its name comes from Scotland and means ‘the spirit of the waters’.


Kelpies are extremely loyal and devoted to their family, affectionate and friendly. They’re great with children, other dogs and even cats when raised with them from puppyhood. But don’t be surprised they try to herd other pets, and even the children – they just don’t seem to be able to kick that instinct!


They are a tough and tireless working dog with extremely high energy levels and aren’t well suited for suburban living, unless you are highly committed to channeling their energy and desire to work into suitable activities.

They are highly trainable and very alert, eager to learn and so they excel at obedience, herding, agility and many other dog sports.  In fact any kelpie owner in suburbia should consider doing any one of these sports regularly with their dog on top of vigorous daily exercise.

Physical attributes

You might be surprised to learn that the Kelpie has a double coat, with a short, dense undercoat and weather-repellent top coat and come in a mix of colours from black to red, with bits of tan and more.  They do shed a lot, so a weekly brush is a good idea.

The Kelpie breed has developed into two distinct strains – the original Working Kelpie and more recently the ‘Bench Kelpie’ – specifically created for showing rather than a working dog.

Kelpies are athletic with muscular shoulders, strong hindquarters and a slightly rounded head and .broad between the eyes. The Working Kelpies are usually kept much leaner than their ‘Bench’ counterparts.

Lifestyle considerations

This breed needs space, and lots of it!  Kelpies can run up to 60 kilometres a day when working, so it’s crucial that they have plenty of exercise to meet their mental and physical needs if not, they’ll become bored and frustrated and start to exhibit some serious behavioural problems and likely to drive you crazy with obsessive, destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their energy.

The Kelpie is a breed you need to consider carefully before getting one to ensure you are able to meet their high drive needs.


Kelpies are regarded as a very healthy breed and can live up to 16 years.

They can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas (or kneecaps), progressive retinal atrophy or PRA and a degenerative brain disease of the cerebellum.

That’s why it is important to always do your research about any breed you are considering and get pet insurance too!

About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog

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