Australian Kelpie: The Ultimate Working Dog

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Working Kelpie is one of the best workers in the world. They are efficient, alert, and eager to work long hours. Read on to discover more about this unique breed.
Dog Breed Group:
Herding Dogs
15 to 20 inches
25 to 46 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Working Kelpie is a highly intelligent and alert dog, with friendly nature and an extraordinary balance between work and the ability to rest.

They are highly active and have enormous energy levels. Working Kelpie is loyal and devoted, with strong natural instincts to herd sheep and other livestock.

This is a medium-sized dog, with strong muscles and active nature, capable of long working hours. In Sweden, this breed is busy serving as a police dog, and search and rescue dogs.

They thrive on companionship. Therefore, they can be happy to stay for hours outside doing something and being active, but they will also appreciate silent and chill moments at home.

This dog is definitely not for first time dog owners, and this breed definitely cannot go through a day without mental or physical stimulation to keep them busy and entertained.

They will get along nice with children and due to their nature, they can live in peace with other family pets.

Quick Facts

Real name: Australian Kelpie
Other names: Kelpie, Barb
Common Nickname: Farmer Dog
Origin: Australia
Breed type: Working Dogs
Weight: 28-60 pounds
Height: 19-25 inches
Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Litter Size: 4 – 7 puppies
Color: Black, black and tan, red, red and tan, chocolate, chocolate and tan, blue, blue and tan, fawn, fawn and tan, cream, black and white
Coat: Short, double coat

Working Kelpie History

Kelpies have very famous ancestors – Bristish dogs known as collies. These dogs were mostly brown, dark brown, and black dogs. The very first Border Collie was brought to Australia in 1901.

Many believe that Kelpies were partly descended from dingoes, and a genomic study performed in 2019 indicated that the kelpie had no dingo ancestry, so that misery was once for all solved.

So far, the breed’s history is well-explained. It begins with a pair of Collies, Brutus, and Jeenie who were brought from Jedburgh, Scotland.

At the time, wool production in Australia was a growing business, and farmers needed extra help to handling stock. Working Kelpie was a great addition to handle the sheep and wide lands.

They seemed like perfect working dogs and less of a family companion. Even today they are perfect working dogs on the farm and ranches all around the world.

The American Kennel Club has registered the Working Kelpie in its Foundation Stock Service as a different breed from the Australian Kelpie. On the other hand, The United Kennel Club has registered both breeds as one.

Working Kelpie Physical Appearance

Working Kelpie is a medium-sized dog with an athletic appearance. Their ears are upright and the entire body is covered with a soft coat.

The coat is usually black, black, and tan, although other options are present such as blue, red and tan, fawn, or fan with other color options.

As a general rule, a variety of coat colors is allowed. They have three coat types in working Kelpie: short, smooth, and tough.

Some Kelpies may even have a small white blaze on the chest or some white points. Sometimes they have a double coat, which sheds mostly in spring.

Working Kelpie Vs. Show Kelpie

Although we are talking here about the same breed, there are some differences when it comes to Working and Show Kelpie.

Working Kelpie

As stated above there are three coat types in the working Kelpie, and coat color may vary. They can even vary in size ranging from 19-25 in, and weighing between 28-60 Ib.

As working dogs, they are effective and efficient and can save farmers hours of work. They can easily run stock in isolated areas and can go distances in extreme climates and conditions.

In fact, they have natural instincts for managing livestock. They will easily work with much domestic livestock and do their best to do their job the best way possible.

A good working Kelpie is a versatile dog – they can work all day on the farm, station, rances, remote areas, and so on, and even participate in dog sports such as agility.

They are extremely good jumpers, so make sure that your backyard is well-secured.

Show Kelpie

Working Kelpies comes in many colors, but for the show, only a few shades are accepted, including:

  • Black
  • Chocolate
  • Red
  • Fawn
  • Smoky Blue
  • Black and Tan
  • Red and Tan

They must have pricked ears and a double coat.

Kelpies in other colors can be registered as pets and sporting dogs.

First Kelpies were first exhibited in the early 20th century, at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Their popularity has significanly increases ever since, and they are very popular today both nationally and internationally as companion dogs, family pets, sport dogs, and running partners.

Thanks to their good nature, need to please and work, and low maintenance of care, they can be found all over the world.

Working Kelpie Personality

This is a breed with an alert and eager temperament.

As a true herding dog, Working Kelpie is extremely alert about his surroundings and always keeps his eyes on everything. No one can move near them without being notices.

So in a way, they are considered to be a fair watchdog. Due to their working ethics and energy level, they are best suited in the farms and in the countryside.

Sitting an entire day in the apartment isn’t for them unless you have well-organized and active outdoor life – in that case, they can handle living busy city life. When bored, they can become destructive and anxious.

As you may know already when anxious dogs can easily develop separation anxiety, which is something that shoudl be carefully treated.

The best way to keep them happy is to keep them engaged in some kind of activity.

Overall, this is a smart and intelligent breed with great instincts and an intense personality. They are known for being loyal and having a strong devotion to their work.

Working Kelpie Training

Training and early socialization are two main factors that will decide how well-behaved your dog will be.

Did you know that dogs can learn basic commands as of eight weeks?

That’s true because puppies can master their first commands at such young age.

If you feel that the training you do is too much for you, you can alwasy think about puppy classes, or hiring a professional dog trainer who will work first 1 on 1 with your dog and then – if needed, include you in the process as well.

Make sure that you get appropriate advice from a reputable livestock working dog handler/veterinarian or trainer, who can give you concrete advice and help you be ahead of any behavioral problem.

Training sessions should be short, regular, and fun, and packed with treats.

Any dog will love positive reinforcement training packed with treats.

Just make sure that you monitor your dog during training sessions and shape them around the dog’s reactions, emotions, and general behavior.

Working Kelpie Grooming

Grooming is an important process of heaving a healthy and happy dog.

If you don’t like to spend hours weekly brushing your dog, you should be happy to hear that this is a smooth-coated breed with minimal undercoat, which means that grooming will be a relatively easy job.

Brushing once per week should do the work, as long as you have the right grooming tools on hand.

The rest is basic care:

  • Check ears regularly and learn how to clean them
  • Check gums weekly and serve Kelpie food that promotes teeth health
  • Do not bath Kelpie unless really necessary – dogs don’t need frequent bathing as humans do
  • Trim or grind nails regularly – too long nails can lead to pain, splitting, and cracking

Working Kelpie Health

Working Kelpies are generally healthy dogs. When working with a responsible breeder you can be sure that you are getting a healthy dog.

Reputable breeders will always give you medical documentation on the breed, show you the facilities and let you meet the puppy’s parents and other dog siblings.

If this doesn’t happen, know that you are dealing with puppy mills and if that is the case simply walk off.

Being a responsible dog owner means that you continually learn – about the dog’s needs, health, personality traits, training methods and so.

One of the most important things is keeping an eye on a dog’s health and overall well-being. With that in mind, try to learn as much as possible about specific health concerns within the breed.

So far, recommended health tests on this breed are elbow and hips.

Thanks to regular veterinarian check-ups you can prevent any health-related mess, and even notice on time any underlying medical issues.

Also, once you get the dog you are directly responsible for one of the biggest healhty issues in dogs – obesity.

Make sure that you understand the feeding schedule, feeding styles, and that you know how much your dog should eat in every phase: puppies don’t have identical food needs like seniors do.

Make sure that you don’t overdo with treats, and for training purposes always use the small one, specially created for training.

Be careful about table scraps, and make sure that you know which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s diet, weight, or overall health, make sure that you talk to your veterinarian.

The Bottom Line

The hard-muscled dog is definitely not a dog for first time dog owners.

This breed demands a lot of training, patience, and a firm hand that knows how to get out the most from dogs with great training methods and the right treats.

Since they are extremely active they can be hard to live with, which is why you should double think if you have time and energy for a dog, and if this breed is for you.

Don’t forget: a tired dog is a good dog. They learn quickly and love being busy, so make sure that you plan well activities and keep training sessions fun and challenging.

So, if you want a dog who is medium-sized, holds natural-looking, and loves to work and be active all day long, and can learn almost anything then a Working Kelpie may be right for you.

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