Australian Kelpie Dog Breed: Facts, Traits, Character and Look

Australian Kelpie Dog Breed_ Facts, Traits, Character and Look

Australian Kelpies are slim, energetic breeds with hard muscle tone and effortless mobility, demonstrating their ability to work tirelessly. They were bred to take care of the sheep primarily on their own with no real guidance from any shepherds or other individuals. In addition to herding sheep, this breed is also good at herding cattle and goats. This breed is versatile enough to handle Australia’s hot and dry conditions, where it originated and is adept at working sheep in open fields or closed yards. The Kelpie is classified as a medium-sized dog in the working group. 

A Kelpie can be a detection dog, search and rescue dog, assistance dog, hearing dog, or therapy dog. He is excellent at dog sports: agility, flyball, flying disc games, herding trials, obedience and tracking. A couple of long daily walks, jogs or hikes will also help meet his need for activity. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep him occupied to his satisfaction. Careful consideration is necessary before taking an Australian Kelpie puppy home because they are firstly working dogs, and the slightest bit of boredom can render a Kelpie a four-legged wrecker. 

The female Kelpie delivers four to seven pups after a 60 day pregnancy period once per year. The Australian Kelpie’s lifespan is 10 to 14 years. Other popular names for the Australian Kelpie breed include Australian Sheepdog, Australischer Kelpie, Barb and Kelpie.

It is never easy to choose a name for a new puppy, but once you’ve found inspiration, it is a whole lot easier. Maybe a puppy of the same breed is famous for starring in a movie or TV sitcom. For example, a Kelpie named Bossy had been starring in an Australian sitcom, Neighbours., since she was only nine weeks old. When it comes to names, you can use Bossy for a boy or girl puppy. Other names from the same sitcom are Kyle, Bossy’s owner, and Toadie, who saved Bossy from an animal shelter.

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What is the History of the Australian Kelpie?

The energetic Kelpie came into being around 1870, with this working dog breed having a role to play with the herding of sheep in the harsh Australian outback. The sheep and wool industry in Australia has always been big business, and Australian ranchers were looking for a tough dog that could cope with sheep and cope with the harsh environment.

These are adaptable dogs, and their ancestors include the Coley or Collie, a British herding-type dog, the English- and the Australian Shepherd, and the Dingo. It is believed that up to 4% of their genes come from the Dingo. These adaptable dogs were also brought to North America, where they quickly adapted to the different climates and different livestock.

Kelpies were brought to North America about a century ago and adapted quickly to the varying climates and terrain and different livestock. They are rare because they are not commonly regarded as pets, but thousands of them go to work every day on farms and ranches worldwide. They are recognized by the United Kennel Club and registered by the North American Australian Kelpie Registry, which aims to preserve the Kelpie’s natural working ability, purpose, conformation, temperament, and overall good health.

What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Australian Kelpies?

A herding dog hailing from the land Down Under, the athletic, muscular, and energetic Australian Kelpie is an extremely intense breed. Highly intelligent and driven, Kelpies enjoy working hard. In fact, they really need a job to do—hanging around the house simply won’t suffice. Most Australian Kelpies are used as working dogs, mostly herding sheep, though some Kelpies can also be used for herding cattle. A Kelpie can be a search and rescue dog, detection dog, hearing dog, assistance dog, or therapy dog. However, Kelpies are hardy, devoted, and super-intelligent, and could make a great addition to your family. Some of the Australian Kelpie breed’s characteristics and traits are listed below.

Australian Kelpies  



The Australian Kelpie’s temperament shows a cheeky Barb with a wicked sense of humor and loads of personality. Kelpies are exceptional herding dogs because working is what makes them happiest. However, they are highly intelligent and versatile. They learn quickly, and Kelpies who live with families as companion dogs will be ready for any jobs or activities they can join. Bored Kelpies can be very destructive, and they are also prone to excessive barking.

They are only suitable for active families whom the Barb can join on long walks or jogging, cycling, skateboarding, and hiking. They are alert, and the innate skills of their breed as herders allow them to make independent decisions. After all, they are often alone when herding livestock and have to make quick decisions without the guidance of their owners. That is why they need an owner with a firm disposition that will leave no doubt about who the pack leader in the home is. If not, the Australian sheepdog will challenge to be Alpha of the pack, and the consequences could be severe because the Kelpie will want to rule the house.

Adaptability Level

These are adaptable dogs too, and their ancestors include the Coley or Collie, a British herding-type dog, the English- and the Australian Shepherd and the Dingo. It is believed that up to 4% of their genes come from the Dingo. These adaptable dogs were also brought to North America, where they quickly adapted to the different climates and different livestock. Australian Kelpies adapt very well to lifestyle changes and basically all living environments. They don’t mind moving from one place to another with their owner.

Sensitivity Level

Australian Sheepdogs are slightly more sensitive than other dog breeds, and soft punishment affects them emotionally. Australian Kelpies don’t tolerate irregular daily routines, noisy households, and frequent guest visits well. They are receptive to their owner’s emotions and make wonderful family companions.

Affection Level

Australian Kelpie Herding Dogs are highly affectionate dogs that like involvement in the family’s life. This breed isn’t considered as aloof as many other working dogs. Australian Kelpies should not be left alone for long periods. Because of their high intelligence and strong bond with their family, they can become easily bored and develop separation anxiety. It can lead to problem behaviors such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, and other anxiety-related issues.

Overall Friendliness

Australian Kelpies can be adorable pets, especially when introduced early into a household. They are loyal dogs that bond easily with families who can keep them busy. So they can quickly become safe and friendly companions for little children. Australian Kelpies are also naturally suspicious of strangers, making them excellent watchdogs to guard your property. They are happiest when they get loads of exercise. For this, they tend to run around in excitement, wagging their tails with abandon, as their small ears flop adorably down their cheeks.


Australian Kelpies adore kids and love to play, although they may fall into some herding habits if not adequately trained and socialized. The Australian Kelpies have innate herding instincts. Herding cattle involves a certain amount of nipping at heels, which kids would not welcome, even with no intention to cause hurt. Socialize and teach your dog early, and you’ll have a loving, furry family member.

Children should always be supervised with dogs, even when they are family, and they should be trained on how to interact with animals to avoid incidents. Socializing Australian Kelpies early and teaching them to interact with new people and animals will help, and the earlier training begins, the better.


Bred as working farm dogs, Australian Kelpies usually get along well with various animals. They do well with other dogs and cats, although they should be socialized with them early for the most harmonious relationships. And should you happen to live on a farm, Australian Kelpies will fit right in with cows, goats, sheep, and other livestock. They will likely try to follow their instincts and herd the livestock, which the cows may not appreciate.

Exercise Needs

The Australian Kelpie is a highly energetic breed. They were initially bred to work and run on farms all day, and their exercise requirements reflect that heritage. If you live in an apartment or a crowded city, getting the Australian Kelpie as much exercise as they need may be challenging. The Australian Kelpie needs vigorous daily exercise unless you live somewhere with a lot of space for them to roam and run. Another thing to remember is that Australian Kelpies will not do well if they spend a lot of time kenneled or crated due to their energy level and desire to be included in family life.

Playfulness Level

Australian Kelpie herders love to play with children and go for long hikes when not working. Keep plenty of toys available when you cannot devote time to them, or they can become destructive in your home. Being a sheepdog with an inbred herding instinct, they require a sturdy fence to keep them from trying to herd vehicles, bicycles, or neighborhood children. Early socialization will make them more accepting of new situations and people. The Australian Kelpie is not dog-aggressive and should do well in a home with multiple dogs.

Energy Levels

Australian Sheepdogs are never happy to be idle; instead, they must spend excessive energy. Inactive lifestyles can cause boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior. If your Australian Kelpie no longer works on a farm, you must ensure your furry friend has enough space to run and play to spend energy. Vigorous walks, taking your Australian Kelpie as jogging, cycling, or skateboarding companion will provide enough exercise to ensure a calm canine for the rest of the day, instead of looking for something to destroy out of pure boredom.

Trainability Level

Developed as a farm dog, the Australian Kelpie is smart and highly trainable. These dogs can be trained for herding and livestock guarding, though they also make great family pets. This breed will bond closely with its owner, so positive reinforcement training is highly effective. Keep in mind that these dogs may be prone to destructive behaviors if not properly exercised or left alone too long.

Intelligence Level

Members of the Australian Kelpie breed are very intelligent herding dogs which means they need a firm, consistent owner. Boredom and loneliness can easily lead to destructive or nuisance behavior. If you have the time to devote to them, they will desire to please you, and training gains will come quickly.

Barking Tendency

Australian Sheepdog dogs communicate both through vocal and non-vocal means. True to their dog nature, they bark loudly when they perceive a threat and warn everybody within reach. However, their barking is not excessive.

What are the Physical Traits of the Australian Kelpie?

The Australian Kelpie is a medium-sized sheepdog, with males and females weighing between 26 and 45 pounds, and they usually look and feel like they could do a day’s work without any effort. In appearance, they’re athletic, lithe, muscular, and slightly longer than tall. Kelpies’ height at the wither ranges between 16 and 21 inches. The breed comes in seven colors: black, black and tan, red and tan, chocolate, fawn, and blue. 

Because they were initially bred to herd animals, Kelpies are quite agile, and they can turn suddenly at speed and are capable of crouching and stealthy creeping. The breed has almond-shaped eyes, which is a practical feature, as it avoids dust getting into them from the paddock or yard. A Kelpie’s ears are pricked, and the inside of them are well furnished with hair to keep out the dust of the sheep yard or sand from the backyard family sandpit.

What is the Average Maintenance Cost for Australian Kelpies?

Australian Kelpies are popular in the United States. The average price of an Australian Kelpie is $590, and Kelpies typically range from $500 to $600. However, the cost of an Australian Kelpie puppy can be as low as $100 and as high as $1000.

The cost of a puppy from a registered breeder could vary, depending on the breeder you select, the sex of the puppy, and, of course, the demand for the breed at the time. The bloodline of the puppy and its parents could also affect the price. You will be hard-pressed to find this breed in a shelter, but if you do, the price will typically be based on the cost of care provided while keeping the Australian Kelpie.

It is always best to consider annual expenses related to maintaining your Australian Kelpie Sheepdog and its wellbeing before making the purchase. The first year will be the most expensive, as puppies require extra vet care and more one-time purchases like microchips, spaying or neutering, etc. You can expect to spend about $3,000 for your dog’s first year. After that, the price will go down to about $1,700 a year. 

The typical annual costs of having a medium-sized canine such as an Australian Kelpie, food and medical only, excluding toys, food, and water bowl, cages, doggy blankets, beds, etc., could cost an average of $650. The most regular annual expenses for dogs similar to the Australian Kelpie are listed below.

  • Food items
  • Veterinary care
  • Vaccinations
  • Preventive medicine
  • Toys
  • Pet insurance
  • Pet Supplies

Other potential expenses include training, socializing, doggy daycare, dog sitters, dog walkers, etc. Grooming would not affect the maintenance costs because Australian Kelpies are low maintenance, and their coat is easy to groom and maintain. You want to give him a good brush twice a week to get rid of loose hair, and Australian Kelpies are moderate shedders.

The Australian Kelpie does not tend to drool excessively; in fact, the breed hardly ever drools. Drooling is the unintentional saliva flowing outside of the mouth. The Australian Kelpie has a moderate risk of obesity, especially if working dogs become house pets with insufficient exercise. Daily walks should be on schedule. To make your dog happy and fit, feed him with premium quality dry dog food and live an active life together.

What is the best diet for Australian Kelpies?

Your dog’s adult size determines its dietary needs through all life stages. Thus, base your Australian Kelpie’s diet on a medium breed’s unique nutritional and digestive needs throughout its different life stages.

It is always a good idea to discuss your dog’s dietary needs with your vet to ensure you are prepared to deal with age-related issues as their Australian Kelpies grow. A veterinarian can advise on diets, portion sizes, meal frequencies, and all nutrition matters to ensure your furry friend lives a long life with optimal health. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and some of the essential nutrients are listed below:

  • Protein
  • Fatty acids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

Avoid feeding your Australian Kelpie from the table; all it does is add weight. Instead, follow the advice below to ensure your Australian Kelpie friend’s optimal health.

The Australian Sheepdog is an active, athletic breed type. It will thus need food that contains animal proteins and carbohydrates for energy, vitamins, and minerals for digestive and immune health, and omega fatty acids for coat and skin wellness. A working dog of this size, activity level, and demeanor will thrive best on premium dry food because this food type contains balanced portions of the above-listed ingredients.

Australian Kelpie puppy’s portion depends on age, but 2 to 3 cups are appropriate. In contrast, an active, healthy adult Australian Kelpie should have 3 to 4 cups, depending on the brand and formula of the food. Feeding Australian Kelpies several meals instead of one meal per day can prevent life-threatening bloat. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian. 

A premium dry dog food should form the basis of your Kelpie’s diet. You can add variety by supplementing this food with fresh meat, bones, cooked eggs, canned wet dog food, and even fruits and vegetables, but keep these additions to no more than 10 percent of the dog’s daily diet. 

Premium dog foods are carefully designed to provide all the nutrients that active dogs need to stay healthy. Feed your Australian Kelpie a food formulated for large working dog breeds, recipes for puppies, adults, and seniors, or look for a brand formulated for all life stages. An example of premium food for Australian Kelpie Sheepdogs and its benefits are listed below:

Orijen Dry Dog Food for active dogs, with recipes formulated for each life stage, is a good choice, made with WholePrey animal ingredients, including organs and bone, delivering 85% quality animal ingredients, freeze-dried coated for the wag-worthy raw flavor dogs love.

Below is a list of what to look for in the dry dog food formula when choosing the best nutrition for your Australian Kelpie.

  • Lasting energy providers: Dog food made with premium meats like chicken, duck, turkey, beef, lamb, salmon, and novel proteins like venison, bison, buffalo, and wild boar. Fiber-rich carbs and highly digestible proteins keep your Kelpie feeling energized and full throughout the day.
  • Ingredients for better health: Food that includes powerful superfoods like tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, along with their immune-boosting properties.
  • Optimizing Nutrient Absorption: Recipes with chelated minerals promote mineral attachment to proteins for maximized absorption during the digestive process.
  • Immune System Support: Formulas with prebiotics and species-specific probiotics with bacteria that are naturally found in a dog’s GI tract.
  • Perfectly Balanced Omegas: Contains just the correct dose of fatty acids, marine-sourced omega-3 and omega-6 from plant sources.

When Australian Kelpies are healthy and active, every day is an adventure. That’s why Orijen for active breeds is crafted with everything dogs need to thrive, starting with real protein as the first ingredient.

How Much Should an Australian Kelpie Puppy Eat? 

The Australian Kelpie is a large-sized breed whose pups under 12 weeks should get four bowls of food per day. When Kelpie puppies become three months old, owners can feed them three meals per day until they reach six months, reducing the food intake to 2 meals per day. Only high-quality and branded puppy food is acceptable. Guidance for feeding puppies is listed below.

  • Australian Kelpie puppies need slow, sustained growth to help prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia. Raise them on a diet designed for medium-breed puppies. Whatever diet you choose shouldn’t overemphasize protein, fat, and calorie levels.
  • Australian Kelpie should be fed according to a schedule, spreading meal times over two or three times per day. Getting the puppy accustomed to meals at specific times is better than leaving food out to allow feeding throughout the day.
  • Australian Kelpies with medical conditions like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar are the exceptions because they need to nibble bits of food throughout the day.
  • Never feed your puppy from the table. It only encourages begging. Everyone in the family must follow this rule.

What are the common health problems of Australian Kelpies?

The Australian Kelpie is a healthy breed, but regular veterinarian checkups remain essential. The following list of health conditions should be monitored:

  • Hip dysplasia is a deformation that occurs and develops as Australian Kelpie puppies grow. It is caused by loose joints that prevent the ball part of one bone from sliding smoothly in the socket of the other joint bone. Instead, it grinds and rubs in the joint, causing painful wear and tear damage as the Australian Kelpie grows and becomes heavier. Although it could start in puppyhood, it usually only becomes evident in adult dogs, making annual medical examinations crucial.
  • Elbow Dysplasia is the most common cause of lameness in the forelimbs of active breeds like the Australian Kelpie Sheepdog.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or Gastric Torsion is also known as ‘bloat.’ A life-threatening disorder that happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and becomes twisted. This is an emergency and requires urgent veterinary attention.
  • Retinal atrophy, also called PRA, is an inherited progressive disease of the retina that leads to blindness in affected Kelpies.
  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is a disorder caused by incomplete development of the eye. The severity of the anomaly ranges from no apparent visual defect to total blindness. A board-certified Ophthalmologist can easily be checked when the puppies are 6-8 weeks old.
  • Patellar luxation: A luxating patella occurs when the dog patella (kneecap), which normally sits on the groove of the femur (thighbone), shifts out of alignment.  When luxation of the patella occurs, your dog may experience intermittent hind limb “skipping,” lameness, or a locking up of the limb at an odd angle.
  • Hypothyroidism: Insufficient thyroid hormone production, causing hair loss, dry skin and coat, and susceptibility to other skin diseases in Australian Kelpies.
  • Cerebellar Abiotrophy in dogs is an inherited degenerative disease that causes the cells of the dog’s cerebellum to die off gradually. Cerebellar Degeneration in dogs leads to a loss of balance, posture, and coordination, which typically becomes more severe over time.
  • Muscle strains and injuries happen to any dog that works for a living. The Australian Kelpie will have a higher chance of developing injuries over their lifetime than will companion animals or show dogs. Most commonly, they will be seen at a veterinary clinic for lacerations, claw injuries, soft tissue injuries, and fractures.

What are the nutritional needs of Australian Kelpies?

The nutritional needs of an Australian Kelpie include high levels of specific nutrients. The essential nutrients for the Kelpie are listed below.

  • Protein: Australian Kelpies need natural animal protein, valuable for the amino acids they contain essential for a Barb’s health. Equally important is the fact that protein builds lean muscles and provides energy.
  • Fat: Animal protein provides adequate fat, an additional energy source that boosts the Australian Sheepdog’s metabolism. However, there is a fine line between enough and too much. Excessive fat levels in the dog’s daily diet could result in weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. Most importantly, adults and senior Australian Kelpies need lower fat levels than puppies.
  • Carbohydrates: Although carbs are not essential nutrients, they are crucial energy sources. Giving the Australian Kelpie sufficient carbs will provide energy, encouraging the body’s protein absorption to build lean muscle. Beware, though, too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity.
  • DHA: DHA is one of the components of omega-3 fatty acids. It promotes proper eye and brain development in Australian Kelpie puppies, and DHA develops cognitive development in puppies and slows cognitive decline in older dogs. Furthermore, omega fatty acids benefit aging Kelpies by treating chronic kidney disease and canine arthritis. Omega-3 oils improve the coat health of the Australian Kelpie Sheepdog.
  • Micronutrient: Taurine is one micronutrient that aids heart health, and other valuable micronutrients for promoting strong joints in Australian Kelpies are chondroitin and glucosamine.
  • Minerals: Beneficial minerals for an Australian Kelpie’s growth include a healthy balance of phosphorus and calcium. Pre- and probiotics and chelated minerals provide additional health to the diets of Barbs.

Where to Buy or Adopt an Australian Kelpie?

Though Australian Kelpies are mostly similar, different breeders specialize in various working abilities. For instance, you might want a dog with different qualities depending on if you want an Australian Kelpie to work on a large sheep ranch, herd cattle, one that is well-suited to help out on a small hobby farm, or a companion dog for your family. The North American Working Australian Kelpie Registry is an excellent place to start your search for the right Kelpie for you.

Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. They are more interested in placing pups in suitable homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids.”

If you manage to track down Australian Kelpie breeders, make sure you go to the facility and insist on meeting both the puppies’ parents so that you can get a feel for their temperament. Australian Kelpie puppies are often peppy and playful—all should have cheery expressions and kind eyes.

The best way to ensure you get a healthy Australian Kelpie puppy from a breeder or a rescue organization is to reach out to the registered organizations for the specific breed, if available. Below are two options that might assist anyone interested in purchasing an Australian Kelpie puppy. The American Kennel Club does not recognize kelpies, and the best organization to reach out to for breeders or rescue facilities will be the North American Working Australian Kelpie Registry.

It might take some time to find a legitimate breeder, and travel may very well be in the cards. Steer clear of backyard breeding by avoiding sales sites and ad pages. When you select a breeder, make sure they have proof of successful, healthy litters with any documentation necessary.

Although you might find an Australian Kelpie puppy or a rescued adult to adopt or buy from abroad, not all countries allow importing adopted dogs. Those whose countries allow the importation of Australian Kelpies may find the logistics challenging. 

Procedures include obtaining certification from a vet to prove the Australian Kelpie is fully vaccinated and providing all the additional required veterinary documents before the travel. Furthermore, your country must approve the veterinarian to authorize the importation, and it will be your responsibility to ensure you use the services of a certified vet.

What Dog Breeds are Similar to the Australian Kelpie?

The Australian Kelpie, or simply Kelpie, is an Australian sheepdog capable of mustering and droving with little or no guidance. It is a medium-sized dog and comes in a variety of colors. The Kelpie has been exported worldwide and is used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle, and goats. However, similar breeds are available, as listed below.

Australian Cattle Dog: Australian Cattle Dogs and Kelpies were both bred to herd livestock in Australia. Both are medium-sized dogs, though the Australian Cattle Dog is about 10 pounds heavier with an average weight of 46 pounds compared to a Kelpie’s 35 pounds. Kelpies have a double coat, while Australian Cattle Dogs have a denser coat. more about Australian Cattle Dog social life, care & diet information.

Australian Shepherd: The Australian Shepherd is a larger dog than the Kelpie. The average weight of a male Australian Shepherd is 57.5 pounds, while the average weight of a male Kelpie is only 35 pounds. Both breeds are territorial and can make an excellent watchdog. more about Australian Shepherd social life, care & diet information.

Border Collie: Border Collies and Kelpies are both excellent shepherds for livestock. They are also about the same size with an average weight of around 35 pounds. Border Collies require more grooming than Kelpies and can be more affectionate.

Michael Brady

Michael is an animal-lover who specializes in marketing. He started running Dog Food Care with his mother, Sarah, after leaving his office job. Michael gained enough flexibility in his schedule to be able to adopt a dog of his own and welcomed Emmie the dachshund into his home in 2020.