Australian sheepdog the kelpie dog breed works in outback heat

Kelpies are loyal, friendly, intelligent, problem-solving dogs and make excellent pets. The Kelpie is one of the lesser known breeds outside its native Australia. ‘Kelpie’ is the Gaelic word for water sprite, and is thought to have stuck to the breed after being used for one particularly fine breeding dog specimen of these dogs, years ago.

A sheepdog, the Kelpie is said to be a breed that runs along the backs of the sheep it is herding.

Descended from British dogs of the same stock as collie sheepdogs the Kelpie was introduced into Australia by 18th-century settlers. Different kennel clubs breed standards have preferences for certain colours. The Svenska Working Kelpie Klubben like other clubs separates working strains from “pedigree” show dogs but also does not permit Working Kelpies to be shown.

Some say that the Kelpie was crossed with the native dingoes, when the modern breed was derived. There have always been varying views as to whether or not this is true, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence in, for example, the fox-like look of the Kelpie’s head, and where else would it have developed its heat tolerance?

The end result, whether “Dingo gene generated” or not, is a tough, solidly built but fast-footed sheepdog, which will happily work even in the extreme conditions of the Australian climate. It is also reportedly able to go without water for long periods, which helps a lot when herding.

Any sheepdog needs to be the intelligent and the Kelpie is no exception. They are easy to train and loyal to their owner. A Kelpie is not an aggressive dog, but family pets will protect their family with no regard for themselves.

It is important to remember that this is a working dog, and used to a great deal of activity, and exercise. So a happy Kelpie must be given both space, interesting activity, and lot of exercise. Many national dog clubs which recognise the Kelpie still encourage encourages breeding for herding ability, and allow a wide variety of coat colors.

It has been said that walks and socialisation are more than sufficient to keep them happy, and agility and ball games bring out the best in them. Others though, do say that the exercise does really need to be in wide open spaces for much of the time – after all this is such a characteristic of this breed’s home surroundings. They do need to be stimulated as idle and bored dogs of almost all breeds become frustrated and destructive.

There is, by the way, an easy way to tell which any particular Kelpie breeder is, as Kelpie breeders tend to call their breeding establishments “kennels”, whereas working Kelpies are bred much more for their herding instincts. Working dog breeders tend to call their breeding establishments “Studs” in a similar way to studs in the animal livestock industry.

It is recommended that Kelpies be vaccinated against parvovirus and distemper, and rabies if the dog is outside Australia, which is currently free of the disease

Learning rate: High

Height: 43-51 cm (17-20 inchs)

Life span: Ten to fourteen years

Watch-dog ability:High

Guard dog ability:High