Australian Kelpie

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Australian Kelpie
Average Cost to keep/care for a Australian Kelpie

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #152 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Australian Kelpie breed is also commonly known by the names Kelpie, Barb, Farmer Dog.
12 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
No - Not Currently KC Recognised
Males 39 - 51 cm
Females 39 - 51 cm at the withers
Males 14 - 20 kg
Females 14 - 20 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£235 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Australian Kelpie is a medium sized dog that boasts having an athletic build. They were bred as working dogs and even in a home environment, they need to be kept busy to prevent boredom from setting in. Kelpies are also known to be highly intelligent and can be taught to do many things. The breed is quite rarely seen outside of Australia where they are highly prized. However, over recent years the Australian Kelpie is fast becoming more well known in other parts of the world, thanks to their charming looks and quick-witted, loyal natures as such their popularity is rising albeit slowly.


The Australian Kelpie was first developed in the late 19th century when intelligent working dogs were needed to help with large flocks in Australia. Not only did dogs need to be smart and quick witted, but they also needed to be tough enough to handle challenging situations and conditions. On top of this, they needed to be able to cover vast distances with relative ease. Kelpies were developed for being all of these things and like other sheepdogs, they boast having the "Coley" in their ancestry.

Kelpies soon earned themselves the reputation for being reliable, tough and intelligent working dogs not only in their native Australia, but elsewhere in the world too. However, these charming, hard-working dogs are rarely seen in a home environment outside of Australia and anyone wishing to share their home with a Kelpie would need to register their interest with breeders and be put on a waiting list because so few puppies are bred in the UK every year. The breed is not yet recognised by The Kennel Club, but the United Kennel Club does recognise the Kelpie as a breed and has drawn up a standard with an end goal being to ensure good breeding practices.


Height at the withers: Males 39 - 51 cm, Females 39 - 51 cm

Average weight: Males 14 - 20 kg, Females 14 - 20 kg

The Australian Kelpie is an athletic looking dog and one that gives the appearance of being strong, agile yet supple and athletic. They are always on the alert with a keen expression in their eye much like a working Border Collie. Their heads are nicely in proportion with the rest of the body with skulls being a little rounded yet broad between a dog's ears. When seen in profile Kelpies have straight foreheads with a pronounced stop. Muzzles are nicely chiselled and well defined with dogs having tight lips.

Their eyes are brown, almond shaped and medium in size being set wide on a dog's face.  However, dogs with lighter coloured coats may have lighter coloured eyes, but all Kelpies have a keen, alert expression in their eyes. A Kelpie's nose matches their coat colour and they have a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.  Their ears are set nicely apart on a dog's head and moderate in size being nicely pricked with the outer edge being slightly curved.

Kelpies have moderately long slightly arched necks that merge smoothly into their shoulders. The hair on a dog's neck is slightly longer forming a ruff. They have strong forequarters with nice clean, muscular and sloping shoulders. Front legs are strong and well-muscled. They have powerful looking bodies with straight backs, deep chests and well sprung ribs. Loins are well muscled and dogs have a nice depth to their flanks. Their hindquarters are strong with dogs having long, sloping rumps and back legs are powerful with strong upper thighs. Their feet are rounded and strong with deep, tight pads and well arched toes. Tails are set to follow the line of a dog's croup which dogs carry low when resting, but raised when excited or alert. Their tails are well furnished showing a good amount of brush.

When it comes to their coat, the Australian Kelpie boasts having quite a short, harsh close lying straight outer coat that's extremely weather resistant and a dense undercoat that provides a lot of protection from the elements. The hair on a dog's legs, head, ears and feet is short, but longer around their neck which forms their ruff. The hair on the back of a dog’s thighs is longer which forms a slight breeching. Tails are nicely furnished forming a brush. The accepted coat colours under the United Kennel Club registration are as follows:

  • Black - with or without tan markings
  • Blue - ranging from a dark colour to a light one - with or without tan markings
  • Red - ranging from chocolat to light red - with or without tan markings
  • Tan - ranging from dark to medium

Kelpies can have a white spot, strip or blaze on their chests which is acceptable under the UKC standard.


The Australian Kelpie thrives on having something to do and being so intelligent, they quickly get bored if left to their own devices for any length of time. As such, they are best suited to people who lead active outdoor lives and who would like to have a quick witted canine companion at their side. Kelpies are not the best choice for first time owners nor are they a good choice for people who lead more sedentary lives for this reason. Being so active and intelligent, Kelpies are keen and quick to learn new things and excel at many canine sports which includes agility and obedience. They form strong bonds with their owners, but can be wary and suspicious around people they don't know especially if they have not been well enough socialised from a young age.

Although they are extremely loyal by nature, the Kelpie is strong willed and therefore training them can prove challenging for people who are not familiar with the breed. They need to know who to look to for guidance and who is the alpha dog in a household. They are also prone to nipping and chasing anything that moves thanks to the fact their need to herd anything that moves is so deeply embedded in their psyche. If not gently curbed from a young enough age, a Kelpie would chase just about anything and this includes joggers, cars, bicycles, children and other animals whenever they got the chance to. However, when well trained and given enough exercise on a daily basis a Kelpie happily settles down in the evening, but they remain alert and ready to go even then.

It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Kelpie is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Australian Kelpie is an extremely smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. As such, their training has to begin early and it has to be consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what's expected of them. Kelpies are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things and if left to their own devices for too long, boredom sets in which can lead to dogs becoming unruly and destructive around the home.

They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact with handlers when taking part in an event.  The key to successfully training a Kelpie is to make things as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay more focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored and as previously mentioned, Kelpies are extremely intelligent and boast having an extremely low boredom threshold.

They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved.

Children and Other Pets

Kelpies are known to be good with older children who know how to behave around dogs. However, any interaction between toddlers and a Kelpie should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt, especially as Kelpies are known to nip ankles when they want a child to move along which is a trait that’s deeply embedded in their natures.

When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet. However, care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets which includes cats because of their high herding instincts. As such any contact is best avoided.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Australian Kelpie Health

The average life expectancy of an Australian Kelpie is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Kelpie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these extraordinary dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) - breeders should have stud dogs eye tested
  • Collie eye anomaly - breeders should have stud dogs tested
  • Hip dysplasia - Breeders should have their stud dogs hip scored
  • Elbow dysplasia - Breeders should have their stud dogs elbow tested
  • A sensitivity to certain drugs and sedatives - MDR1 Test Available
  • Cataracts
  • Coloboma
  • Cerebellar ataxia

Caring for a Australian Kelpie

Australian Kelpies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Australian Kelpies boast having short, close lying double coats and as such they are low maintenance on the grooming front. A twice weekly brush all it takes to keep their coats in good condition. However, for dogs with such short hair, they do tend to shed more than expected. With this said, they shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when they do shed quite heavily and therefore more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.


The Australian Kelpie is energetic and highly intelligent. They need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need at least 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Kelpie would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they would soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious and painful problems later in their lives.


If you get an Australian Kelpie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Australian Kelpie

If you are looking to buy an Australian Kelpie, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £300 for a well-bred puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Australian Kelpie in northern England would be £19.44 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of September 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Australian Kelpie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Australian Kelpie would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.

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