All You Need to Know About Your Australian Kelpie Puppy!

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australian kelpie dog sitting in fieldKelpie pups make companionable pets, and you don’t have to be down under to enjoy one in your own home. When Australia was first inhabited on a grand scale in the 1800s, it seems the only indigenous dog about was the dingo.

Being practically-minded people of determination, Australia’s first farmers bred dogs which could help them farm livestock in this harsh terrain. So it was that the likes of the Casterton Kelpie, the working Kelpie, and the Australian Cattle Dog or Red Heeler came about.

The Kelpie has gained some semblance of notoriety through online gaming, where the River Kelpie is a feature. This creature has no bearing, however, on its Australian namesake.

A Brief History of the Australian Kelpie Dog Breed! 

The Australian Kelpie originated in the Land-Down-Under around 150 years ago. It was a time when a reliable sheep-herder was worth more than its weight in gold on the lucrative and expansive Australian sheep farms.

Australian farmers developed sheep and cattle farms which were originally tended by convicts banished to this penal colony. This means of tending became less than ideal. The sheep eventually roamed free in incredibly large fenced-off areas.

It was then that Black Collies were imported from Britain and crossbred with suitable breeds which very likely included dingoes, the feral indigenous dogs of Australia. The resultant hardy and intelligent herding dog could work tirelessly and independently under the predominantly inhospitable conditions.

Scotsman George Robertson bred the first litter to be known as Kelpies on Warrock Station near Casterton in 1872. Jack Gleeson bought a black and tan female pup from this litter. The “Kelpie” got its name from the Celtic mythological shape-shifting water spirit that took on the appearance of human or horse.

The resultant contemporary Australian Kelpie soon made its way across the globe. It became a useful livestock herder, especially on U.S. ranches.

The Australian Kelpie Muster celebrates Casterton as the birthplace of the original ‘Kelpie’ born at Warrock Station. It is a celebration of the Australian Working Kelpie dog breed. This festival celebrates the breed’s amazing skills while. There is also a working dog auction which provides a unique chance to observe the superior working dogs’ skills before sale.

The Kelpie Myth: A Folklore Creatures List Featuring the Kelpie Horse

Celtic myth speaks of a supernatural water horse or water sprite known by lore to haunt Scotland’s lochs and lonely rivers. This “kelpie” would appear as a lost pony which was either white or dark grey in color, and distinctive in that it always had a constantly dripping mane.

It would lure people to ride on its back, and would then carry the victim down to a watery grave. Perhaps the best known Kelpie would be the Loch Ness Monster.

Australia’s mythological Bunyip (translated as devil or spirit) lurked in swamps, riverbeds, and waterholes. Indigenous people believed Bunyip had a horse-like tail and took humans, preferably women, as a food source. Scottish folklore also mentions the mythical Selkie Girls as associated with the Kelpie.

The Appearance of Kelpie Dogs 

Australian Kelpies are medium-sized dogs with almond-shaped eyes. They truly look the part as lithe, active dogs. Kelpies are slightly longer than they are tall, which speaks for the breed’s agility skills.

They have compact, muscular conformations with supple limbs and pricked ears, and present in a variety of colors and coat types. Coats might be smooth, short, or rough and some might have double coats, in which case the outer coat is more weather-resistant.

wet brown kelpie on beach

Average Size and Weight! 

These Australian herding dogs typically stand at a height of 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder and weigh in at between 31 and 46 pounds.

The Coats and Colors! 

This breed’s coat is always beautiful, whichever of the varied colors it presents. Colors include black, black & tan, blue, chocolate, fawn, red and red & tan. Standard markings are white.

Black Kelpies became known simply as “Barbs”, possibly because that was the name of the first solid black Kelpie. Barb was named after a black horse, The Barb, which won the Melbourne Cup in 1866.

The breed’s “double” fur coat presents as a short, dense undercoat and a smooth weather-repellent outer coat. This outer coat can shed a little more during spring and summer.

Temperament and Personality: What to Expect!

Expect a lively, energetic, friendly, eager and loyal herding dog. These fiercely independent herding dogs need mental stimulation to avoid them becoming bored. Bored dogs and lonely dogs are often very destructive!

Their sensitive nature responds better to positive reinforcement than harsh rebukes or punishment, and they obey commands with intelligence. These dogs can be extremely territorial and often don’t do well with strangers. This speaks for their excellent watchdog traits.

Early socialization is recommended to teach them appropriate responses when it comes to other pets or house-guests. You should walk them a few times a day, and a daily good run is always in order.

Mental stimulation is imperative too to keep the dog calm and content. These dogs are not the ideal pets for apartment dwellers or owners who are frequently away from home for extended periods.

The Kelpie is a perfect therapy and seeing-eye dog. It is worth mentioning that the Royal Children’s Hospital has a Kelpie ward. It brings together the clinical care and expertise of the Adolescent Medicine, The Children’s Cancer Centre and the Paediatric Rehabilitation Service.

two kelpie dogs herding cattle

The Lifespan of Kelpies

These working dogs live anywhere between the age of ten to thirteen.

What About an Australian Kelpie Mix?

Breeders need to put careful thought into cross-breeding a Kelpie since this breed is highly energetic and very specifically a herding dog. Some breed characteristics may be too much of a contrast.

  • The Kelpie Border Collie Mix: These pups will have strong herding instincts.
  • Kelpie cross German Shepherd will be medium to large dogs who need daily exercising, learn quickly and are eager to please.
  • Kelpie cross Australian Cattle Dog pups are great herding dogs and excellent family companions.

6 Potential Health Issues to Be Aware Of! 

The breed’s health is generally good. Responsible breeders conduct genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies. However, possible conditions to look out for include:

  1. Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. It manifests between 8 and 14 years of age with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs.
  2. Cerebellar abiotrophy is a genetic neurological disease associated with the dying off of neurons known as Purkinje cells, located in the cerebellum of the brain. It affects the dog’s balance and coordination, which becomes noticeable before six months of age.
  3. Canine hip dysplasia is a common skeletal condition in larger breeds in which the hip joint fails to develop properly.
  4. Cryptorchidism presents when one or both of the dog’s testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.
  5. Patellar luxation involves bone defects in the knee joint which causes the kneecap (patella) to slip in and out of its normal location in the knee.
  6. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset hereditary condition with gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.

Australian Kelpie Puppies for Sale! 

If you have the time and energy to own one of these go-getter pups? Consider your options when buying very carefully.

Be Sure to Get Your Puppy from a Reputable Breeder! 

It is of paramount importance that you select dogs from a reputable breeder. Your local breeding associations and vets should be able to point you in the right direction.

Reputable breeders are happy to produce health certifications that the pups have medically sound parents and that all their inoculations are up to date. The best pets are raised in home environments and not in outdoor facilities. A pup who knows a home setting adapts easier to a new home than one raised in a cage outside.

kelpie puppy doing doga

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Find a Kelpie Rescue Group! 

Sadly, the popular Australian movie Red Dog, and its sequel prompted people to want to own a dog the charismatic red kelpie star of the movie, Phoenix.

Rescue Groups saw a marked increase in Kelpies looking for alternative forever homes when starry-eyed owners abandoned them to shelters and rescue organizations. Check with your local shelters and humane societies, who will be able to point you in the direction of breed specific rescue groups.

Common Questions

Is it possible that my 10-year-old Kelpie is lame due to hip dysplasia or degenerative myelopathy? 

How trainable are they? 

How big do Kelpies get?

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