Australian Working Dogs

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Kelpies

photofairy photofairy 18 posts

(NOTE: All information presented here is for entertainment purposes only. We have endeavored to collect only the facts from reliable sources, such as “The Complete Book of Australian Dogs” by Angela Sanderson, but this is in no way meant as a definitive guide. All images used are sourced from free domain.
For all up to date information on these dogs, please consult your veterinary specialist.)

History
Kelpie’s ancestry is even more uncertain than that of a Heeler. There are many theories including that Kelpies arose all over Australia from Border Collie mixes with a variety of other animals including a dingo and even a fox!
Some sources claim that Kelpie’s ancestors came from Tasmania.
Kelpie’s appearance clearly suggests the presence of a Dingo in their genetics and it is believed that Dingo and Kelpie were frequently mixed (as much as 1:4 genetic ratio in certain Kelpies remains to this day).
However, in the past the owners often denied this practice because of prejudice that Dingo is a “sheep killer”, which is something a kelpie doesn’t do. However, dingoes were and still are used as herding dogs and they perform their duties admirably.
It is less likely that fox is one of kelpie’s ancestors because it is a different species which makes successful breeding unlikely.
Other theories suggest that North African sheepdogs which were brought to Scotland and then Australia were bred with Border Collies to produce Kelpies.
North African sheepdogs were very well adapted to hot climate and could cover large areas of land so this seems to be the most likely combination.

Kelpies are extremely skilled musterers and drovers (especially for sheep, goats and cattle) and require very little or no command guidance. This makes Kelpies and Kelpie crosses the preferred working breeds in Australia.
To watch a kelpie herd a flock of sheep is truly one of the most incredible things to witness.
They are tireless workers, able to travel 50km or more per day, and work all day long with very little rest. They will also run across sheep backs to get to the front of the flock.

They are very agile and fast, and love to work both in the yards as well as in the open country.
They are also very loved and cherished family pets, devoted to their owners, very good with children and excellent guard dogs.

Temperament
Kelpies are very intelligent and active dog, of very high energy. They are excitable and excel in all kinds of agility training, and if bored they make excellent escape artists

They need lots of exercise, at least 2 hours per day when they are young, and while they can be easily trained to live in an apartment, they do require lots of exercise and stimulation so having access to at least a garden is desirable. They love and need off the lead walks and runs, and need training so that they don’t attempt to herd bicycles and people.
Due to their strong herding instinct, it is safer to always have them on the lead when you are close to the road, because they might not resist temptation to try and herd passing cars, but once they are trained they are very obedient
They are very family-friendly but need to be socialised early as purely working Kelpies will tend to nip like they do when herding sheep. However, they never actually bite, and they are not people aggressive, which makes them perfect family guard dogs – they will bark and fend off but won’t actually aim to harm intruders.

Appearance
Kelpies are divided into show breed and working breed, the difference being that the show breed is chosen for their looks rather than the working instincts.
They come in various colours – black, tan, chocolate, red, blue or fawn, and their coat can be smooth, short or rough. Otherwise, it shares the overall “look” with the heeler – very similar facial features reminiscent of a Dingo, only finer and somewhat more slightly built than a heeler. Still, kelpie is very strong, compact and muscular.

Due to these similarities and variabilities, it is not possible to identify a dog as a Kelpie just by looking at them; they are readily identifiable as Australian Working Dogs, and their coat usually puts them in a specific Kelpie or Kelpie cross category.
They are usually 45 – 50 cm tall weighing at 16 – 21 kg (for a working kelpie) and they sport a compact and muscular yet elegant frame, as well as a very friendly “smiling” face

Health
Kelpies are very healthy and they have no specific genetic tendencies to ailments and they are less susceptible to ailments common to all breeds of dog, such as hip dysplasia and luxating patella.

Lifespan
Kelpies have a healthy average lifespan of about 14 years but can live quite a bit longer