Australian Kelpie

Other Names: Kelpie, Barb

Country Of Origin: Australia

Dog Group: Herding dog

Size: Medium

Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners

Maintenance Level: Moderate/low

Lifespan: 12-15 years

Temperament: Intelligent, energetic, independent


Good For First-Time Owner: No

Good With Children: Yes

Good With Other Animals: Yes

Good With Strangers: No

Good For Apartments: No

Exercise Requirements: Daily walking

Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes

Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes

Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes

Grooming: Low

Trainability: Easy/moderate

Breed Overview:

The Australian Kelpie is a medium-sized breed that’s used as a working dog to herd sheep.

The breed is known for its intelligence, and can herd sheep with little to no guidance or instruction from its owner.

The breed is used worldwide for its excellent herding skills.

Although they’re still kept primarily as working dogs, the Kelpie does make a good family pet. They’re also popular as show dogs, and often do well in agility trials too.

Color: Black, red, chocolate, fawn, blue, cream, or any combination of these colors with tan

 Height: 15-20 inches

 Weight: 31-44lbs

Personality and Temperament:

The Kelpie is a very intelligent breed, and is also very friendly towards humans.

They are known to be very independent, and were bred to be able to do their job with very little instruction.

While this is a massive help when used in a working environment, it can result in the breed being a bit stubborn when kept as a pet.

However, if the dog is trained properly from a young age, the chances of this developing into a problem should be minimal.

When it comes to training, the Australian Kelpie is a relatively easy breed to train.

This is again from their use as a working dog because they needed to be able to pick up commands quickly.

The breed responds well to obedience training, and will master basic commands easily.

They can also pick up very complicated commands, which is why they do so well in agility competitions. As with any breed, you should start training as early as possible.

The Australian Kelpie is a good family pet, and is very friendly towards every member of the family.

The Kelpie is also good with children, and loves to play. Although they’re fine around young children, owners should just be wary of the dog getting too energetic, because although they’re not a massive breed, they could easily knock a child over if they’re playing too hard.

While the Australian Kelpie is a great family pet, the breed is by no means suitable for apartment living. They’re far too energetic to be kept in a small space, and ideally should be kept in a house with plenty of land.

Their natural instinct is to roam, but they’re also good at coming home. However, it’s recommended to keep your land well fenced in, and to microchip all dogs just to be on the safe side.

Kelpies need plenty of exercise, and should be walked daily for at least 30 minutes, but an hour or more is better.

Because of their role as sheepdogs, they were bred to run for hours in the Australian sun, so they’ll be able to take as much exercise as you can give them.

Walking should be supplemented with playtime at home, and you should do everything possible to provide them with plenty of mental stimulation too.

The breed is great with other animals, and owners should find very little problem around dogs or other pets.

The only thing you really need to be wary of is the dog’s natural herding instinct kicking in, particularly around other dogs.

While this won’t be a massive problem, some dogs might not enjoy being herded. By its nature the breed isn’t aggressive, but owners should try and socialize with other animals from an early age to ensure there are no problems later down the line.

The Australian Kelpie doesn’t necessarily have any natural guarding instinct, but will be protective of what it considers its property.

For this reason, you might find the dog being wary of strangers that come to the home, but there should be little problem when owners are around. The breed isn’t known to bark much, but this will change if they feel threatened.

Kelpies were bred for use in an Australian climate, and so can tolerate very hot weather.

They’re also fine to be kept in cold climates, but you should probably get them a coat if winters are particularly cold.

You won’t be restricted walking them in high temperatures, but just be conscious of cold ones, as this isn’t what the breed was designed for.

Due to their energy levels and independent nature, the Australian Kelpie isn’t suitable for first-time owners.

They’re much better suited to owners who have some experience looking after dogs, as they will generally feel more comfortable being authoritative enough to keep the breed in line.

Kelpies can be left on their own for extended periods of time, and it’ll make little difference to the dog whether this is on their own or with other dogs.


 Overall, the Australian Kelpie is quite low maintenance when it comes to grooming. They have a short, double-layered coat, which is naturally straight and flat lying.

You should aim to brush them on a weekly basis to help remove any loose hairs, and to distribute oils. Their coat is designed to repel rain, so brushing the natural oils through it will help with this.

Kelpies shed quite a lot, and this isn’t affected by seasonal changes. So, if you’re looking for a hypoallergenic breed, the Kelpie isn’t for you.

Regular brushing will obviously help with this, but you shouldn’t bathe them too frequently. This is because the natural oils in their coat repel water, and so bathing them too often will strip the oil out.

As with any other breed, regular tooth brushing is crucial, and you should aim to brush their teeth several times a week.

The same is true for nail clipping, although the more exercise they get, the less likely it is that you’ll need to clip their nails. Walking wears them down naturally, and a Kelpie is unlikely to stay still long enough to have their nails trimmed anyway.

Common Diseases and Conditions:

 The Australian Kelpie is generally a very healthy breed, and suffers from very few hereditary conditions.

This is mostly due to the variety of breeding stock, as Kelpies haven’t been selectively bred all that much.

There are known cases of common conditions such as hip dysplasia and luxating patella, but these are tested for by responsible breeders.

One condition that is known in the breed is cerebellar abiotropy, which is a degenerative neurological condition that affects the dog’s sense of space and distance.

This obviously leads to a loss of coordination and increases the risk of falls. Onset usually occurs at an early age, and is noticeable through an increase in clumsiness, something that is noticeable in such an agile breed. The only way to test for the condition is using DNA analysis, and it’s currently incurable.


 The Australian Kelpie can trace its lineage back to the first herding dogs brought to Australia in the late 19th and early 20th century.

These were broadly collies of different kinds, which were then bred with other dogs to create suitable working dogs.

At some point around this time, dingoes were brought in for their speed and stamina. The Australian Kelpie has around 3-4% dingo DNA.

The first dog recognized as a Kelpie was bought in 1872, and was a black and tan female.

By this point, the dingo had been integrated into the dingo bloodline, and they were successful herding dogs ideally designed for the Australian outback.

The first breed standard for the Kelpie was published in 1904, and since then the breed has been exported across the world for its use as a herding dog.

The breed is recognized by a number of number of kennel clubs, and is regularly shown in competitions, both agility and show.

Australian Kelpie Facts & Figures: 

Did You Know?

  • The Australian Kelpie is named after the kelpie, a figure from Celtic folklore. This is a reference to its British heritage, and some believe the kelpie of folklore was sired by a dingo, although this doesn’t make sense because there are no dingoes native to Britain.
  • Since the 1990s, Kelpies have been used as scent dogs, and are particularly popular in Sweden, where they’re used as search and rescue dogs.
  • One of the most popular names for a Kelpie is Red Cloud. The first was owned by John Quinn, and started the tradition of referring to tan Kelpies as red in color.
  • The breed is very capable at herding, and can often do most (or all) of the job without any instruction from their owner.
  • The nickname “Barb” is almost specifically used for black Kelpies. This is because the first black Kelpie, which was created by crossing the breed with a Smooth Collie, was called The Barb. It was named after a successful racing horse, and the name just stuck.



About the author: Pablo Pascua created because of his interest in all the different breeds, and his desire to learn more. His inspiration comes from the many dogs he has owned throughout his life.