The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.
The overall appearance of the Working Kelpie is that of a medium-sized, lithe, active, strongly-muscled dog conveying the capability of untiring work. He has been successfully used to manage a variety of stock, including reindeer, goats, cattle and of course sheep. Kelpies in Sweden have gained police dog titles and have pulled sleds. They are also being widely used as search and rescue dogs.
Kelpies need companionship. Though he can be content to stay for hours on the chain, he also needs to be with you for some time each day and needs exercise, walks or games with a ball or a stick. One cannot expect this dog, which has been bred to work, to stay outside the house without any mental or physical stimulation. Inevitably, he will set about looking for an occupation, which could include chasing cars, trying to ‘work’ them as he would control sheep. A Working Kelpie makes a fine family dog, gets along well with ‘his’ children and, because they are naturally gentle, almost all Working Kelpies live peaceably with other family pets.
The Working Kelpie should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
As a smooth-coated breed with minimal undercoat, it will suffice to occasionally go over your Working Kelpie with a hound mitt to remove any dried-on dirt. Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep your Working Kelpie clean and looking his best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your pet. The strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed when needed with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. The ears should be checked occasionally to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed as needed.
Working Kelpies are very energetic and require a lot of exercise. Options for exercise include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, or going for walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities, like hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Certain outdoor activities like hiking and retrieving balls or flying discs can provide a good outlet for expending energy. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience, and rally is also a possibility.
Dogs should be trained or taken to reputable training classes from the age of 16 weeks to learn basic commands. Appropriate advice (e.g. from a reputable livestock working dog handler/trainer or veterinarian, or dog behaviorist) should be sought at the early stages of a behavioral problem. Training sessions should be short and regular and should be determined by the animal’s reactions and condition, without overworking the animal.
The majority of Working Kelpies are healthy dogs. Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own a Working Kelpie can gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.
Recommended Health Tests
The Working Kelpie is an Australian sheep dog successful at mustering and driving with little or no command guidance. They are medium-sized dogs and come in a variety of colors. Historically, it is interesting to observe that the dogs which formed the foundation of the Australian Working Kelpie sheepdog were not owned, as one might expect, by shepherds, but land/property holders who were members of highly-respected and well-known families. George Robertson and his cousin John G. Robertson came from Scotland to Victoria; the 5 Rutherford brothers immigrated to Australia in the mid-1800s and are from a very well-established sheep farming family in Sutherlandshire, NSW; Gilbert S. Elliot and William Allan were both sons of very well-connected families in England and Scotland. The foundation of the Kelpie breed happened by sheer chance and the results have been of tremendous value to the Australian pastoral industries.
The breed’s origins begin with a pair of black and tan Collies, named Brutus and Jennie, who were brought from Jedburgh, Scotland by Arthur Robinson for his brother-in-law Gilbert Elliot. Following the death of Gilbert Elliot, William Allan took Brutus with him to Queensland. Caesar, one of the litter born on the way to Australia, became the property of Mr. John Rich of Narriah station, a property that adjoined Yalgogrin. It was while Jack Gleeson was managing Yalgogrin that he mated his dog, named Kelpie, to Caesar to produce the litter of which Kings Kelpie was a part.
Because of the short time between the arrival of Brutus and Jennie, Gilbert Elliot’s death, and Williams Allan’s move to Queensland, the bloodlines of this imported Collie pair was limited and, to date, the only records held are that Caesar mated to Gleeson’s Kelpie producing Kings Kelpie; Nero owned by James Cunningham of Kildary station; Swan ll and Wylie ll all of which bred on well; Laddie, Caesar’s litter brother, was mated to King’s Kelpie to produce the dam of The Barb and a couple of unnamed dogs bred and owned by R M Macpherson. During the 1800s, these early ancestors of the Working Kelpie were shown and displayed at various sheepdog trials and other competitions, where they won not only the competitions, but the love and admiration of the people who watched them work so quickly and effortlessly.
Kelpies have been exported throughout the world and are used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle and goats. They were brought to North America around the turn of the century to expedite livestock handling.