The Awesome Spirit of the Great Australian Kelpie

The handsome tan and black markings are common in this breed. (Image: Janus Serendipity/flickr)
The handsome tan and black markings are common in this breed. (Image: Janus Serendipity/flickr)

In Australia, folks say that Australia was built on the backs of these remarkable dogs—the working Australian Kelpie.

This breed could well be the world’s best working breed of dog. They are still being used today to herd stock, not only in Australia, but they are also making a name in America.

A red kelpie: handsome and well preportioned (Image:Giulio Cappoccioni/flickr)

A red Kelpie: handsome and well preportioned (Image: Giulio Cappoccioni/flickr)

Stockman depend on the Kelpie’s hardiness and intelligence—it’s well understood that one of the these working dogs does the work of several men.

The Australian Kelpie is not only a dog, it’s a symbol of the perseverance and the loyalty these dogs give their masters everyday, without complaint. The marino wool industry would not have thrived like it has without the skill of these animals.

Australian’s owe  a huge debt of gratitude to their working dogs.

In this video, Burke, a well-known Australian animal lover, road tests the Australian Kelpie:

‘Red Dog’, the film

Red Dog, a film adapted from a true story, is about one Kelpie’s adventures and deep bond with a man in outback Australia, and has won international acclaim.

Talking to a local breeder, she said everyone has wanted a “red dog” since that movie came out, and the breed is gaining popularity again.

A plaque dedicated to Pilbara Wandera, the red kelpie, below a brass statue of the dog (Image:Wikipedia)

A plaque dedicated to the Pilbara Wanderer, a.k.a. ‘Red Dog.’ (Image:Wikipedia)

In Australia, you will commonly pay between $800 and $2000 for a well-bred pup. It’s reported that up to $10, 000 has been offered to farmers for really good dogs.

The spirit of the Kelpie

This mock screen test shows the typical kelpie spirit, an expressive, social, and confident breed.

This breed comes in a few varying colours, but can be recognized by a few distinctive traits. These include:

  • Stalking. When working, these dogs have a very slow and controlled “stalk” as they push cattle.
  • Dropping. Another common action is when they suddenly drop to the ground and wait, with eyes fixed. They do this to make themselves small and unseen, and to also to have a short rest—as this energetic breed needs to quickly cool its body in the grass or water.
  • Sheep backing. This action of running along the backs of sheep to push them forward through a pass is iconic. This breed has superior balance.
Kelpies are a medium sized dog with amazing balance (Image: Martybugsen/e. wikipedia)

Kelpies are a medium-sized dog with amazing balance (Image: Martybugsen/en.wikipedia)

  • Head cocking to one side. This is a very adorable feature of this dog, usually meaning: “Say again?” or “I’m confused.” This curious and intelligent breed’s body language is very animated. When owning this dog, it’s easy to understand what it’s thinking from it’s gestures.  Check out “Koko’s screen test” video above to see the head cock.

Owning a Kelpie

Australian Kelpies make gentle, loving, and affectionate pets, even when raised with children. However, being highly intelligent and able, they need strong, consistent discipline in a leader, as the rules for a Kelpie can be multifaceted.

For example: Your rule of “don’t kill the chickens” might be interpreted as: “Don’t touch this group of chickens, but this other group I can have, chicks I can have, lone rooster’s I too can have!” Thus, the Kelpie is a thinker, and makes distinctions within categories- owners need to stay on their toes!

kelpie's sweet nature makes it a good family pet (Image:Chani Blue)

Black kelpie, known as a a ‘Barb’. (Image:Chani Blue)

Essentially, this dog needs to have a job, or plenty of hours of highly energetic play and socialization. In other words, owners need to run the “silly” out of them each day to enjoy a relaxed and obedient animal.

The kelpie always wants to please, but needs to be clearly taught how she can do that.

This breed suits a very active family or working situations. Disallowing this breed to exercise will be of detriment to the dogs’ mental wellbeing. So too will having an overly dominant controlling master, which will crush the “spirit” of the Kelpie, which should possess a happy, confident, and willing temperament.

Trainign the kelpie is fun work for both master and dog as kelpies need a job to do (Image:Amos T Fairchild/Wikipedia)

Training your Kelpie is fun work for both master and dog, as they need a job to do. (Image: Amos T Fairchild/Wikipedia)

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