Australian Kelpie Care

The Australian Kelpie: intelligent, hard-working, active, and independent. Though these dogs are a bit rare outside their native Australia, they make fantastic working dogs, and are athletic pets as well. They're also beloved by their owners--in part because aside from their high exercise requirements, Australian Kelpie care and maintenance doesn't take a lot of work. Below you'll find plenty of details on raising and owning a Kelpie: puppy development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. For answers to all your questions about caring for your Kelpie, read on!

Australian Kelpie Breed Development

As a medium-sized breed, Australian Kelpie puppy development typically spans 14-16 months from birth to full maturity. Physically, Kelpie pups grow swiftly in height and length for the first 6-7 months, then those growth rates slow somewhat while the adolescent gains muscle mass and fat; a Kelpie is normally at or near its full adult size (an average of 20 inches at the shoulder in height and 45 pounds in weight) at 11-12 months of age.

Socially, Kelpie puppies develop steadily: they reach adolescence at 5-6 months, sexual maturity at 9-10 months, and full mental maturity at about 15 months (though some Kelpies may retain their puppylike behavior for a few additional months). For specific milestones in Kelpie development, see the chart below.

(NOTE: Australian Kelpies are highly intelligent and task-oriented, and have very strong herding instincts; they tend to try and "herd" almost any moving object, from children and other animals to bicyclists and even cars, often by "nipping" the ground next to the person or object. This means that new Kelpie owners will need to provide their dogs with obedience training as early in the Kelpie's life as possible to minimize this behavior. If a Kelpie is taught as a puppy not to "nip" at people/objects, this learned behavior will usually continue once the dog matures.) 

Australian Kelpie Exercise Needs

Exercise--and quite a lot of it--is a vital part of an Australian Kelpie's daily life. These dogs are active, intelligent, and task-oriented, and will thus need a lot of activity each day that stimulates them mentally as well as physically. Farm work is ideal--but if your Kelpie serves as a family pet, it will need challenging activities that fulfill the dog's strong work ethic.

Specifically how much exercise does a Kelpie need each day? The short answer: as much as you can possibly give them. The typical adult Kelpie, depending on its age and overall activity level, will need at least 90 minutes of proper exercise on a daily basis. You can begin exercising a Kelpie puppy at three months of age by taking it on short (10-minute) walks, then increasing the walks' length and frequency as the pup grows.

Some things to consider when exercising your Australian Kelpie: first, puppies younger than nine months old shouldn't participate in activities that include a lot of jumping, running, and navigating of stairs, as doing so can injure their still-developing joints and bones. Regardless of a Kelpie's age, the use of a leash is highly recommended while you're in public. In addition to their strong herding instincts, Kelpies are normally standoffish, territorial, and suspicious of strange people and animals, and will be defensive (and possibly aggressive) towards them. This means your Kelpie will need to be closely controlled when you're out and about, and using a leash is the best way to do that. Even when exercising your own yard (which is hopefully large), these dogs will need to be supervised in order to keep them from running off in search of new territory.

Precautions aside, exercising your Kelpie every single day is an absolute must. If bored or restless, a Kelpie will exhibit major behavioral problems including disobedience, hyperactivity, and destructiveness--so consistent exercise is good for both the dog's peace of mind and your own. A few exercise ideas:

  • Walking/Jogging: Two 30-minute walks (or 20-minute jogs) per day is a good target
  • "Double" Fetch: Throw a stick or ball in one direction, then after your Kelpie retrieves it throw another in the other direction
  • Hide-and-Seek: Good indoor, rainy-day activity; give the dog a treat when it finds you
  • Canine Sports: Kelpies are fantastic agility trial and flyball competitors
  • Hiking: Great bonding activity; your Kelpie will even love carrying a small backpack

When indoors, it's a good idea to give your Kelpie access to one or more balls or chew-toys that will allow the dog to burn off excess energy (which it'll probably have some of). It's also recommended that your establish a consistent daily exercise schedule for your Kelpie, such as walks/jogs after breakfast and dinner and a play period in the afternoon.

Australian Kelpie Maintenance

Maintenance for these dogs in terms of shedding and drooling is low to moderate overall. Australian Kelpie shedding is fair, and seasonal; drooling is basically a non-issue.

Kelpies have short, smooth coats that shed moderately for most of the year, and more heavily during the spring (and sometimes fall) shedding seasons. Brushing your Kelpie once or twice a week with a bristle or pin brush (and more often during shedding season) will lessen the amount of shed hairs some, but owners will probably need to vacuum the floors and use lint rollers on clothes and furniture from time to time.

A Kelpie may drool a bit in anticipation of food or when extremely hot and panting, but not much otherwise. If your Kelpie is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case a veterinarian's care may be needed.

Australian Kelpie Diet

The Australian Kelpie diet is extremely important in keeping these dogs healthy, lively, and long-living. And as such an active breed, your Kelpie's food will need to be packed with animal proteins and carbohydrates for energy, vitamins and minerals for digestive and immune system health, and omega fatty acids for coat and skin wellness. This means the best food for Australian Kelpies is the premium dry kind, particularly brands made for active dogs. (Victor Active Dog & Puppy Formula and Hill's Science Diet Adult Advanced Fitness are two examples.) Regardless of your choice, owners are urged not feed their Kelpies only cheap, generic dog food, as this type simply doesn't have enough nutritious ingredients to sustain a Kelpie in the long term, and will likely shorten its lifespan.

Unfortunately, premium food can be expensive. So how much of it will your Kelpie need each day? The good news is, not a whole lot. The typical adult Australian Kelpie, depending on its age, size, and activity level, will need 2-2½ cups of premium dry food per day, divided into two meals. A Kelpie puppy, again depending on its age, will need about 1½ cups per day, divided into three meals (not two) until six months of age. For more info on the Kelpie puppy diet and feeding from two months through adulthood, see the following chart:

*--Around this time, transition to adult food by first mixing in just a bit of adult formula with the puppy formula. Over the course of a week, with each meal add a little more adult food to the mixture, until the dog is eating it entirely.

If possible, try and stick to the above-listed portions. Though your Kelpie can probably eat a lot more, constantly overfeeding the dog will easily result in obesity--and a fat Kelpie might have joint, breathing, and digestive issues, not to mention a shortened lifespan. You can control your Kelpie's weight in several ways: by having regular feeding and exercise schedules, by not feeding the dog table scraps, and by not leaving food in its bowl all the time, thereby allowing the dog to eat anytime it wants. It's better to put your Kelpie's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 20 minutes or so after the dog begins eating.

If you're worried your Australian Kelpie is overweight, give the dog this simple test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. And just as with humans, the "Eat Less, Move More" principle applies! Reduce your Kelpie's daily food consumption by one-fourth, and add an extra walk, jog, or play period to its daily exercise schedule.

Living Environment

Australian Kelpies are better suited to living outside. Though these dogs certainly can live indoors with their human family members, they'll need a great deal of outdoor exercise--and they're known for being highly destructive if they get bored, particularly if left alone. Note that Kelpies that do live outside will need to be in securely fenced areas, as they have high tendencies to wander off. And Kelpies are not a good match for apartment living, because they're simply too energetic for such confined spaces.

In regards to climate, Kelpie dogs do better in warmer weather. While they will be okay in cold temps, Kelpies are used to herding livestock in the Australian heat, so they'll adapt better to warmer climates.