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Considering getting a kelpie in the future

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  • Considering getting a kelpie in the future

    I have recently been putting a lot of thought into what exactly I want in a dog and have fairly recently come across the kelpie. They seem like generally a pretty good fit but I do have some concerns about if my lifestyle would be enough to keep one fully happy as I know they are very work driven. I'm wondering if the warnings that people give you about how much they need is just to discourage people who won't actually put in the work from getting them or if it truly is too hard to keep them happy without full time work.

    Next year I'll be a high school teacher so I will be gone during the day time hours which is already something I don't like in general with having to leave any dog alone but especially one so prone to boredom. I live in southern Florida and you can get a big fenced yard in the woods no problem here, I'm wondering if room to run like that and time spent (probably 2-3 hours a night) just blowing off steam, playing, and training afterward with weekends spent either out on hikes, playing with other dogs, etc is enough for them if I don't actually have a farm and a constant job for the dog.

    Among the reasons I think a kelpie would be a good fit for me are:
    • I want a dog that's focused and motivated to learn, I would like to get into k9 search and rescue eventually and I'm hoping my next dog can be my first experimental SAR dog.
    • I need a dog that's good for hot weather
    • I want a medium/small 40 pound or so dog that can still serve as a guard dog, in the dark all you see is bright eyes and pointy ears and that dog gets to you faster than you can realize it's small
    • I am just in awe at their athleticism, they're incredible
    • I want a dog with a coat that is not going to pick up cypress needles and all kinds of other grassy things that will need to constantly be picked out

    Things I have been warned about with kelpies but don't mind dealing with or accommodating:
    • High energy and exercise requirements, I don't intend to just do a 30 minute stroll around the neighborhood. I'd rather get the dog in a yard and play, let it run hard for a long time.
    • I've heard they're very vocal too, but after having a pekingese I am immune to barking dogs haha
    • I don't mind shedding, I've had dogs with both hair and fur and I prefer fur 100% even if it means shedding
    • Issues with dominance etc; I have had a variety of dogs and until they get settled into the house and your lifestyle there's always friction. I don't expect any dog to be easy plus I understand how human body language translates to dogs and I don't have a problem establishing discipline to this point. Of course, if I try a kelpie, this will be arguably the most difficult case I've tried yet but I do think I am experienced enough at this point to handle it.

    My major concern is whether or not that lifestyle, and for what purpose I want the dog, is a good fit for the breed. I don't mind putting time into my dogs, my dogs are what I do that is my hobby. I would just hate to have a dog that's unhappy because I got one that was unsuited for my living situation, but it's hard to tell if all of the things I've read are exaggerated for not because people say the same for border collies and I have seen so many of them content to be house pets.

    And if the kelpie is not the dog for me I would love some other suggestions. Sorry this was so long, I just didn't want to leave anything out.

  • #2
    First some history of my knowledge of kelpies. I live in Australia. Nearly 3 years ago I adopted a puppy from a rescue agency. The litter of 6 was very mixed in appearance. I got a red/brown dog with a white blaze on his chest. Here's a photo of him at two years of age.

    It wasn't long before people in the dog park and when I was walking at me looked at me with something approaching pity and amazement. "Oh, you've adopted a Kelpie". I soon learned why as I researched the breed. So I had a DNA test done and the results showed he was 50% Border Collie, 25% Kelpie and 25% Bichon Frise. No one believes the Bichon Frise though.

    Now that he's grown, he's a great dog, a wonderful companion, smart as they get. And athletic. He can leap about a metre effortlessly, and loves catching balls and returning them. However he also has a streak of that Kelpie independent thinking that can drive you crazy. Fortunately as he ages the Border Collie temperament is emerging.

    My suggestion would be that you don't get a purebred Kelpie but look for something like a Border Collie X Kelpie.
    And be prepared for the first 18 months to be puppy hell. Mine leaped and nipped a lot and caught the fabric of three of my blouses in three consecutive days, ripping every one of them. He also likes nothing better than to dig a great big hole and throw dirt everywhere with those busy paws. If you are going to have a yard dog, be prepared for some of the Kelpie's energy to go into doing a bit of rough gardening.

    Another thing to consider is how much this herding breed can bond to one owner. Like the Border Collie and other herding dogs, where I go he goes. He would not have been happy being left alone as a puppy, and even now he gets anxious if I come home after dark (I am retired so spend most of my time at home with him). And I wouldn't trust him around children, because he wasn't raised with them. When he meets them on the street when we are walking, he doesn't show aggression, but anxiety and uncertainty, whereas he is always friendly to adults he meets, and to other dogs.

    Last point, socialising them. I took him to the dog park every day from the age of 8 months to about 18 months, and it was what he needed. He loves meet-and-greet with other dogs. However if another dog shows aggression, he doesn't hold back. I used to meet a woman walking her Kelpie X and pushing a stroller. She kept her dog on a very short leash attached to the stroller and her dog showed a log of anxiety aggression when we passed it. Mine would lunge toward it and thankfully we learned to avoid each other, although one day they came over a hill as we met and it was a close call.

    I think before you decide you should read as much as you can about the breed. They are working dogs and if there is not a lot of stimulation in their lives, it could end badly. Training and making them think can help with their endless energy. Giving them tasks to do also helps. I have a Kong toy for him that is kept only for the morning 'fetch' ritual. I tell him to find his peanut butter ball, and he searches the house then brings it to me. I spread a bit of peanut butter on it and he chews on that while I have my morning cuppa. Now he no longer needs to be told to fetch it, he knows when I boil the morning kettle and goes looking for it.

    Personally I would never get a 100% purebred Kelpie because of my age and living in the city, but I would get a Kelpie X again. And then I'd get it DNA tested to find out the breeds. Each dog has a unique personality but the breeds in them carry specific traits. I socialise with a dog owner who has a Merrima (Italian Sheep Dog), and this beautiful dog has zero interest in catching a ball, but my boy would do it all day long until he collapsed in exhaustion. This comes from his herding traits whereas the Sheep Dog is a guard dog and doesn't chase.

    These are just some things to think about. The last thing though is that there are a lot of dogs here in Oz with Kelpie in them, and over and over I have been told by other dog owners that they once owned a Kelpie or a Kelpie X and they were the best dog they ever had.


    • #3
      Pretty sure a BC x Kelpie wouldn't be too much different! I know quite a few and I personally own both Border collies and a kelpie and my current Border Collies are more full on than my kelpie. They are all working bred as I run a farm.

      There are 2 types of kelpies and Border collies - show bred (bench dogs) and working bred. My kelpie and Border collies are working bred but I have owned a show bred Border collie and she was much more of a laid back suburban dog.

      Kelpies come in a range of temperaments so important to view the parents. Mine is very active but has a very good off switch and spends a lot of time lazing around. She is pretty switched on though if I bring out a ball or need her to help with sheep.

      Thing to remember here is that sheep work on most farms is sporadic and not constant. Most farm kelpies spend a lot of their time penned or riding around in a truck I have even seen a few portly ones where sheep work has declined. My kelpie is extremely well behaved and can go days without proper exercise if I visit family in the city

      I have lived in suburbia and know plenty of suburban kelpies. They were owned by friends who were very active and included their kelpies in most facets of their life and spent time exercising them before and after work and up the coast surfing and hiking on the weekends, some even do agility with their kelpies. I owned high drive cattle dogs in suburbia at that time. Their needs are what I call high maintenance but not impossible. Yes they can remodel the garden. Mine do well with bones to keep them amused.

      They need really good thoughtful socialisation when they are puppies with other dogs and a range of people, although mine never had that and is just fine. They can be highly strung. They don't need to be dominated. If I try that with my kelpie when I am working her on sheep she just runs home. She hates being shouted at and responds to working as a team and will try her little heart out to please but try and dominate her and she shuts right down. My Border collie is more likely to give me the finger if he thinks my directions are pants lol. Kelpies are not difficult to train as long as you understand what they need and you have plenty of energy.

      Coats- mine is very short coated and still picks up grass seeds but they are easy to find and in grass seed season I check her every day. She is better in the heat than my Border collies. She is super athletic and if she had a mind she could be over my yard fence in a flash but she doesn't and if I have occasionally shut the gate on her she waits patiently outside until I remember her and has never gone off after sheep to amuse herself. She can be vocal but not overly so. She is a very naughty counter surfer however lol especially when food is involved.

      So my kelpie is quite soft temperament wise, loves working but doesn't mind sleeping, and works sheep very calmy. I think she would have been fine in suburbia. I think my working bred BC would have been more of a challenge, he is incredibly high drive and a very hard determined dog which makes him good on difficult sheep. So it comes down to temperament and you will find Border collies and Kelpies at both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between.

      To be honest as much as I love my kelpie my preference would have been for a harder more confident and drivey temperament like my BC. Not so suitable for city living but what I like in a working dog.

      I have fostered a kelpie that came from the wrong situation and she was all over the place and a complete wreck. I spent a month sorting her out and she was rehomed into suburbia as a companion to a young male tiathlete which worked out great.
      Last edited by Kalacreek; 18-12-2016, 08:26 PM.


      • #4
        Based on what I've read, here and elsewhere, it seems like if you can pick out a dog that does not have a specifically high work drive you can make it work in a situation like mine. Unfortunately being in the US kelpies are hard to come by here and availability is so low that there's not much chance of getting to pick a reject farm dog or anything like that. It seems almost like it's the right dog for me but I'm not the right person for the dog haha

        I'm quite prepared for any puppy to be hell, there's no such thing as an easy puppy. You would not believe how high energy my pekingese was, physically incapable of calming down unless you ran him hard. He luckily was pretty good in general once he had expended all that energy but until then he was a nightmare. The easiest dog I've ever had is a 90 pound pitbull and some sort of hound, possibly Rhodesian ridgeback, mix. She had some major separation anxiety and destruction issues plus little respect for discipline at first, she was a bit wild when we got her from the shelter, but within a few months she became the sweetest dog I've ever had.
        How do kelpies compare to Australian cattle dogs? We do have a lot of those here. In recent years they've gone through a bit of a popularity boom, I'd have a much better chance of getting a heeler cross rather than a kelpie cross.

        Of the things I want in a dog most it would be size and guard dog ability so I am willing to give on the other qualities, though for the dog's sake not heat tolerance I suppose.

        The herding breeds in general, particularly the shepherds and other lower energy breeds, seem in line with what I want except for size and coat. I don't know now if this post is derailed enough that it's no longer on topic for the kelpie forum haha


        • #5
          Maybe see if you can find an agility club near where you are - and see what kind of dogs they have that suit your area.

          You want to get a dog from around your area, and not one from a cold area like New York.

          Have you thought about dobermans, boxers, australian cattle dogs, jack russells or fox terriers (small fierce and fast), or even American Staffordshire Terriers? All of them make excellent guard dogs and like learning new things - tho you sometimes have to work a bit harder with the terriers - they're a lot more about whats in it for me than people pleasers like border collies. Border collies come in short and long coats. Get a short coat one. You might also like "smooth collies" - like Lassie with shorter hair.

          If you put some time in before you go out to exercise and trick train you should be ok. You need both, one for the body and one for the mind and if you skip something - let it be the run not the brain training - otherwise you end up with super fit destructo dog.

          If you want something to lie around and sleep all day - an ex racing greyhound is good - couch potato but they are not endurance dogs mostly - they sprint and then they need a rest. Not sure about their guarding ability. They're mostly chosen for being friendly with everybody - except small furry animals (cats are in trouble).


          • #6
            I wouldnt particularly class a kelpie as a guard dog type. Often reject farm dogs can be the worst. The reject farm dogs here are often crazy high energy dogs that find their way sometimes into agility homes. Honestly the last thing you want is a crazy dog on sheep. I prefer a dog that is powerful and controlled and only offers enough movement to get the job done. A crazy busy dog soon tires in hot weather and is a liability and are soon moved on by farmers. Do you have bench bred (AKC) kelpies over there?

            My favourite dogs are cattle dogs and I have had a few over the years. They tend to be less frenetic that kelpies but still require the same amount of attention and exercise. My cattle dogs all females have mainly had brilliant temperaments but you do need to pay attention to temperament in cattle dogs and also not let them get stout or you can have cruciate problems. They generally tolerate heat and can be fiercely protective of you and their territory which is why it does pay to be mindful of temperament. There are some good breeders of cattle dogs in the states. There are also a lot of rescue sites dedicated to cattle dog types across the USA. There is also the AuCaDo site that specialises in cattle dogs if you want to find out more.

            The short coated Border collies are always working bred which could be problematical. People think they are people pleasers but if you get a hard, working bred BC like I have you soon realise that they are quite capable of blowing you off if they have a mind and can be a real handful in less than experienced hands which is why a lot of working breds end up in rescue, people have the wrong perception of them. Some can also be highly sensitive and anxious. A bench bred Border Collie could possibly be a better option. They are generally not guard dogs. My Border collies love people. I dont know anything about boxers except they do have a higher cancer risk than other breeds. I know some dobermans and they are great dogs and could suit. Again look for dogs from good temperament lines.
            Last edited by Kalacreek; 19-12-2016, 11:41 PM.


            • #7
              I'm not too sure if there are any agility clubs near me but I know within a decent driving distance there are schutzhund clubs, which is probably my dog sport of choice because of the personal protection training and the tracking portion lays the groundwork for SAR.

              I have considered the Australian cattle dogs and I think I thought they were more similar to kelpies than they actually are. I like them a lot and they're pretty readily available. I just hope I wouldn't leave one bored and under-stimulated. Dobermans and boxers are a bit bigger than what I'm aiming for, which is the issue I've had with pitbulls as well. Great dogs, just a little bigger than I am hoping to get. If I'm unable to find a good dog in the size range I'm after I'll probably just go pitbull.

              I hadn't much considered terriers at all really, but seeing an airedale do schutzhund gave me a new appreciation for them, I just don't like the look of them too much. The sturdy and low built terriers are more my style, like glen of imaals. Glens are very hard to get here though and there's not really any guard dog potential there. I've considered a lot of the hound dogs too but they don't seem like as good of a fit.

              I'm pretty inclined toward avoiding border collies for the same reason I'm thinking kelpies may not be right for me. If the cattle dogs are a bit more...I guess stable...than kelpies they may suit what I'm looking for better than I thought. I've noticed a general pattern in look and size among the dogs I've been considering but heat tolerance and temperament seem to be my main issues.

              Recently I've been looking at Australian cattle dog, Hungarian mudi, Norwegian Buhund, Carolina dog, Canaan dog, New Zealand Huntaway, and a couple major outliers like brittany spaniels and petite basset griffon vendeen. A lot of them have watchdog potential but they're more inclined to go for the warning back, not many would back it up with a real bite.


              • #8
                My pup is a Kelpie mix. As a young puppy she didn't have an "off" switch. The best thing I ever did was obedience training.
                She loves other dogs and people, but she is so stubborn. It almost as though she knows what to do, but chooses not to listen. I am lucky, my husband and I have schedules so she isn't alone during the day. These dogs need to be involved in your life, they like to be be right in the middle of the action.


                • #9
                  From a personal point of view and having worked with breeds, I would not choose a Kelpie for SAR work... I would choose a BC or even better a BC cross Golden retriever.

                  If you look on some SAR sites you will see quite a few of those.

                  AS SAR involves the rescue of people, it help to have the "golden" parts love of people.... Or labrador

                  I do a lot of People rescue type work... Water rescue and have found that even though we can teach dog to do the work, it takes love of people and confidence with people that makes a great Rescue dog.

                  This is only from personal experience.... and also having trained in Europe with SAR type units and Water rescue Units...

                  I love Kelpies by the way, it is what we had when we had sheep, best work dog ever with sheep. in Our country better than BC's any day
                  sigpicPets are forever