We get many letters asking us about basic information on Kelpies. We hope this page helps to answer some of those questions. Please note that any comments expressed are our personal opinion only.




















Latest 6th edition of this very popular manual designed for all Kelpie owners of every level from raw beginners through to experienced trainers. This practical manual deals with everything involved in owning and training a Kelpie to ensure he grows up to be a well mannered, obedient dog.

The book is not about training on livestock! It deals with general obedience training, socialising your Kelpie, feeding, crating, toilet training, preventing problem behaviour, dominance issues, car travel, bathing, digging holes, stealing food, walking on a lead, coming when called... and much more.

Over 100 pages.

Click here for more details


The Australian Working Kelpie should be a medium sized dog that fits many people's idea of an ideal average sized dog. Males tend to be a bit taller than females and in different strains they can be light framed or a bit heavier boned. They nearly always look lighter and leggier than an Australian Cattledog.

When we first started in Working Kelpies the majority of dogs were much smaller and finer than they are today. Dogs like Barambogie Mack and Liscannor Kay (two famous Australian National Kelpie Championship Trial winners) would today be thought of as extremely small dogs in comparison. One of the top sires at the time who we later purchased, was Rockybar Smart. He was a medium sized male standing at 20 inches at the withers and most males were around that size. Darien Shay, a well used sire in the early 1980's was only around 17-18". Not many females were over 18" in the 1970's and 1980's and we were told by many of the older breeders at the time that sizes were even smaller in the 1930's and 1940's. Many famous Kelpies such as Newton Nap and Kalari Joker would be seen as tiny males compared to the big Yard Kelpies we see today around the Trials.

Not all Australian Working Kelpies were medium/small though. Karmulga Kye was said to be extremely tall as was Porters Don, but we never got the chance to see either of these dogs. Glendon Claude in the early 1980's was another big Kelpie. There were of course a few other Kelpies that were taller and shorter just as there is today.

Although there are always variations, females are usually around 17. 5"-19. 5" inches (45cm - 50cm) measured at the withers (shoulder). The trend in the last few years seems to be that female Kelpies are getting taller. Some are now around 20 - 21". Males tend to be 19" - 21.5 " 49cm - 54cm ) at the withers. But again over the past 10 years the new trend seems to be for bigger and heavier dogs and size seems to on the increase with hardy any males under 20" now.

Many Working Kelpie breeders do not even bother to measure their dogs. Because Working Kelpies are dogs bred to do a job, they are not restricted to certain looks or sizes like show breeds are. Shorter or taller Working Kelpies out of this range are still common and this is perfectly acceptable in the breed. The size range listed here is only to give the reader a general idea of the most common sizes.

The weight of a Working Kelpie would vary a great deal according to whether the dog is working or not. Hard working dogs tend to be mostly muscle and carry very little fat. City dogs on the other hands nearly always tend to be overweight and people in the city would be likely to think a Working Kelpie in superb condition was well underweight.

As a general guide, most Working Kelpies in Australia would be from 14 - 22 kg. (30 - 48 lb). Females would tend to be lighter than males.



We have a lot of Noonbarra Kelpies that are fantastic companions with children. As long as your Kelpie is well socialised we have always found them to be excellent with all children and very tolerant of young children. In fact we often go out of our way to get young children to play with our Kelpies. We have sold many dogs into homes with young children and get back reports on how tolerant and lovely the Kelpie is. Many will even put up with mild abuse from children such as tail pulling, riding on their backs etc. We have also found the Kelpie to be reliable and predictable in this regard. Old Kelpies with no previous contact with children may not be as tolerant of course. 

You should always use common sense with dogs and children. A child should be taught not to tease a dog (or any animal) and to always treat a dog with the respect it deserves. It is also a good idea to teach children how to approach strange dogs. Most children run towards a dog holding their hands high as if they are going to hit a dog. Teach them to approach quietly and stroke a dog under the chin and to feed a dog with an open hand. Explain to children the dog's feelings and point of view. Once children understand how a dog sees the world most are very good at handling and often grow up to be very competent dog trainers.



The Kelpie is well known for its short coat. Although it is a good idea to brush your Kelpie every now and then, many thousands of Working Kelpies across Australia are never brushed in their life. They do shed a bit each year but usually it is not a big problem. These days most Kelpies have only a small amount of undercoat and many don't even have any sign of undercoat at all. Some people mistake some banded hair (Agouti) that is often around the neck and chest as undercoat but it is actually a light coloured hair with the tips of each strand the normal body colour. (See section on Colours).

It is important to understand that the Working Kelpie breed is NOT a show dog and therefore things like coat, markings and colour are not very important and most breeders are only interested in traits that are connected to the working ability of the dogs. It is this focus on ability that has made the Working Kelpie one of the greatest stock dogs in the world.



The Kelpie is best when given a reasonable amount of exercise. This does not need to be excessive and in many cases it is more important to stimulate a Kelpies mind more than the body. We always stress that the Kelpie needs something to do. It can be as simple as teaching your dog obedience or tricks and taking your dog out with you when you go shopping. Really anything that will stimulate their mind.

There is a myth that is continually promoted by books and magazine articles written by journalists who don't own a Kelpie, that these dogs need enormous amounts of exercise. That is totally untrue. They just need a normal amount of exercise that you would give any dog.

They excel at any activity where they have to think. They do NOT need to work sheep to be happy. We have over more than 35 years sold many Noonbarra Kelpies to city and suburban homes. These dogs have had a great life and given their owners a very special friend and companion. Not all Kelpies are suitable for city living but many are. In fact certain strains of Kelpies can be extremely calm dogs, as adults, and make better house pets than many of the popular breeds kept as pets today.

In Australia, among the city based people is a belief that Kelpies need hundreds of acres to run on. This is definitely not the case. Our dogs sleep most of the day near the back door and go nowhere unless there is a reason. Many of our dogs can go months without ever seeing livestock.

See separate section on exercise with photos - Click Here




The Australian Working Kelpie is an extremely healthy breed with very few inherited health problems. Because this dog is primarily designed to be a tough working dog very little extra care above normal worming and vaccinations is required. Their coats do not need to be clipped, their feet carry very little hair so are also low maintenance and don't often pick up grass seeds like other working breeds. They usually do not get a lot of organ problems like many small dogs or joint problems like a lot of large breeds. Nails are usually short but some do need to be clipped occasionally. This would be more likely in a non-working situation.

Kelpies are considered one of the healthiest breeds in the world. This is supported by Australian Vets. The Australian Working Kelpies are medium sized without any exaggerated parts of their body, they are short coated and they are bred as working dogs. Since the 1800's Kelpies have been bred for one thing - work! They have to be tough, resilient, fast, and have stamina and agility. If they don't have these things or if they have health problems they are not kept. On many Australian working farms dogs that can't do the work are killed. It can be a hard world on an Australian property. Remember, that this is not a breed just called working dogs - they really are working dogs.

It is estimated there are more than 200,000 Working Kelpies in Australia, some rural publications have put an estimate at nearer 400,000. As far as we are aware the Working Kelpie has no particular health problem that is common to the breed. Like any animal as they get old, they will of course start to run down and begin to have age related heath problems like arthritis, cancer, heart attack, stroke or kidney failure or something else. This is a normal part of life as a dog gets old and their body begins to close down . Every dog will unfortunately one day die of some problem. That is just nature's way. Other things such as joint problems, CHD,  coat or skin problems, eye problems, hearing problems, etc. are not common unless caused by an accident.

The Australian Working Kelpie is such a healthy breed that many surveys and scientific breeding experiments involving dog breeds include the Kelpie to demonstrate the healthy end of the scale. Of course that doesn't mean the breed is invincible. Some Kelpies do get sick or have health problems.

When buying a new dog, please take the pup to the Vets within a few days for a general checkup and get advice on what vaccinations or preventatives should be used in your area such as Tick, Heartworm etc.. This applies even more to buyers from other countries where you may have diseases not common in Australia.


Working Kelpies usually live 12 to 14 years. Some live longer than 14 years. We have even had a few live to 15 or 16 years but they are very old looking and sickly in their last years. 


It is a surprise to a lot of people that most Australian Working Kelpies are good house dogs. There is an incorrect perception that they are very active and even destructive indoors. We have never found this to be the case and apart from our own line of Kelpies we have used many others over the years. It is rare that a Working Kelpies cannot become a good house dog.

With puppies of course there is a normal amount of activity but with adults no! In fact they are very calm dogs indoors. We have different Kelpies inside all the time and even with young dogs 4-5 months there is only one in 20 that would even be considered slightly excitable. In Kelpies aged over a year you should not get a high level of indoor activity at all. We find most of them calm indoors but still aware of everything that is going on around them.

We usually run around 20 Kelpies at any given time. They all take turns at being house dogs. They have their own dog beds and are extremely well behaved in the house. We have had guests stay overnight with two or three Kelpies in the house and the guests haven't even noticed they were there.

 Every now and then we breed an excitable Kelpie that will run around and make a nuisance of themselves but this is the exception rather then the rule. They usually settle down once they get some training and maturity. We would never sell a dog like that to a new owner or a town situation.


Lets look at temperament. The Working Kelpie is usually a very friendly dog that can make an ideal family dog and a good dog with children. The Working Kelpie is an intelligent breed and needs at least reasonable exercise and stimulation. If left idle on a chain day after day most will get into bad habits from boredom. One of their best features is that they don't show the aggression that is common with some other working breeds. Some will bark at strangers but they are very rarely a breed that bites, unless of course the dog has been mistreated or has not been socialised. For that reason they are NOT recommended as guard dogs.

The Kelpie is a lot like Australian people. They can work hard when needed but also like to have fun and tend to have a laid back larrikin attitude. They always like to know what is going on and love to be part of things. This is why they are ideal for family activities such as the beach, hiking, picnics etc. They even love going shopping. There is no reason you can't take a Kelpie just about anywhere and make your dog a special part of your everyday activities.

Another big plus with the Working Kelpie breed is that they are very loyal dogs and as long as they respect you they will try very hard to please you. They love to be close to their owners. Most Kelpies are also inquisitive and stick their noses into everything just to have a look. If you are painting the house watch out for the paint can!

Kelpies that are socialised properly usually make great companions for children. They have a very stable temperament and are affectionate and protective of children. We hear many stories of Kelpies looking after children and a few have even been given awards for bravery in saving children. They are good at learning tricks and love to do little tasks for their owners. They are very faithful dogs and often bond very strongly to their owners. They are also alert dogs and always know what is going on around them. They enjoy being involved in everyday activities and hate to be left out of things.

Although the majority of Working Kelpies are fairly biddable a few can be very strong willed or over-excitable and these would be unsuitable for the average family pet.


Here are some comments from people who own Kelpies as pets:

" I also keep two kelpies in suburbia, who in spite of dour predictions from all manner of people (many of them not even dog owners!) are both happy and well adjusted dogs. While they aren't a dog to be left languishing in the back yard (and what dog really is?) with a bit of time and attention they are very rewarding and affectionate pets. I can safely say my dogs are happier to just hang out with the humans than run 25 kilometres a day...which is the amount of exercise a Kelpie needs according to one animal behaviourist I spoke to! (And he was a German Shepherd owner) - Gayle Adams ...Western Australia

"I have had two Kelpies and found them to be loyal, willing and great companions. It is an amazing breed and I am glad that people are recognising them as such. Thanks for the web sites - Shelly ...Melbourne

"Some of the pictures are beautiful. We have a Kelpie as a pet. He is a wonderful dog and a great companion. Thanks for all of the information." - Sarah Richards....Melbourne

"I would like to re-assure anybody looking to own a working Kelpie in an urban region. We own a beautiful Kelpie named Bronte who is the absolute love of our lives. I continually read reports that these dogs are incapable of being happy "urban pets". This is not true at all. We have owned dogs before and the Kelpie by far has been the most loyal and devoted of all. - Stephanie Lazar ... Sydney 

Email: December 1999

"I've found all of your comments, particularly re temperament to be true with regard to my own two Kelpies.....yes, they love to have something to think about, and they need a firm pack leader, but two more loyal, affectionate and obedient (mostly!) dogs you couldn't find! My dog Spanner positively fawns all over me....which makes my partner sick, but then he's always fussing over him when he thinks I'm not around!

And Chilli, the other one, is too smart for her own good....she actually dobs on Spanner when he does something wrong! - Cheers," Gayle Adams 


The Australian Working Kelpie is well known for their high degree of intelligence. They often have good ability to think through things and solve complex problems. The Working Kelpie is generally a dog that uses its own initiative. It is important to know and understand this. It can be a great asset or a big problem. Service dogs such as Police dogs and Guide dogs are often chosen from dogs that use their own initiative. These are dogs that can think and solve problems. They cope when a situation changes.

A Kelpie can do absolutely amazing things if handled the right way but if the breed is not suitable for you, all you'll have is problems. Dogs like Golden Retrievers and Border Collies will wait for your command and then do it as they have been taught. A Kelpie is different. They like to understand what they are doing and why. They work best with you if they have a good and fair relationship with you. They like to think for themselves. When you are training a Kelpie you try hard to make sure the dog understands the command. You test your dog or set up a problem and see how the dog reacts.

There is a big upside to all this. A Kelpie understands what the job is, he could probably do it even if you went and sat down. I have known of a number of Kelpies that could do a sheepdog trial in the correct order without the handler being on the field. In obedience or agility work this can mean a big difference.


The Working Kelpie can be a very intelligent dog. They can learn complex things in a short space of time. However they can also be difficult because they can get bored easily if the task is too monotonous. They tend to use their own initiative and because of that would be less compliant than some other breeds. A well trained Kelpie can be amazing! They can do incredible things but to get there they need to form a good relationship with their owner and need to respect that owner.

In Australia they are usually listed as one of the easiest dogs to train but to a completely inexperienced owner that may not be completely true. We always prefer our customers (especially pet owners) to have had some experience with a dog in the past so they understand the responsibility and time needed in caring for a new puppy.

We also very strongly recommend that all owners (even stockmen) take their dog to obedience school if possible. These schools are often held at night or on weekends in local parkland and cost just a couple of dollars. The dogs learn to play with other breeds of dogs, accept strangers and children and also to obey commands with distractions around.

When we start our early training on sheep we prefer to allow the dog to think for themselves and work without too many commands unless needed. Later when they understand and have more experience we bring in a degree of the obedience training they have learned.


There is a good deal of differences in temperament ranging from very outgoing, friendly dogs to very reserved and even shy dogs. It will depend partly on the breeding and partly on the socialising and training given by the owner.

A lot of dog books advise that people buy the most outgoing, bold and friendly pup. In theory this sounds fine but often a dog like that can be more dominant, more confident and more independent and a bit of a handful for new dog owners, especially when they are a puppy and more excitable anyway.

Our Noonbarra Kelpies (as adults) are very faithful and loyal companions and they tend to be devoted to their owner and immediate family (and close friends). They are very friendly dogs and love to play and be involved with their owners. Generally the more confidence the puppy has the more outgoing he is going to be. A dog like this will be very easy to teach once you get your basic control.

We like all our puppies to get a maximum amount of socialisation with people, other dogs and of course children. Many experts today suggest that a puppy should meet more than 100 people by the age of 12 weeks and to be given treats by these people. The dog comes to see people as a very good thing because people feed him and pat him. Another common idea is the 7 Rule. This is that every 7 days your dog should meet 7 new people and be given treats between the ages of 7 weeks and 7 months. Children are also extremely important. Your puppy should meet lots of children. Get each one to give a little treat to your puppy.

Some people buy Kelpies as guard dogs but generally they are not a good breed as guard dogs. Although they will bark at strangers if you are not there, they are not regarded as biting dogs and most would prefer to be patted than to bite. There are lots of other dogs breeds far more suitable to this task.




The Kelpie is very famous in Australia for it's legendary endurance and toughness. This is quite true but unfortunately the ability of the dog in this regard has grown to almost mythical qualities. Some articles have written that the Kelpie can go for weeks without water or run hundreds of miles without a rest. This is just plain silly!

The Kelpie is a dog, not a super animal. They do have fantastic stamina and endurance and toughness but it must be put into perspective. They are still a dog and their abilities in this regard is only a little better than other breeds. They can still die of thirst or heatstroke. To perform well, they also need to be exercised all the time just like a top class athlete. A dog sitting at home all the time for months on end will be unlikely to go out into outback Australia in searing heat and work for long hours without getting exhausted. You have to use common sense.

The majority of Australian Working Kelpies have very good movement. It is a easy gait that is very effective and energy saving. It looks similar to many wild dogs such as the Dingo and the African Cape Hunting dog. This allows them to run effortlessly, without getting as tired as other dog breeds. Unfortunately, some strains are now losing this important trait and especially in the bigger and heavier boned animals can have joint problems.

One problem we have noticed is a number of people are pushing young Kelpie pups too much before their body and joints are fully developed. This is a problem with Kelpies because the Kelpie has a lot of heart and will keep going even when it is hurting. If you over-run your dog when he is still a puppy you are likely to have problems later on, particularly arthritis. You will also notice how common this is in human athletes that have pushed the pain barrier too many times. Puppies can and should have good runs but once they start to get tired you should finish up for the time.

NOTE: While we are on the subject of bone growth in young Kelpies - please do not give calcium supplements or any artificial supplements to young Kelpies. These can lead to a calcifying of their bones and joint problems. Natural supplements such as low-lactose dog milk are fine.


Many people get confused about the colours in purebred Australian Working Kelpies.

The main purpose of the Kelpie is to work the millions of sheep, cattle and goats in Australia. Without the help of the wonderful Kelpie, Australia may never have become one of the greatest wool producing countries in the world. Colour and beauty are very secondary considerations and should always be treated as such. While running a breeding program for colour characteristics can be challenging and a lot of fun, the fact remains that it is really one of the very least important aspects in working dogs.

For some reason some people think that Kelpies should not have any white markings. Some people can get very heated about the subject but we have never understood why. White markings were even included in the original Kelpie breeding standard. While the lack of white might make the Kelpie look more uniform and is desired by show dog people who want certain markings in their dogs, the truth is that very few Kelpies are ever born without at least some white somewhere on their body. Some of the show people even go to the extent of pulling out white hairs or dying them.

Some of the greatest Kelpies of all time had a lot of white on them. The first Kelpie ever, Gleeson's Kelpie, a dog born around the late 1860's was described as a black and tan colour with some white on the chest and under her jaw. She had tan legs and erect ears that slightly turned over at the tips. Her ears were said to go up and down as she worked.

In the first set of guidelines ever written for the Kelpie (By Robert Kaleski). It said that with black & tan Kelpies "Head black, with tan spot over each eye, body black, sometimes with white blaze on chest..."

Mr. Tony Parsons of the well known Karrawarra Kelpie Stud and author of a number of books on the Kelpie had this to say." In contrast to the original standard (1902) the ANKC does not mention white at all. It would seem that no white is permitted. This is a mistake, as many Kelpies do have white on the chest and I think that if we are to have a standard, it should accept this fact. Likewise, it should include all colours." - The Australian Kelpie Published - 1992. (Now Out of Print)

The famous Red Hope was another with a lot of white on the chest. Then there was the big sheepdog trial winner, Newton Nap. He had a wide stretch of white going from the top of the neck right down under his chest. Another Newton Kelpie, Newton Jennie won the award for the Maiden as well as the Open Sheepdog Trial at the Sydney Sheepdog Trials in 1948. This was by far the biggest and most prodigious trial in Australia. Jennie also won the award for the best type Kelpie. She had a lot of white on her chest too.

Haynes Ring is another that had a lot of white on the chest and neck. He was very highly regarded by some of the best Kelpie men of the period including Frank Scanlon and John Quinn. Stan Collins said that Ring was "the only real sheepdog I ever saw". He was the sire of the famous Scanlons Dell.



The Australian Working Kelpie is becoming sought after as a competition dog for the sports of Obedience Trials and Agility competition.

As for Agility, the Kelpie is born to do it. I cannot think of a single breed that could possibly be better at it. In Australia they are just starting to discover that and there has been a mad rush to buy Kelpies for the sport. Some are doing very well. We have sold a number of Noonbarra Kelpies in Australia and overseas that excel at this fun sport!

When you think about it, every day for generations Kelpies have been doing agility. When they run under a long line of sheep in a race they are doing the tunnel. When they fly through the air over rails, the back's of sheep or into the tray of a 4 wheel drive they are doing jumps. They weave and duck and turn on a coin as part of their everyday work. They can move like lightning and are alert.... what more can you say ?

Australian Working Kelpies have done well in the obedience classes for many years. We have worked a number of Kelpies in obedience classes. In fact we often take young Kelpies to classes for a few weeks at least just to socialise them with other people and dogs while at the same time they have to obey commands. We have found them to learn at an extremely quick rate which often can peeve other handlers, especially if they have practised a lesson for months that the Kelpie does in two weeks.

On the downside, we have found most Kelpies that are working are easily distracted in obedience classes and can get bored fairly easily. On our property, we need all our dogs to work away from us and not to look at us for directions. This may be why we don't get the same attention as Border Collie handlers do. I have been told that Kelpies kept as pets show a lot more attention and keep looking up at the handler.



A Kelpie can be very obedient (almost perfect) but because of their high level of intelligence they can sometimes be a bit hard to train for some very inexperienced owners. The Kelpie is not suitable for owners that are willing to allow them to do whatever they like. They are too intelligent for that. They need structure and to be a part of whatever is going on. Owners need to be in charge - sort of like a parental position.

They are also not suitable for unfair, hard or violent handlers. They will not tolerate it. They need to respect their owners and will look to them for guidance. A Kelpie will also occasionally see what they can get away with. I guess they sort of test you out to see if you are deserving of leadership.

New owners that have never owned a dog before like the dependence of a puppy and then don't bother doing any training. In adolescence, the dog starts to test the boundaries and be more confident and less dependent. If the owner has not done any early training, they may have problems with their Kelpie taking advantage of them. Before long the dog is eating at the table, sitting in the best chair and taking over the bed. We have found if the new owner is instructed in standard positive dog training or dominance behaviour, they have no problems with their dogs. Most dog owners would also benefit from taking their dog to dog training or even getting in a professional once or twice to keep things on the right track.



The Australian Working Kelpie is quickly gaining a reputation overseas as an exceptional dog and many thousands have now been exported from Australia. Even Britain, the home of the famous sheepdog, - the Border Collie has been importing our Kelpie. It was recently estimated that there are now around 500 Kelpies in Britain.

Kelpies have now been exported to South Africa, Holland, USA, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, Wales, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Hawaii, South America, Kuwait, South Korea, Iran, England, Russia, Hong Kong, Italy, Finland, Croatia, Hungary, New Caledonia and Norfolk island.

In the USA they now have their own Working Kelpie organisation called 'Working Kelpies Incorporated'. (WKI). They have done a lot of work to promote the Kelpie in that country. There are also a few smaller organisations in the USA devoted to the Working Kelpie. In Sweden they also have a Working Kelpie organisation catering for Scandanavian countries. It is called Nordiska Working Kelpie Radet. In the future we expect other countries to start up their Working Kelpie organisations.


Noonbarra Working Kelpie Stud
Mary and Stephen Bilson.
539 Lookout Road, Mullion Creek via Orange 2800

Postal Address: P.O. Box 1374, Orange NSW 2800, Australia

Email us


Latest 6th edition of this very popular manual designed for all Kelpie owners of every level from raw beginners through to experienced trainers. This practical manual deals with everything involved in owning and training a Kelpie to ensure he grows up to be a well mannered, obedient dog.

The book is not about training on livestock! It deals with general obedience training, socialising your Kelpie, feeding, crating, toilet training, preventing problem behaviour, dominance issues, car travel, bathing, digging holes, stealing food, walking on a lead, coming when called... and much more.

Over 100 pages.

Click here for more details

Information on Kelpie history & the outstanding Kelpies of the past can be found in the new 2006 edition of our book




Softcover 136 pages.


Noonbarra Working Kelpie Stud
Mary and Stephen Bilson.

Postal Address: P.O. Box 1374, Orange NSW 2800, Australia

Email us