The Working Kelpie Council of Australia

Breed Society for the Australian Working Kelpie

The First Decision - Which Kelpie?
the late Mike Donelan

A bloke once asked Tommy Smith advice on buying a good horse. Smith's reply was "Save up your money and buy the best bred one you can find". I give the same advice to the Kelpie owner starting out - buy the best! The dog may not turn out to be a champion but you've got more chance with a well-bred one, than one off the neighbour or "getting one out of Bill Jones' good bitch", or "a pup by old Tom's good dog".

One well known dealer buys all the sheep dog types from all nearby city dog pounds for one dollar per head. One week he bought fifty dogs. He took them out to his farm and tried them all. If they would bark or run around sheep, he would keep them for a week's training and sell them for forty to sixty dollars each. He usually got about five or six and shot the balance. These are all the short cut methods of getting your Kelpie. In the long term it is wiser to pay approximately what you would pay your shearer in two days and buy a well bred pup, because if he turns out a fair dog, he should be better value than a man's work for two days of the year.

I always remember the remarks of one of the top drovers years ago, who always had a crack team of King-McLeod Kelpies, when I asked him why he could always get better money than a drover who had a good plant, he said, "Trouble with Bill is, he was bloody fussy about his cart, he was bloody fussy about flash gear, but he didn't give a stuff where he got his dogs!" When buying your Kelpie, get one from a breeder who has good blood lines. Avoid like the plague the breeder who has "old Dot, the best casting and paddock bitch in the country, and she is mated to Rover, the best yard dog in the country, and she'll have pups that will be champion all-rounders".

Genetically, any animals that are widely opposed in type and style do not produce offspring that are in between the two. All-rounders are the hardest dogs to breed. Ask yourself the question, "Can I really run my stock enterprise with one dog? .... Should I do so?" Generally, one observes an average of four stock dogs on relatively small properties, one owner-operator properties.

Why are these owners obsessed with wanting "a dog that is a good caster, wide worker, good droving dog, plenty of bark in the yards, backs sheep naturally and all the better if he can count the bloody things as well!" One receives this type of letter at the rate of about ten a week, and about the same number of urgent trunk calls as well... "Old Rover got hit by a car, I'm in the middle of shearing, me other four dogs aren't much good - I want an all-rounder that can do everything for twenty dollars - can you set me up?

Rural Australia is full of people who plan their homes, plan their fencing, their watering points, woolsheds, buy good rams and good bulls and don't ever think of their dogs whom they depend on to run these enterprises every day. The cheapest investment they make and one of the most important labour saving devices they have, in an era of high cost labour - in other words, their Kelpies.

Find a breeder who has dogs that do work similar to your own. Ask for references for dogs bred by him, working in your area or your type of country. Plan the type of dog you need, most good stockmen or women have more than one dog; most have three of four.

If you take my advice, buy a "paddock dog blood line", when you get to the yards he will have done a lot of miles so tie him up. Then let go your "yard dog blood line" and you will have a fresh dog. You will get your work done faster and more efficiently. Have a young dog coming on each year or so. If you lose one, or he is getting on, you have a built in insurance policy at the cheapest possible rate.

Plan your Kelpie team like you plan all the rest of your stock work. Break your own dogs in if possible. Kelpies are very faithful. The pup that grew up with you is generally a better dog than the one I broke in and sold you.. The Kelpie is basically a one man dog. As a rule, he doesn't take to strangers for a long time, especially the good ones. There are exceptions. Bill McNeilly and myself change dogs about and we do so with a few other selected handlers. But we plan these changes. A Kelpie will often go sour for some reason with one handler, especially a young dog. If he does, spell him or get a good handler to take him for a while.