The ‘Kelpie factor’ is a term that I use frequently that refers to finding the right time for your Kelpie or Kelpie Cross dog to start them out on their running journey.
We class Kelpies as a medium sized breed which means that they typically reach adulthood anywhere from 12 months of age onwards, and this is when we would recommend commencing their running journey (along with confirmation from your veterinarian that there is going to be no further maturing of your dog). We have learnt over the years that many Running With Dogs Australia (RWDA) members have not been able to wait until their Kelpie is 12 months of age to start running with them. Why? Because these breeds have innate herding instincts that can typically kick in anywhere from 10 weeks of age and as they are bred to ‘work’ and require mental stimulation and challenges to fulfill and satisfy their natural instincts and exceptionally high IQ. They require plenty of exercise and can become bored if they aren’t challenged enough, and may exhibit destructive behaviours to release their excess energy if they are cooped up for long periods of time. If a Kelpie isn’t challenged enough in this area, he or she might chew things, bark excessively or dig up their yard. Balancing exercise and mental stimulation is crucial for these intelligent and active breeds.
The debate around the right time for Kelpie’s to start our running is hotly contended as owners try to find the right balance between their dog’s physical health, and their mental health. When Kelpie’s are occupied, engaged, and exercised, they thrive. They are athletic, agile and muscular and because they were originally bred to herd animals, they are very hardy when it comes to being active for hours. If you aren’t in a position for your Kelpie to herd sheep, you will need to substitute this with other things that stimulate your Kelpies mind and physicality.
One other debate that often features in the ‘Kelpie Factor’ is that of Farm dogs and how they are introduced to sheep and/or livestock herding at an early age. Although we haven’t been able to find a lot of information on exactly what age farmers start their Kelpies on a full day’s work, we have learnt that their training is generally always age appropriate as demonstrated in this video.
So what do we think?
Until your Kelpie is fully grown, they typically don’t have the physical characteristics to support high-impact and ‘forced’ exercise such as running. Puppies have bones and muscles that are still maturing so it’s important to wait until they are fully grown before you start running with them, especially if it is for long-distance running.
Waiting until they are fully grown and consulting with a veterinarian, is a responsible approach to ensure your dog’s physical development isn't compromised. Early training and mental engagement are so valuable for these breeds so we recommend you follow the Fit For Life Puppy Exercise Guidelines and allow your dog to enjoy socialisation, unforced exercise such as park play, basic and and/or advanced obedience, until they have fully grown. In the meantime, there is nothing stopping you from focusing on teaching your dog the commands you want them to know for your running future together and we recommend you familiarise yourself with our guide so you know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
At the end of the day, it’s up to each owner to make the best-informed decision for their own dog. We’re not here to judge anyone for their decision and will always support our members as they only want the best for their dog.
- Natalie Clarke RWDA Founder