One of my favorite past times is enjoying a nice, long hike with my faithful companion, Piper Mae. Piper is a soon to be five-year-old Australian Kelpie who is full of energy and has a genuine love of food, life, and her favorite person (me).
Piper and I have been on many adventures together and have hiked in popular spots all across the country: Amicalola Falls, McCormicks Creek, and The Great Smoky Mountains, just to name a few. There are many things that make Piper a wonderful hiking companion, one of which is the nature of her breed itself.
Australian Kelpies originate from, you guessed it, the beautiful, lively country of Australia. Originally bred to herd sheep, goats, or cattle, this breed is often described as extremely hardworking, intelligent, and loyal.
Standing between seventeen and twenty inches tall and weighing in at an average of thirty-five to fifty pounds, Kelpies make great exercise companions due to their athletic build, energy level, and overall desire to work. They have a smooth, double coat that is able to withstand water, heat, and cold weather alike.
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Kelpies Are Social Dogs
Another great quality of the Australian Kelpie that makes them great for accompaniment on a hike is their gentle, friendly nature.
Piper frequently received many compliments and a large amount of attention when out on our hikes together.
Whether it was due to her overall cuteness or to the fact that she was able to carry her own “hiking bag”, full of drinking water, collapsible bowls, and treats, we were often approached by strangers who asked many questions about her personality and breed.
Kelpies are very social, friendly dogs, and Piper always loved this type of attention from strangers.
However, they are also fiercely protective which make them useful companions for hikers who are traveling solo or are camping overnight. As a single woman hiking alone, I always felt safe with Piper by my side, knowing that, if the time came for her to protect, she would defend my life with her own.
Energy and Stamina
Australian Kelpies are listed as very high energy dogs with a great amount of stamina, which means that they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to live a healthy, balanced life.
For this reason, Kelpies can often hike for miles and miles per day without growing weary, needing very few “rest stops” or water breaks.
Their slim, athletic bodies can easily scale mountainous terrain, wade through high water, and withstand extreme temperatures. And thanks to their pricked ears, they are incredibly talented at balancing themselves on even the most steep, precarious terrain.
In fact, a common move that working Kelpies perform is known as “sheep-backing”, where they will move a flock by actually running across the backs of the herd. They will do all of this with a positive, working-dog energy and a tail that never stops wagging.
Kelpies have been known to chase prey on occasion, so it is important to keep this pet leashed or under voice command when hiking.
However, these dogs are very intelligent and considered easily trainable, meaning that, if taught correctly, they will view the hike as their job and are unlikely to stray from it when in “working mode”. Though they are very capable of being serious when appropriate, Kelpies are also very silly dogs who are not afraid to show off their fun-loving nature.
It is not uncommon for hikers, particularly those who are on an adventure that will span weeks or months, to become weary or depressed during their journey. It is for this reason that the Australian Kelpie’s fun, silly, and energetic nature is often appreciated by long-distance hikers.
I can think of many times, when Piper and I would be out hiking together, that my morale would falter significantly due to unforeseen weather conditions, skin chafing, or other common irritants.
In these instances, Piper never failed to do something silly that would get a laugh and a genuine smile out of me, often lifting the dark cloud over my head entirely.
As far as health goes, Kelpies are a very hearty breed. Though they do often suffer from common ailments, such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, or cognitive dysfunction as they age, they are generally very healthy, low-maintenance companions.
If exercised appropriately and given the necessary amount of mental stimulation, most Kelpies will live eleven to thirteen years, on average, with very few significant health problems.
The Kelpie makes a wonderful companion pet for the whole family. They are known to be good with children and adults alike, and are very protective over the family unit, or their “pack”.
As with any dog, it is important to set boundaries early on so that this breed’s energy doesn’t cause unfortunate accidents, such as running into or over a young child. With clear boundaries and a balanced lifestyle, this breed will make a wonderful hiking companion for not only their primary handler, but for the whole family.
Kelpies, though gentle in nature and eager to please, are very independent and strong-willed, meaning that it is important for them to have an owner or handler who knows their place as the head of the pack: someone who is not afraid to set clear boundaries, being tough when necessary but also patient.
Though they are strong-willed, Kelpies also tend to be very sensitive in nature and will take harsh criticism very seriously. It is important for them to be treated with patience, directness, and, of course, lots of love.
When not in working mode, this breed tends to be very affectionate. They are no stranger to cuddles and pets, and will not hesitate to demand your affection if not given efficiently. It is not uncommon for my own Kelpie to sit before me, ears perked at attention, and place her paw in my lap, nudging me softly until I pat her head or rub her chest.
She is a dog who knows what she wants, as do most of her breed, and is not afraid to ask for it. In addition, these dogs tend to be very food motivated and will generally respond well to training efforts when food or treats are involved.
In summary, I strongly urge those looking for an intelligent, athletic, and dedicated hiking companion to consider the Australian Kelpie. A diligent, independent, gentle protector, the Kelpie will make a great companion for any adventurer or outdoorsman who is willing to dedicate their time and energy to this companion bond.
A great addition to any “pack”, a Kelpie is sure to bring a great amount of joy, laughter, and safety to any family.