The Kelpie X Labrador Mix Breed Profile
40 cm to 55 cm
Up to 35 kgs
10 to 14 years
Are you looking for an active, friendly dog to go on adventures with? Then the Kelpie x Labrador mix might be the right choice.
Our experts have reviewed everything you need to know about this lively crossbreed to help you make the right decision for you and your lifestyle. Here are the basics!
History of the Australian Kelpie and the Labrador Retriever
Before diving into the unusual Kelpie x Labrador crossbreed, it’s important to know a bit more about its parent breeds. Here’s what you should know about these two popular dogs:
The Kelpie is one of the few authentically Australian dog breeds. This hardy pup came to be in the nineteenth century, amid the colonisation of Australian lands. At the time, the new farmers needed a hardy shepherd dog that could handle the harsh Australian weather with ease.
Related: The Australian Kelpie Breed Profile.
Since most of these first settlers were originally from the United Kingdom, they started breeding English Collies locally and selected based on their work ethic, intelligence and energy. The result was the Australian Kelpie as we know it today: an enthusiastic and tireless working dog that can endure hours running under the harsh sun and can single-handedly control large herds of cattle. Kelpies are easily trainable, smart and love to work. Since the 1800's Kelpies have been the backbone of the herding industry and some people say their work is worth three to four human shepherds per day. Nowadays, the Kelpie is considered one of the most efficient working dogs and they are bred mostly for working purposes. Their popularity as house pets is on the rise, but because of their very specific needs, they aren’t the ideal dog for most people.
On the flip side, we have the Labrador Retriever. This popular dog has been a family favourite for decades, and with good reason. This Canadian gun-dog was developed to retrieve prey from icy waters and have strong hunting and chasing abilities. They are very smart and enjoy pleasing their owner, so they excel at obedience and field and need plenty of outdoor exercise to be happy. This is a sporting dog through and through and they are generally well-behaved, patient and active.
Considering its two parent breeds, it’s evident the Labrador Kelpie cross is an active, smart pup that loves its people. Here’s what you should know about them!
The Labrador Kelpie Cross
Temperament and personality
Child and dog friendliness
Intelligence and trainability
Temperament and personality 4/5
Due to its heritage, the Kelpie x Labrador crossbreed is enthusiastic and hardworking. This mix enjoys being active and spending time with its people outside. In general, and after being properly socialised, this breed is even-tempered and friendly with those they already know. However, the specific character of your puppy will depend on which side of its heritage is more dominant.
If they tend to be more like the Kelpie side, your new pup will be eager to learn and have a job. They are devoted to their main handler and don’t do well with re-homing. In general, the intense drive in Kelpies can make the Kelpie cross Lab difficult to handle in a home setting. These pups are extremely smart and need consistent mental stimulation, preferably offered by a job. In a home, it’s very common to not have the opportunity to develop these traits. As a result, a Kelpie cross puppy might become destructive, unruly and sometimes aggressive.
On the flip side, if your crossbreed pup leans more to the Lab in them, they’ll be significantly calmer. While Labs are also working dogs, they adapt more easily to pet life, and will be content watching the kids and going on a couple of long walks per day. Labs are very smart, but they tend to do well with fetch and retrieve games to stimulate their mind, while Kelpies loathe the repetitiveness and fetch might put their prey instinct into overdrive.
Labradors enjoy meeting new people and do well with other pets of all sizes. Most of the time, a Lab will be comfortable in new settings, and they don’t mind being in a busy room since they love being social. In contrast, Kelpies tend to prefer smaller gatherings and feel easily overwhelmed in new environments. This is a herding breed, meaning they have the need to oversee any new space, and this might not be possible every time. An overwhelmed Kelpie mix can get antsy and could have a harder time following orders. If your puppy leans more on their Kelpie side, don’t expect them to be a social butterfly and make sure to provide a quiet space for them to retire. Most Kelpie mixes would rather stay on the outskirts of the action and oversee the activities from afar.
The issue with crossbreeds like the Kelpie cross Labrador is that you won’t ever be sure whether your puppy will lean more to the Lab or the Kelpie side. Considering these two dogs have significant personality differences when it comes to sociability and meeting new people, it’s a gamble if you have a strong preference with either trait.
On the other hand, Labs and Kelpies have different ways of showing affection towards their owners. Labradors tend to be very outwardly happy dogs, wagging their tails, jumping and showing excitement. In contrast, Kelpies tend to be more reserved. While Kelpies fiercely love their owners, they show that affection by staying by your side, looking at you intensely and trying to follow commands. They’ll also try to find “work” to do, even if you haven’t given a specific cue, but they generally won’t jump to greet you or come lick you for cuddles.
Because your mixed puppy can grow up to be either very friendly or more aloof, we’re giving this breed 4 out of 5 stars. You won’t know which side your mixed pup follows until they are older!
Child and dog friendliness 3/5
Both the Labrador and the Australian Kelpie are good with kids and other pets, but they need different approaches when it comes to their socialisation.
Related: Best Dog Breeds For Children.
Of course, any puppy including the Lab Kelpie mix will need consistent socialisation from day one. Socialisation is an ongoing process that allows your dog to feel comfortable in new situations and don’t react out of fear of the unknown. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association:
You can also socialise older cats and dogs, but the process will be lengthier, and they might already have some learned behaviours you’ll need to deal with. Labs are one of the easiest breeds to socialise since they are naturally more people-inclined and enjoy meeting new friends. They also do good meeting other dogs and pets and tend to have a playful behaviour even towards those they don’t know.
On the flip side, Australian Kelpies are naturally more reserved and need thorough socialisation to avoid unwanted behaviours. In Kelpies and their mixes, socialisation has two main goals: making them understand meeting new people can be a positive experience and curbing their strong prey drive. The latter is especially important for those Kelpie mixes that will live in a home environment and not work every day to satisfy those natural instincts.
Socialising your Kelpie mix involves exposing them to positive experiences with new people, animals and environments. To do this, you’ll praise and reward calm, relaxed behaviour and gradually expose them to more challenging situations, ideally while your pup is still young. If they aren’t properly socialised, they’ll tend to react poorly and, in the case of Kelpies, their prey drive will still be strong. This means your Kelpie mix will chase and herd anything that moves, including children, cars, people and other pets.
In contrast, if your Lab Kelpie mix is socialised, they’ll enjoy spending time with new people and you’ll be able to handle their prey drive with consistent exercise.
Because of these issues, we’re giving this crossbreed 3 out 5 in this category.
Exercise needs 5/5
Considering its two parent breeds are very active, it’s not a surprise that the Lab Kelpie mix has very high exercise needs. Remember the Kelpie was bred to handle the harsh Australian heat while herding cattle, so their weather tolerance is very high, and they need at least an hour of moderate exercise every day.
If you intend to adopt a Kelpie x Labrador puppy, keep in mind they’ll need a consistent exercise schedule of at least one long session a day, plus training time. This is non-negotiable and if you fail to provide enough physical stimulation, your puppy could become destructive and sometimes aggressive.
Related: Low Energy Dog Breeds.
Because of their strong chasing and herding instinct, this dog will need a fenced-in yard on top of their daily walk. The fence will keep them contained and ensure they stay safe without chasing after the first moving target they see.
PRO TIP: Walking aimlessly isn’t enough physical exercise for a Kelpie mix. Try to work on a few training exercises on the walk to keep your dog’s mind stimulated or consider enrolling in agility training to spice up their workout schedule every once in a while.
If you are very active and are looking for an energetic companion to take on runs, go hiking and workout with, this might be the crossbreed for you! We’re giving this pup 5 out of 5 in this category.
Intelligence and trainability 4/5
Of course, it’s no surprise that this active crossbreed is smart as a whip. This might not always translate into easily trainable, especially if your puppy turns out to be more like a Kelpie than a Lab.
Labradors are easy-to-train dogs that aim to please, so lessons are usually fun for them and even first-time owners will do well. On the other hand, Kelpies are incredibly smart but also very independent. This means they’d rather do things on their own terms, and they get bored easily. As soon as they understand what’s needed, they’ll figure out a way to do it on their own and they loathe repetition.
If you’ve never trained a dog before, we recommend taking your Kelpie x Lab cross to a few training lessons so the both of you get an understanding of how training works. Positive reinforcement through praise and food is key to get good results with any Kelpie or its mixes, so bring lots of delicious treats to motivate your dog.
All in all, this crossbreed will generally be easy to train but they might have a hard time with repetition, “boring” tasks and working on recall. Because of these issues, we’re giving this mix 4 out of 5.
This is one category where this crossbreed shines. Because of the coat type of both parents, your Kelpie x Lab will most likely have short to very short hair, with an undercoat. This means that while they will shed, especially in spring, they don’t need major grooming to stay healthy.
In general, your puppy will do well with a thorough brushing a couple of times a week, and maybe more often once shedding season starts. On top of that, taking care to brush their teeth and clip their nails is all you’ll have to do.
Considering the easy grooming schedule, we’re giving this pup 5 out of 5 in this category.
Health issues 4/5
The Labrador cross Kelpie is generally a healthy crossbreed and has a lifespan of around 11 to 12 years. Because the Kelpie is a working dog, these dogs are very strong and don’t usually have any genetic conditions to be aware of.
On the flip side, Labradors have been heavily crossbred, and they are more prone to certain issues. These include elbow and hip dysplasia, seizures/epilepsy, obesity and cancer . If you’re getting a puppy from a breeder, make sure both parents have been screened for joint issues, since patella luxation and hip dysplasia have a strong genetic component.
Considering these issues, we’re taking off one star in this category.
Apartment friendly 1/5
Are Kelpie crosses apartment friendly? We don’t think it’s a great match. These dogs are very active and will get destructive if you don’t provide them with at least one to two hours of moderate exercise every day. Plus, Kelpies tend to get overwhelmed easily, this is heightened in small spaces as there’s not a lot of room to get away.
Related: Best Apartment Dogs.
A fenced yard will give an active dog like the Kelpie Lab mix a bit more space to burn off some energy, chase birds and avoid boredom. In contrast, living in an apartment means you are the only source of entertainment and will have to focus on providing a consistent exercise schedule.
If you are active yourself and plan to bring your Kelpie mix with you, then apartment living is possible if a bit tight. In all other cases, we recommend getting a bigger place before adopting this active dog.
Because of this, we’re giving this mix 1 out of 5 stars in this category.
Adopting a Kelpie x Labrador Puppy
Are you interested in this fluffy crossbreed? This is a rare mix, and most puppies happen by accident. There are no registered breeders, and this specific cross will be very difficult to find. Of course, you might get lucky contacting your local rescue centre to check if a litter was recently surrendered.
You might also want to contact breed-specific clubs that might know about accidental litters coming soon. Here are a few useful links you might want to check:
Your best bet might be asking at your local rescue centre or RSPCA. Kelpies and Kelpie mixes are one of the most surrendered breeds in Australia. Most families don’t fully understand the type of commitment they need and are quickly overwhelmed by their behaviour and exercise needs, so Kelpies are very common in rescue centres.
Check these out, they might know of a Kelpie Lab mix waiting for you!
This rare crossbreed might be challenging for most owners, but it could be the right fit for you! If you enjoy a challenge, have experience training other dogs and love being active, the Lab Kelpie cross might be your ideal pup. Have you ever encountered this crossbreed?
Let us know in the comments below!
- "Socialization of Dogs and Cats". American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved July 5, 2023. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/socialization-dogs-and-cats
- "Labrador Retriever". PDSA. Retrieved July 5, 2023. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/large-dogs/labrador-retriever