Bench Dogs

The genuine Australian Working Kelpie is bred to work stock and are arguably the best all-round herding and working dog in the world. Working Kelpies work all kinds of stock including sheep, cattle, goats, poultry and reindeer (just to mention a few).

They are equally comfortable working in very cold and snowy conditions or the extreme harsh heat and isolation of the Australian outback. Their ability to work right under the feet or on top of stock in the yards, as well as muster out of sight and in all kinds of terrain, and handle from 3 sheep to large mobs of thousands, have earned them the reputation as one of the finest working dogs in the world. The genuine working Kelpie is now commonly referred to as the Australian Working Kelpie.

Unfortunately, many years ago people started showing Kelpies and this resulted in a completely separate line of Kelpies which are now referred to as Show Kelpies. Show dogs are also referred to as “Bench Dogs” because they are placed on benches at dog shows. The same process has happened to the Border Collie.

Which is why, here at The Working Dog Centre, we clearly state that we breed and train Working Kelpies and Working Border Collies.

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A Bench Kelpie

So what’s the Difference?

Show dogs are quite different from the original working dog in many ways, they have different temperament, behaviour, looks and body shape.

In the Kelpie, they have a short dark coat, in solid colours with no white or tan markings. Show people are very keen on dark chocolate brown or deep red. They are generally shorter in the leg, of very solid build with a broad chest and head, and pricked ears.

In the Border Collie they go for the long flowing coat, predominately black with white markings (some tri-colours), short legs, bent ears and generally an all-round smaller dog than the genuine Working Border Collie.

The Show Dog can only be bred with other Show Dogs and never back to the original Working Dogs. That means that they cannot be crossed with genuine Working Dogs — while not illegal, it just won’t produce a well-bred dog — and why would you do that anyway? Better to breed from excellence if you are looking for excellence.

Unfortunately, very few people overseas get to see the genuine working Kelpie and Border Collie. In the past there have been unscrupulous breeders who passed off Show Dogs as genuine Working Dogs to overseas customers but hopefully, that practice has ceased.

Once anyone has seen the genuine Working Kelpie or Border Collie in action, then there is no question that they would instantly recognise the difference.

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A Pedigree Working Kelpie

If you are buying a "started" or "trained" dog, it's also important to attend some training if you haven't already done so. Otherwise you could be spending many thousands of dollars and potentially ruining your investment by not knowing how to actually work the dog and get the best out of him."

Avoiding the misrepresentation

So you are looking to purchase a genuine Australian Working Kelpie or a Working Border Collie…what pitfalls should you be aware of?

Firstly, let’s look at some wording that can be a dead giveaway:

  • Working Dog breeders refer to their establishments as “studs”. Show breeders refer to their establishments as “kennels”.

  • Working dogs are registered with the Working Kelpie Council of Australia or the Working Sheepdog Association. Show dogs are registered with the Canine Council or equivalent.

  • Show dog breeders will sometimes quote Australian Champion bloodlines. These awards are won in the ring on a point basis, never on a trial ground.

  • Working Dog breeders are well aware that there is only one Australian Champion per year and their title was won on the trial ground. So if you see something like: Aust. Ch. Goldbrick the Third…it’s a Show Dog. As an aside there can be numerous Australian Champion Show Dogs in one year.

  • Some unscrupulous Show Dog breeders have taken to calling their Show Kelpies “purebred Kelpies” (or Border Collies), inferring that the Show Dog is in some way more pure and superior to the original Working Dog. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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A Pedigree Working Kelpie Puppy

The Working Dog Centre breeds Working Dogs and strongly condemns the manipulation of working bloodlines to breed Bench/Show Dogs.

Stock Work and the Show Dog

There has always been a degree of animosity between Working Dog owners and Show Dog owners. A lot of this animosity comes from the ignorance of TV and print media articles written by city reporters who not only have no idea that there are two breeds, but have never seen a genuine Working Dog in action. Sadly, a number of these articles have been printed in pastoral type newspapers and magazines.

An additional point of conflict comes from Show Dog owners continuing to pass their dogs off as working sheepdogs. Show dogs are bred more for their ‘looks’ than their ‘brains’.

The core of this issue is the dog’s ability to work stock. Show Dogs simply do not have the eye, cover and commitment to work stock at an acceptable level. Over the years we have had a number of show dogs attend our training courses and the owners have been bitterly disappointed when the dog won’t actually work.
In all of these cases the breeding of the dog was blatantly misrepresented and the new owner had been told that the dog was a Working Kelpie or a Working Border Collie. The perception by Show Dog breeders that a dog that races around after sheep or ducks is actually working, is laughable.
The most difficult problem with this type of misrepresentation is getting the purchase price back.
In short. Breeders of the genuine Working Kelpie or the Working Border Collie do not wish to be involved with discussions or debates in regard to the Show Dog. The only time they get their back up is when the Show Dog breeders try to pass their dogs off as Working Dogs.
Indeed Mr. Clifford Hubbard, a well respected writer on working dog breeds in general said, “the exhibition of any breed of dog that interferes with its ability to serve man in its original role, is doing a disservice to the breed”.
To sum up the question of breeding,. it may be better if you remembered that breeders of Working Dogs are looking for the “science” in the dog. The term, “science” refers to a combination of eye, cover, commitment, speed, courage, calmness on stock and natural balance. Show dog breeders don’t give any consideration to those traits and they only breed for looks and possibly temperament.

Now that you are aware of some of the common wording you have come to the all-important decision:

Choosing your pup

You’ll want to own a class act. A pup bred with the “science” in it. One that stands a better-than-average chance of becoming a top working dog. Here’s a bit of a checklist.

  1. Carefully decide what type of dog you need. Kelpie, Border Collie, paddock, yard etc If you don't know, then discuss it openly with the owner of the stud.
  2. Do you prefer to have a dog or a bitch?
  3. Have you ever trained a working dog? If not, enrol yourself in a Working Dog Training School.
  4. Do not fall for the trap of, "I have a good mate who has trained plenty of dogs". Unless of course he has won numerous trials. Do the training course yourself.
  5. Find a stud that is registered with the Working Kelpie Council of Australia or the Working Sheepdog Association.
  6. Avoid (like the plague) a neighbour or friend that has a pup for sale that comes from "good working stock". Usually they are not registered - generally they can't supply a pedigree - probably they aren't inoculated and their real breeding is sometimes pure guesswork as the bitch may have had one or more different sires.
    In other words, they are high risk.
  7. Avoid pups advertised too cheaply – they are often the product of an accidental mating. Sometimes litters are the progeny of multiple sires who are unknown. NOTE: If you are going to spend your valuable time training your dog, then buy the best one you can afford. The right dog will repay this investment many times over.
  8. Contact the stud. Make a time to visit the stud and see their dogs at work.
  9. Openly discuss your needs and your experiences.

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A Bench Kelpie Puppy

All registered studs will:

  1. Supply you with a comprehensive pedigree. (Up to 10 generations)
  2. Guarantee that the pup will work. Provided that you can prove that you are capable of training a working dog.
  3. Register your pup with the Working Kelpie Council or the Working Sheepdog Association.
  4. Supply your pup with the necessary inoculations and a record of worming.
  5. And to repeat the most important point of all. "The stud must be able to show you the mother and/or father working stock". Naturally, if the dog is a "started dog" or a "trained dog", then you will be able to see the dog work.

This checklist is in no way a complete and comprehensive list of all that you should do. But it gives you a starting point.
In short. Reputable studs will go out of their way to ensure that the dog they have spent so long breeding to the best working strains will be correctly trained and cared for. After all, their reputation rests on how good your dog is.
If you would like to see some genuine working dogs with the “science” bred into them, just click here.

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Pedigree Working Kelpie Puppies

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The Working Dog Centre breeds Australian Working Kelpies and Australian Working Border Collies to the highest standard possible, from proven bloodlines with extensive pedigrees going back at least 10 generations, and are used on sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, ducks, poultry and in sheepdog trials.