Koolies were bred to be working dogs but that does not rule them out as companion dogs. I was going to say 'mere' companion dogs but there is nothing in anyway mere about a dog that is a true companion as thousands of dog lovers worldwide can testify.
In a recent survey of dog breeds and their overall relative intelligence it was not the German Shepherd or the smart little Poodle that came out on top but the Border Collie. For Border Collie read Koolie for Koolies were developed predominantly from collies from the border region in Britain to do the same work. They are sometimes called German Koolies because much of the work in developing the breed was done by German farming settlers here in Australia.
ALL working dogs are highly intelligent, they also have a bump of independence, they can think for themselves. A good working dog has to have this. A working dog that 'goes wrong' can be a serious problem. If you want a cute lap dog, if you are the sort of person who thinks dogs are born ready made as well-behaved automatons, if you need a dog to boost your own self esteem or just to patrol the backyard, worse live on a chain. If you do not have the time, patience and determination to bring out the best in your dog, for God's sake don't have a Koolie.
Dogs are for life – not till they chew up your best shoes – dig up the garden or you want to go on holiday. All dogs, Koolies included, go through an adolescent phase and this is when most of them end up in the local shelter. They are no longer cute, cuddly puppies but boisterous, cocky, destructive monsters. However it is a phase and they will grow out of it. It is during this most difficult period that the qualities of the owner are put to the test. It is also a time when deep bonds of respect and affection can be forged between dog and person.
Think of a young Koolie as a five-year-old child with a similar I.Q and boundless energy. Imagine the level of boredom if it is confined to a small area with very little attention and few, if any, toys. It needs above all attention; it needs to learn basic good manners and respect for its owner and self-respect.
Showing a dog you are pack leader does not mean bawling at it or hitting it. You show you are the one to be respected by simple things, not letting it leap all over you. This is annoying to adults and dangerous for small children, waiting quietly, preferably sitting, while you place its food down, not pushing through a doorway in front of you; barging past you in doorways can be dangerous and stopping it is a very simple way of teaching respect. It must also learn your house rules, whatever they are. If you don't want dogs on the furniture then don't allow it from day one. But you have to fair, if your Koolie is banned from your armchairs then you must provide a comfortable bed, washable foam beds are excellent, and respect it. It belongs to the dog and no-one else. Go To Bed is one of the first commands to be learned by a housedog.
It is a mistake to think that Koolies require acreage to be happy. A dog is not going to go out into a fifty-acre paddock and trot round it because you tell it to. You have to be prepared to trot round too. It is common to see Koolies and other working breeds advertised in the papers as 'Needing space' and similar such comments. This is not so, what the Koolie needs is an owner prepared to give it the exercise it needs, to walk with it. Cheaper and more enjoyable than the Gym any day! And of course there are other ways of exercising, once you have taught a Koolie to retrieve and/or catch a ball all you have to do is sit on a garden chair and throw.
Because Koolies are so highly intelligent they need their brains exercising too. My companion Koolie, Morty has learned to fetch me things, my hat, my shoes, his lead etc., and to pick up things and bring them to me. I also taught him to find objects hidden round the house. He only has to be shown the object, and prevented from watching where you hide it, and he will happily search the room until he retrieves it. I am not sure who enjoys this game most when he plays it with my four-year-old grandson.
Koolies are not aggressive dogs; Club meetings where they all run free happily socialising with each other with very few spats indeed bears witness to this. This means that once they have been taught to walk well on a lead exercising them round suburban streets is no problem. Invest in an extending lead and your Koolie can take about five times as much exercise as you even in city parks were leads are obligatory.
Koolies, particularly the smooth coated versions, are low maintenance dogs. The occasional brush keeps them looking good. They do not need expensive trips to the local dog beauty parlour. Because there is nothing exaggerated about them, no squashed in noses, bowed legs, too long backs or extra long ears they are a healthy dog. They have been bred to work, not to look beautiful in a show ring. They are very affectionate, loving and faithful companions. They may have stamina and energy but they are not at all averse to spells of luxury and idleness, just so long as they are sharing it with you. They can also be good guards in that they tell you when strangers are around without threatening to eat visitors.
There are a great many Koolies born who will never become working dogs. This is no slur on either their Koolie qualities or their intelligence. In today's mechanised world there is simply a limit on the number of working dogs required. Many puppies unhappily are destined to be discarded as adolescents and will turn up in animal shelters. Those who are found by the right people become companion dogs. If you are looking for a dog and think you could take on one of these be sure you know exactly what a Koolie looks like as most shelters do not. They call them Kelpie cross, Blue Heeler cross or Border Collie cross, but very seldom Koolie. Also remember that 'second-hand' dogs very often come with emotional baggage. Security and love usually disposes of this.
Finally, adopting a dog, like having a child, means you are responsible for its physical and emotional care and its education for the rest of its life. The question every would be dog owner should ask is; 'Am I good enough for this dog?' Not 'Is this dog good enough for me?'