The recent ABC television series Muster Dogs has highlighted the incredible abilities of our working dogs.
It’s not just their sensitivity to cattle movement that makes them so good at what they do.
They are also agile endurance athletes who can work long hours in very hot conditions. During peak hours, working kelpies have been recorded traveling more than 60km in a single working day.
There are dog breeds throughout the world that have been selectively bred for many generations to work with livestock. That selective breeding has molded them to be better suited to the specific environment in which they work and the style of work they are required to do.
If you’re interested in the history, traits, and abilities of these incredible dogs, and maybe have wondered about owning one, here’s what you need to know.
Read more: How hot is too hot? Here’s how to tell if your dog is suffering during the summer heat.
Designed for Australian conditions
The Australian Working Kelpie was engineered for Australian conditions to use what is known as a “strong-eyed herding style,” which involves taking a low stance and using eye stalking (keeping eyes on cattle) to follow the movement of the herd. . The Border collie also uses this style.
They control the movement of the herd with exquisite sensitivity with their general presence.
His behavior includes that characteristic stalking posture with his head and body low, and calm, controlled steps.
This is how a predator would approach a herd of prey animals if they were hunting.
The strong-eyed sheepdog stalks, stares, holds its ground, and runs; It’s not just where they are that controls the pack, but what they’re doing.
Most other herding breeds have a more relaxed herding style, in which they work with their heads held high and use their body position to influence the movement of the herd.
Herding dogs that use eye stalking also often work at the front of the pack, turning it toward the handler. Looser style herding dogs tend to lead the pack from behind.
Bred for bravery
Australian working kelpies were developed from British farm collies in the late 19th century.
Some claim that there is dingo infusion into the breed to add stamina, but this is still up for debate.
Selection signals in the DNA of the Australian working kelpie suggest that a very important trait is the ability to withstand thorny terrain; a working dog that cannot ignore burrs and thorns to keep working is of little use to the rancher.
Other traits prized by trainers are bravery and level-headedness. In other words, a dog that doesn’t panic under pressure.
Unlike many other herding breeds, the Kelpie is often required to work independently of the handler and think for himself.
have a working dog
Working breeds can be very rewarding canine companions for people who don’t have cattle for them to work. But prospective owners need to understand that the selective breeding that makes these dogs so good at herding can also make them a handful in a suburban setting.
Of course, they are extremely active; most need a few hours of high-intensity exercise a day to keep them from destroying the house and yard when they’re young.
They are also highly alert and often extremely excited by movement. The faster and more chaotic the movement, the more powerfully they will be drawn to control that movement as they would a pack.
This can make playing with kids, ball games, bikes and skateboards, and even meeting other dogs at the dog park a real challenge.
Working breeds also sometimes have a tendency to swoop in and bark at an object that is bothering them, just as they would and bark at cattle looking to separate from the herd.
Some good lessons for owners
The television show Muster Dogs presented some core messages applicable to any pet dog, as well as working dogs that are pets in the home. These include:
1. Early exposure
Ensuring that puppies have positive experiences with the stimuli they will encounter often in early life is crucial. They must be taught to accept the activities they need to be tolerant and comfortable with managing and restraining themselves.
The owner must build strong foundations in the come-when-called areas, stay close off-leash, and maintain a connection with the handler even when there are distractions.
3. Impulse control
This is particularly important for working dogs eager to participate in exciting activities. In fact, all dogs can benefit from learning to control their impulses and not chase, jump, or use their mouths every time you prod them.
It takes a special type of dog to be able to take on animals 20 or more times its size that can easily cause serious harm.
Doing it all day in the hot, rugged terrain of the Australian outback takes a dog with a tremendous desire to work.
This should never be forgotten by those of us who live in more comfortable surroundings when we think we want a working dog to accompany us in our suburban lives.
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