Home' Smart Farmer : March 2015 Contents Smart dogs
from devil to angel
Pepz, the Unruly Koolie, was a pup with attitude but circumstances changed.
I'VE been writing for smartfarmer
for nearly five years and, in that
time, have focused mainly on
why dogs think the way they do,
how to read their body language,
how to train them, and ways to
ensure you are viewed by your dog
as the leader.
It goes without saying that it's
important to understand why a dog
thinks the way it does but the most
important aspect is to let your dog
know it has a leader.
As an aside, nearly all of the unfor-
tunate abandoned dogs in shelters
are there because the owner didn't
know the leadership rules or how to
A dog needs three things: it must
belong to a pack, that pack must
have a leader, and the leader con-
trols the food.
Solve those three problems and
you have a happy life -- so does your
So this month I thought I'd
change tack a bit and, instead of
talking about dogs, give you real-life
examples of the success people had
adopting the leadership rules.
With the Working Dog Centre
fully equipped to conduct dog
training, we rarely hold Working
Dog Training Schools, but there was
such strong interest at the display
I conducted at the Mount Pleasant
Farmers' Market late last year that I
agreed to go back to Mount Pleasant.
Apparently, the public wanted to
learn more about my method of
training dogs. It has been named
'Ben Page's Natural Method'.
When I started working dog train-
ing schools some 15 years ago, it was
primarily attended by people who
had working dogs, and came from a
Nowadays, I find people with
all breeds of dogs and many from
After all, a dog is a dog and,
believe it or not, they are all wired
The Unruly Koolie
The following is an example of
implementing the leadership rules
using silent commands, and signals
only -- no voice.
It is the story of Pepz, a Koolie-
Border Collie-Kelpie. He was 16
months old when he attended the
school and had had unsuccessful
attempts at obedience classes.
You may already recognise that
Pepz was a mixed-up boy. He didn't
know if he was a Koolie, a Border
Collie or a Kelpie.
Pepz is a big Koolie who had
decided to use his size to become
a bit of a delinquent. I nicknamed
Pepz the Unruly Koolie because of
the way he jumped about and used
his strength on his female owner, a
In his owner's words, this is the
story of Pepz's conversion from the
Unruly Koolie to a well-behaved
dog, using my natural method:
"Thank you very much for allow-
ing a 'city chick' with an 'unruly
Koolie' on your training course.
I know this dog will never work
stock, but now I know where I can go
and what activities I can do with him.
I was very pleased to find that we
were on the same page as it were, on
how to treat and train dogs, and you
were able to fill in the missing gaps.
So thank you both.
There has already been a posi-
tive effect on Captain Crazy -- my
husband asked what on earth I had
done to the poor dog as he has been
calm, quiet and well mannered since
our return home.
The walking with a rake has cer-
tainly done the trick.
Although I had trained him to do
many things, leash walking was the
one thing I could not master with
this dog -- the only dog I have not
been able to train fully to walk nicely
on or off leash by six months.
Granted I felt like a complete
wally this morning, doing a crazy
speed-variable shuffle march with a
garden rake in one hand and a dog
in the other around the block -- I live
on Henley Beach Road -- but the dog
Yes, I got a lot of strange looks,
particularly from my husband who
thought I had lost the plot.
In fact, the moment I picked up
the lead and rake this morning, the
dog calmly walked to my side and
waited for me to put the lead on;
normally he runs and bounces in
circles making excited noises.
House rules for my dogs have
always been: come inside on invita-
tion only and they must wait quietly
before I signal them in.
I always enter and exit the house
and the yard ahead of the dog.
Dogs are not permitted in all
rooms, only the central living area,
and are given designated spaces.
No running, no toys, no play
But once in, I have never thought
of making them wait at the internal
door to the living area.
I tried an experiment this morning.
Dogs come in on signal, then I
Ask the Working Dog Whisperer
Got a question about working dogs?
Send it to the Working Dog Whisperer,
Ben Page. Perhaps you are having
trouble with some aspect of your dog
training, or your stock work? Do you
feel there might be an easier way? Or
do you simply wish to ask a question of
a general nature? If you're having a dog
problem, then chances are that other
readers are too. Your questions will be
published along with the answers in
this column. We hope this initiative will
help readers, and their dogs.
• Please send your questions to:
with BEN PAGE
Working Dog Centre
stop in the internal doorway and
repeat march on the spot.
My Koolie, who had charged
through the door, stopped dead,
turned around and came and stood
behind beside me in a walk position
and waited for me to go through.
We have repeated this several
times as I walk through the house.
I stop, shuffle my feet and now
both of my dogs come to my side
and wait to follow me.
Something that simple has made a
big difference already.
I know that I have a great training
adventure to look forward to."
All it took was two days for the
unruly Koolie to become an angel.
This is just one of the wonderful
stories from our recent trip to Mount
• Next month: The Leadership Rules and
Weed watch: spray early, not often
CONTROLLING weeds at this time
of year can be challenging, with
the January rains prompting an
explosion of new weeds, fol-
lowed by significant die-off as a
result of the recent hot weather.
Despite the heat causing
many weeds such as capeweed
to shrivel and die, a significant
proportion of individuals will
Spraying these weeds before
they get too large will be the
most effective way to control
Some of the commonly used
herbicides are only effective
on plants up to a certain size.
Tigrex, for example, will only
kill capeweed plants with up to
Check the label to find out
the weed size the spray will be
most effective against to avoid
First and foremost, when using
herbicides, always follow instruc-
tions on the label. Pest plants
can range from grasses to shrubs
But one group, woody weeds,
stand out as a threat to bushland
and productive farmland. African
boxthorn, blackberry, broom
(English and Cape), gorse,
hawthorn, olive and willow are
Through the Adelaide and
Mount Lofty Ranges region
blackberry, broom and gorse are
particular pests, outcompeting
native pasture grasses and veg-
etation, colonising creek lines,
and degrading natural habitat.
The most important part of
any weed control program is
Regular property surveys will
help you spot any new infesta-
tions and monitor previous
Another important job at this
time of year is to use herbicides
to control woody weeds such as
blackberry and to use techniques
such as cut stump and drill and
fill to control exotic invasive
trees such as willow, hawthorn
As the weather starts to cool,
these plants are start to invest in
growth in their roots rather than
So any herbicide applied now
will be carried in the plant's
vascular system straight down
to the roots, where it can have
If blackberry is sprayed at this
time of year when it is fruiting,
it is important to ensure that
this fruit is not eaten.
• Need to know more?
In the Adelaide and Mount Lofty
Ranges region, contact your local
Natural Resources Centre at Gawler, 8
Adelaide Rd, 08 8523 7700; Lobethal, 1
Adelaide Lobethal Rd, 08 8389 5900; or
Willunga, 5 Aldinga Rd, 08 8550 3400.
Spraying woody weeds such as blackberry as growth begins to slow can be
Some herbicide sprays are only
effective when applied to younger
plants, such as this cape weed.
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