Home' Smart Farmer : February 2013 Contents February 2013
RING, ring -- ring, ring. Good
morning, this is the Working
Dog Centre. Can I help you?
Oh, g'day this is Laurie
Dangerfield, from Mount
Dangerous Station, and I wondered
if you had any going dogs for sale?
We've got shearing in a couple of
weeks and I thought I better get a
young dog while my old dog is still
alive -- so he can teach him.
As horrified as you may be with
this type of phone call, it is com-
We receive this sort of enquiry at
least once a month although the
story varies from 'my old dog just
died' and 'my old dog just got bitten
by a snake' to 'my dog is getting too
old to work and we've got shearing
Let's just look at the background
of this type of enquiry.
Here is someone who wants to get
a dog and, without giving the ani-
mal time to get over the disturbance
to its life, wants to take it home and
yell all kinds of instructions to it
such as 'git away back there' or
'come over behind'.
Worse still, he wants to let it go
and follow some other dog it does-
n't know and race around not work-
ing for any leader.
If you think that is horrifying,
How about the person who goes
to a Working Dog Auction and buys
a so-called 'fully trained dog' and
then takes it home and expects it to
The dog they have bought doesn't
know their smell. He is in strange
and unfamiliar surrounds. He is not
tuned into the new owner's voice.
The new owner doesn't know the
commands and tones the dog has
been taught and worse still, doesn't
know how to train a working dog --
otherwise he wouldn't be buying
one at an auction.
It's as if they expect they can go
home with the dog, insert a key in it
somewhere, and turn it on.
All in all, it's a combination for
Working dogs take somewhere
between 18 months and two years
to train. They are in their prime
between 5 and 9 years and when
looked after well, will still be work-
ing until they are 11 or 12 years old.
From their early years they can do
the job of three men -- easily.
In other words, a good dog can
save you about $450,000 in wages
across 10 years.
Let's say you want to employ
someone to help in a permanent
position, what are the things you
In no particular order, you would
want to make sure you knew more
about the job than the person you
were hiring. In other words, you
should be able to train them. For
the dog's sake, you would have to
attend and pass a Working Dog
You'd check their background.
For a dog, this would be watching
the parents work.
Have a look at their CV. For a dog,
this is their pedigree.
Make a few phone calls to obtain
their references. For a dog, this
would be checking out the breeding
You would want to make sure
they were happy in their surrounds
and had somewhere to eat their
lunch. For a dog, it would be a good
dry kennel, up off the ground with
You would want them to have a
safe, stress-free environment to
work in. For a dog, this is regular
medical checkups, vaccinations and
top diet for all the work it is doing.
You would want them to stay and
feel that work was rewarding. For a
dog, this would be no shouting and
And, if they are a long-serving
employee, they should be looked
after in their retirement. For a dog,
this is allowing him to retire grace-
fully (and out of pain) on the back
porch until he dies.
Nearly all the people who make
the sort of phone calls I outlined at
the beginning, are the ones who will
tell me they 'don't need all that stuff.
I've had dogs for over 40 years'.
They have had them but never
trained one to full standard. They
haven't paid for quality, or
researched the best breeders for the
best dog they can buy.
Indeed, they have never been a
real leader to their dog. The real
leader is the old dog who trained
the young one.
And because they have never had
a dog of the highest quality, they
simply don't know its price value,
or how to house, administer, feed,
or properly care for a quality animal
that will give them unselfish devo-
tion until they drop.
As it becomes harder to attract
people to the career of agricultural
production, men and women on the
land should wake up to the fact that
the working dog gives them huge
value for money and far less prob-
lems than employing humans.
You need to have a succession
If you bought a top quality dog at
'started stage' -- which is about 8
months to a year old -- and you
started to train him, you should
have him working at about 14 to 18
He then needs to be nurtured,
like any good athlete until he is
about 2.5 years old and to do that,
you need to be one-on-one with
There is an old saying in the dog
world: 'never ever train a young dog
with an old dog'. In other words, he
works for you and not the old dog.
And then there is the incredible
satisfaction of knowing you did it.
That you trained him.
So, now you have your top
employee -- probably your best mate
-- who understands all your little
body signals even quicker than you!
And, because you have trained
him yourself, he won't listen to any-
one else. He is about to turn four
years old and now is the time to
search for your new worker.
Once again, if you got your new
dog as a 'started dog' he would still
take about 12 to 14 months before
he should be used with another dog.
If you wanted to be clever, you
could teach him different tones for
'stop', 'left', 'right', and 'cast'. That
way you can have one dog doing
something completely opposite to
When your younger dog is actual-
ly working at his peak -- probably
2.5 years old -- the older dog is
between 5 and 6 years old. What a
team you'll have.
Naturally, when your younger
dog gets between 3 and 4 years old,
you'll plan for the next.
What is the cost?
Compared to employing a human
with ongoing costs of workers com-
pensation, insurance and superan-
nuation, the cost of a quality
working dog is minuscule.
Quality breeding studs can charge
whatever they know their dogs are
worth but I can give you some ball-
park figures. And remember I'm
talking quality here.
Proven working dog pups are
somewhere between $800 and
$1000. Started dogs will be
between $2500 and $3000.
Quality means proven sires and
dams, fully vaccinated, guaranteed
to work, registered with the
Working Kelpie Council, tattooed
with an 8-stage computer printed
pedigree from a proven breeder.
That is very cheap for someone
who will do the work of several
men, and be with you for the rest of
His needs are very little: care,
friendship, respect, and kindness.
A bag of quality dog food is
between $30 and $40, and a cross-
bred mongrel that costs nothing
(from the neighbour of a bloke
down the road) will still eat the
same amount of tucker, and cost the
same to vaccinate.
Which would you much rather
• Need to know more?
A dreadful question
It's unreasonable to expect a newly bought dog to perform in an instant.
From their early years working dogs can do the job of three men -- easily.
with BEN PAGE,
Working Dog Centre
Are You looking for a WORKING DOG?
The Working Kelpie Council breeders are
dedicated to the needs of the pastoral industry.
For details of Dogs or Pups availability and membership please call or write to:
P.O. Box 306, Castle Hill NSW 1765
Ph (02) 9899 9224 or Fax (02) 9894 2140
E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.wkc.org.au
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