Article From World Dog Games Officail Program 2009
Dave Graham has been everything from a Jackaroo to a reality TV star, having appeared on both Big Brother and Dancing with the Stars. He is a crowd favourite, with Aussie voters seemingly having a soft spot for the country boy.
But it is Dave’s love of the farm and experience with working dogs that brings him to the PURINA World Dog Games, where he is going to teach us big smoke folk some country common sense for city canines.
I have had the fortune of breeding and training hundreds of working dog. Without them, our sprawling cattle station just couldn’t function.
They are the backbone of the operation and we all work as a team to get the job done. Above all my dogs are my best mates – they’re always there to lick your face after coming off a horse and having
To limp the many kilometres back to the homestead, or to give you that look that makes even the worst drought-stricken days bearable.
Most stockmen have a team of dogs that operate under both verbal commands and hand signals, and the dogs are interchanged to allow for rests. A mustering team is made up of the lead dog, which stays up front and sets the pace. It’s their job to make sure all the stock arrive as one at the destination. Then you have all-rounders (usually Kelpie mixes) who work the sides of the mob. At the rear are your Heelers, whose job it s to keep up the stragglers and ensure that any angry mothers or cranky nulls at the tail of the mob are kept from doing any damage to the stockmen.
When not moving stock, it’s the dog’s duty to protect a farmer’s toolbox on the back of the ute from any light fingers - it’s a foolish thief who doesn’t know that a Kelpie or Blue Heeler can be very fearsome when protecting his master’s belongings!
These dogs are also the ‘counsellors of the bush’, lending their big ears to many a sad story of bush life and the realities of drought and isolation. It truly would be unbearable to live in the outback without a working dog as a mate.
I have pretty much owned every working breed — Kelpies, German Koolies, Border Collies, Huntaways and many others. My best mates have always been the mongrel bred Kelpie types. They have a hardiness that’s often lacking in the Border Collie and purebred southern Kelpies. Working dogs need this hardiness in order to survive long, hot days on the station.
What do you love about working dogs?
Being part of a dog pack and working together is like a seamless orchestra — you have your strings and your wind instruments all doing their bit, led by the conductor. It’s a sense of being part of something much bigger - of being able to communicate across the species and share a camaraderie that is unparalleled.
Most working breeds have been purposely bred for their roles as herding dogs. Therefore they have a heightened athleticism, intelligence and desire to follow human instruction, which makes them so much more desirable as a companion than a solitary, sedate type of dog.
I’m not a big fan of working dogs in the city. After all, they have been purposely bred over hundreds of years to work livestock out in the farmlands. However, thanks to a great rise in dog clubs offering agility, obedience and organised dog sports, working dog types are not going to be too upset by a suburban life.
Farmers have selectively bred working dogs for their ability to follow commands, think for themselves and be extremely athletic. Therefore, it’s very important that these dogs get the high degree of physical and mental activity they require. It’s not unusual for my dogs to be tramping out a few hundred kilometres a week just moving the sheep around the property, let alone doing a big muster. A lot of strenuous exercise and mental games such as Frisbee is a great start. Working dogs a so love obedience training and learning tricks, as this replicates the farmer directing the dog in the field and gives the dog the leadership he requires.