Work Like a Dog

I remember when I first heard the saying ‘working like a dog’. I was young, naive and from the city. ‘Work like I dog?’ I’d think, ‘Dogs only laze around, eat and pee on things.’

How my world has changed.

My first introduction to working dogs was when I visited a soon-to-be neighbour’s property, where a handful of collies were tied up to trees around the house. I was told not to pat them… So I went and greeted each personally. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to play with them, and definitely couldn’t understand the rule of not keeping a dog who didn’t earn his keep. Now I do, and have to run, and feed, hoardes of the critters each night.

Some people would have you think dogs who don’t sleep inside and eat scraps off the table are mistreated.Β Hearing ads from the working dog rescue programs on the tv makes it sound like working dogs are mistreated and unloved. They certainly aren’t desperate for attention, they get to play with lots of other dogs twice a day – numbers of city people pay for their dogs to go to ‘daycare’. These dogs do what they love and were bred to do- work livestock. No heart attacks from being fat old house dogs here, they are athletes and kept in prime working condition.

I’ve been thinking about this all a lot lately since I’ve been looking for an Australian Shepherd puppy. There are few breeders in Australia who actually work their dogs on sheep or cattle. Most seem to be show dogs or house dogs. There are so many rules when purchasing one of these dogs. Some breeders insist that the dog be sold within so many km’s of them, so they can take them back and breed or show them. There are breeding contracts, registration contracts etc. It does my head in! When I buy a dog, I want it to be mine. I want to breed puppies from it if it’s a great worker, I don’t want to send it back to the breeder to show. I just want a dog, a good worker and a friend. Better just stick with collies I guess!

Edge & Dodge

Edge and Dodge are two of the working collies on the property. Waiting patiently (and keenly!) for their turn to work some cattle.

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29 thoughts on “Work Like a Dog

  1. I’m assuming ‘Edge’ is the one on the far right, due to his facial expression that looks like he is possibly going in to cardiac arrest. Or maybe he is just worried you caught his bad side. Edge and I have a lot in common.

  2. One of my earlier riding instructors had an Aussie shepherd. When he died, she got a pup and it came with her to hang out with the horses every day. Most of the time he was quite happy, but he was sorely tempted to herd the horses! Didn’t understand that the rider was already taking care of where the horse went! Fortunately he was a very obedient dog and after a slight reprimand would lie down by the fence looking at us with longing eyes.

    • Naww, he was just taking care of you! Haha.They look like beautiful dogs. I don’t think I’ve met one before though.. Despite them being called Australian Shepherds, there’s not that many over here. I think they’re actually American – just developed from Australian breeds. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m interested to find out! And yes! I know very well of the longing eyes look! Haha.

      • From Wikipedia:
        “The Australian shepherd, commonly known as an Aussie, is a breed of herding dog that was developed on ranches in the western United States. Despite its name, the breed was not developed in Australia, but rather in the United States where they were seen in the West as early as the 1800s.They acquired the name because some were used to herd Australian sheep.”

  3. Good Lord Jess, shame it is so complicated to negotiate a purchase of your own native working dog breed. I suppose they are very protective of them, is there a shortage? perhaps you should start breeding them yourself! I remember the Queenland Blue Heelers well when I was in Oz, stunning looking dogs, – tho’ Border Collies are my true real favourite, here in UK so many people own Borders as pets it seems the latest fashion! One day I hope to own my own when my life is more stationery and not on the move so much. Love reading you blog BTW πŸ™‚

    • Apparently, they’re a US breed, only named ‘Australian’ since they worked Aussie cattle some time long ago. Sounds silly to me! I don’t have the patience to start breeding show dogs, it’s hard enough brushing my long hair, let alone a dog’s too! Haha! Yes Blue Heelers are characters who are disgustingly obsessed with food! We mostly have collies too, they’re beautiful smart dogs. Funny to hear they’re a fashion statement – I can’t picture them fitting in a handbag anytime soon haha! Thanks for the comments, glad you enjoy my ramblings πŸ™‚

  4. So cool! I love your job. We have a terrier mix that tries to herd our goats to and from pasture. Except she leads from in front, turning and barking. Naturally it scares the goats and slows them down as they try to go around her. Is it just instinct to herd from behind, or can it be taught?

    • Thanks! There are generally two types of working dogs, heelers and headers (some people use different terms). Basically, heelers chase the cattle away, and headers bring the cattle to you. Heelers are mostly used for yard work, or small properties when you walk behind and push the cattle and you need a dog to help. We only train/use headers, and although the instinct is pretty much bred into them to bring the cattle, you do have to train them to do what you want. With our dogs Jackaroo starts them on a small mob of sheep or weaner calves and keeps on the other side of the mob, chasing the pup back around the other side. This is how you also teach them commands like ‘over’ and ‘back’ etc. Terriers certainly do love chasing things! I have a friend with a few Jack Russell crosses, and they work cattle! Lol! Hope this all makes sense, thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  5. With regards to working dog rescues, I believe that rescue is the important word. In the UK, non-workers are treated like dirt (to put it politely), bitches are used as breeding machines until such time they can’t do that, and dogs are shot, starved, drowned, etc etc. There are a small number of lucky dogs who get rehomed, but not many.

    • Yes, I understand exactly what you’re saying, I’ve witnessed it too. It made me very sad. It is wrong and sick. Rescue mobs do a great job. There are well-meaning souls who lump us all in one pot though, which is not right. I love my animals, and they love their job. Thanks for your comment and checking out my blog πŸ™‚

    • Make them think!

      Have them “work” for their food by stuffing food carrier toys, putting it in puzzle toys, or even just scattering it on the lawn for them to hunt for. Do you clicker train? Free shape them, using different props – a box, a bucket, a chair; and train tricks. Play games, tug & fetch can be great energy burners (and if one or both dogs doesn’t fetch, or won’t give a toy up you can train that first!).

    • Thanks for your comments πŸ™‚ I think that everybody (animals and people) have an inner need to be wilder- maybe just in different degrees. I think that’s why a lot of people are drawn to my blog, so they can experience the outdoor adventures and the earthy people through me. Sam has posted some good ideas, getting them to think and learn would certainly keep them occupied! I’m not sure if you have the means to, but taking your dogs adventuring is really fun. Go somewhere they haven’t been to, maybe the beach or a park – they will love experiencing all the new sights and smells. You’re the alpha dog – they’re happy when you’re with them πŸ™‚

      • yes, thank you. We live 8 blocks from the beach and we sneak in when the police is not around… they love it. I just have to be aware of the cats, they go crazy around them…

      • I live in South Beach, Florida, it is very touristic here….however, we are still able to know the secrets of the locals…
        and by the way: success:) I have been hiding the food in the garden and the dogs go super excited trying to find it. thank you and Sam for the suggestions…

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