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. 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!