Did you manage to catch last year’s ABC TV phenomenon, “Muster Dog?” It was a show whereby five graziers from across Australia were given five Kelpie puppies from the same litter and set with the challenge of transforming the pups into champion muster dogs. The winner was Frank Finger, who has been training working dogs for over 20 years on his Clermont, Queensland property.
Here Frank shares his top tips on training working dogs:
Nurture to Nature: Frank says it’s essential to nurture working dog pups through their early weeks and look after them with nourishing food and ensure they’re de-wormed. “At six weeks pups are weaned and at nine weeks I start short bursts of training,” said Frank. “The initial training is all about showing them what to do until their instincts come out.”
Forming a Bond: Frank says it’s important to bond with young pups, but not too much until they are working. “If too much bonding occurs before they’re working, they can become accustomed to it and come to expect it too much later on,” said Frank. “There should be care, but I make sure I don’t become too close to them.”
Think Small: Training a small pup should incorporate small livestock such as goats or even ducks, while training should be limited to short periods. “You don’t want to overwhelm a small pup,” said Frank. “Training time and size of livestock can increase over time as the dogs grow. Once the dog is nine months of age, we increase the cattle size and the number of them in the yard.”
Line of Sight: Frank notes that one often overlooked aspect of training working dogs is that a dog’s line of sight extends no higher than a trainer’s knee when in close proximity. “Remembering the dogs’ eye level when training them is important,” said Frank. “This is why we use a plastic garden rake to act as an extension of our arm and ensure we’re in their line of sight. The rake is also used as an indicator to get the dogs to stay next to the trainer and not move in front.”
Simple Commands: Once trained, Frank notes well-bred working dogs will work instinctively. “Once the dogs are older, the rake can be replaced by calling their name if they get ahead of you. From there, it’s best to develop a good call with them that doesn’t include too many commands. Keep it short and simple.”
Keep Them Healthy: Frank appreciates a well-trained dog has to be healthy to fulfill their potential. Frank uses Simparica Trio®, a once a month chewable, to protect his dogs against heartworm disease and provide treatment and control of fleas, ticks and intestinal worms. “Simparica Trio is very convenient,” says Frank. “Heartworm treatment used to be a daily occurrence, but Simparica Trio makes it an easy-to-remember monthly treatment. My dogs have never had any problem with it.”
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