Host: Killili Working Kelpies
Written by: Courtney Robinson – Owner, Killili Working Kelpies.
After the first day with our three circus performers in the shape of Kelpies and one clown – me, it did get easier. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if it didn’t, because I probably would have shouted myself to death.
For the first few months on the farm all of the paddock work we did was by casting the dogs and getting them to pick up the cattle and then to bring them along behind the ute and into their new paddock. It wasn’t always simple. The dogs, especially Meg hate it when there is a really slow animal on the tail, and would prefer to cut it off and a) let it come along at its own pace or b) just leave it behind all together or c) let me go get it. C was their preferred option which didn’t bode well with me and they learnt the hard way *cough* that life is easier for them if they just keep the mob together.
‘Casting’ is basically when you send your dog/s around the livestock to bring them to you. Meg has a really wide cast, and a natural kick out to pick up more stock, whereas the boys have a big cast, but they don’t go as wide. It is possible to teach your dog to cast wider. If I need them to go wider, I get them to stop and resend them, and just keep doing that until they figure out what they need to do.
I sold Max as a pup and then bought him back when he was about 16 or so months old. He had just been a big goofy pet up until that point. Meg is the mother of Max, Dan and Pippy.
When I got him back he hadn’t had any work, ever, and had some shocking habits. I always think that if Max put an ad in a newspaper looking for a ‘lover’ it would read something like – “Big, friendly happy guy. Red hair. Hobbies include bird watching and fishing”. Yep, he chased birds when he first arrived, and not only did he chase birds, he taught my other dogs how to chase birds.
Picture four Kelpies all doing ballet twirls and very elegant leaps through the air in pursuit of willy wag tails, cockies, magpies, and miner birds. Drove me crazy, even though I couldn’t help but be impressed by their mid air athletic abilities. The birds started dive bombing us as well, the buggers. I bought a whip, no body chases birds any more. We have a lovely little pond on our front lawn with a water feature. It’s got goldfish in it. To date he has only caught one fish.
I had faith in Max’s ability as a working dog because I bred him. I knew there had to be ability tucked away in there somewhere. One day when we were yarding cattle a heifer broke away from the mob, before I could spin the quad around to get her Max was off, one BIG bark in her face and she came back to the mob. That was the only promising sign over a period of about two months and then one day, he switched on, hallelujah. I’m sure I heard the angels sing that day, maybe it was just me, whatever, I can officially say Max is awesome now and a very important part of my dog team.