Host: Killili Working Kelpies
Written by: Courtney Robinson – Owner, Killili Working Kelpies.
“Why do you have so many dogs?”.
I should be used to this question by now, but I still grit my teeth a little every time I get asked. Usually because the person asking the question isn’t actually interested in the answer; their mind is frozen on how many dogs I own.
So, I have 16 dogs.
Up until recently I had a nice easy six, but there are big changes on the horizon and I have had to more than double my numbers to suit my new circumstances. I don’t want to talk about what I am up to too much until I am actually there and am on the job.
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. That is why I have invested in the new dogs, so that I don’t arrive at the new job with a team of dogs that I know nothing about, and vice versa.
When working and educating livestock it is important to have a team of dogs with different skills.
Some dogs are better at forcing, while others are better at covering and escorting a mob. By having different dogs, with different qualities, you will have a more balanced team who are capable of covering nearly every situation. I think I’ve now got a pretty good mix of dogs with different working styles. The most important thing I look for in a dog is natural instinct. If I end up with something that is lacking in natural ability it is usually moved on fairly quickly. I’ll give you a quick run through of each dog as an individual.
Meg is my original girl I bought as an eight week old pup from Belrieve Kelpie stud in QLD. Definitely the most spoilt, and being the ‘matriarch’ she pretty much runs the show and I just do what she tells me! She’s bred the core group of my original team. I used to think she was a hard headed *female-dog* but the more I learn the better she gets . . . funny that!
Dan is the first pup I kept from Meg. He’s one of my tougher dogs, and usually the first one on scene if something needs turning back into the mob. I refer to him as my ‘yahoo’ dog as he’s fearless and usually likes to throw in a stupid move, like bombing the lead of stock unnecessarily. And he’s really good on sheep which I only discovered this year. I love him to bits. He’s also my protector, I feel super safe when travelling or am on my own when I have Dan with me. Meg is also protective but not as much as Dan. He’s also my favourite dog to do training with, if I ever get around to having a go at trialing he will be the one I do it with.
Max is out of the same litter as Dan. I sold him as a pup, and then bought him back when he was about 15 months. He’d just been a pet up until then, and it took him a few months to switch onto stock, but now he is one of my ‘go to’ dogs. Has big presence on stock, is always in the right spot, and can switch from pushing a mob, to being a ‘lead’ dog when required. It always fascinates me how he knows what is required when I take him from the tail of the mob, and put him in the lead to keep them steady. How does he know the difference? Natural instinct I guess. Max is always everyone’s favourite.
Bella, and Pippy, sisters out of the same litter, again out of Meg, the same sire as Dan and Max but different litter. As different as peas and corn in work style and type. Bella is a boofhead, and is also classed as a yahoo with Dan. Pippy is pretty stylish with a big natural cast, and prefers working the wings of the stock. Bella likes escorting the tail, and disciplining anything that thinks about sneaking out of the mob.
Spooky was my first barking dog. He has very little natural cover on a big mob, but has a whole lot a noise. I use him when breaking in stock, or if they need a reminder about flowing, or if they need a little hurry up. He does have a ‘shut up’ button too thank goodness. He’s super cruisy to have around and is pretty fun, and a whole lot more likeable now that he’s a couple of stone lighter.
Fern was bred by Dave Turner. I got her as a tiny eight week old run-out pup while Teesh and I were travelling. She has always been super independent and unflappable. She spent the first seven weeks of our time together sleeping in my swag while we travelled, and did she ever show any gratitude? No way! She’s super smart and quick minded, I’ve only just started her but she’s showing a lot of style and promise.
Ace. My beautiful Ace. He’s bred by Scott Amon of Barru Working Kelpies and is only four months old. He is the only dog I have with a tiny splash of Collie in him. He’s straight black with a bit of white on his chest. I bought him with the intention of using him as a sire and so far he’s proving himself worthy.
Anna, and Brick were bred by a fella called Peter Barr. I adore them both, Anna is about two or a bit younger, and was a sheepdog before I got her. Pretty much as soon as she arrived she fitted straight into the team, and has become one of my main dogs. She’s super fearless though, which makes me very fearful! Brick, only about nine months or so, and I’ve just started him. I’m really looking forward to doing more work with him. He’s also going to be worth breeding with as he has all the qualities that I look for in work and type.
Rob Roy was bred by Wyreema Stud. He’s about 12 months old and very timid. I’ve had him on the trainer mob a few times, and then gave him a easy job on the cattle at the other block the other day, and he handled it like a pro. I do have to be careful about how I handle him, too much pressure or expectation at this stage and I believe I will ‘switch’ him off. So I like to put him in situations which he can handle and have a win, this will build his confidence and help make him a better dog. I don’t usually like working with timid dogs, but I’ve changed my approach and now I love seeing them come around and find their feet and believe in themselves.
Ellie. I can’t recall her breeding but I got her from Nan Lloyd in WA, she’s got bark and cover. Not a strong dog on her own, but has a solid spot in the team and will only get better with work. A very sweet girl, only about 12 months old.
The Huntaway! Born and bred in the NT, I wanted to add another barking dog to the team and I have definitely done that! She literally barks at EVERYTHING – the dogs when they are running, ME if I am running, basically if it’s moving, she’s barking. I’ve never had a Huntaway before, so it’s going to be interesting. She’s super likeable though. Well I like her, she drives the other dogs mad because she barks in their ears and bites the top of their tail when playing.
Wish, my gorgeous little girl called Wish. She’s only four months old, but is showing everything I look for. I have had her on the trainer mob a couple of times to see what she is showing, and now I’ll let her grow up and get to about eight months before I do any more with her. She’s a sweetie, but I am unable to breed with her. But that’s a whole other story.
Cash is my last pup out of Meg. I’m very excited about the bloodlines in this pup. He’s only nine weeks old but most of the litter has already switched on. I won’t be doing anything with him for a while yet, it’s just not worth starting them so young. It’s nice to know they want to work, but pointless in starting them. You wouldn’t send your six month old baby to school, so why start working an nine week old pup on stock.
Buddy. I love Buddy. He’s a beautiful gentleman of a dog, loves the lead, is just lovely to have around. He’s about six years old, he’s a pleasure to work with and is already one of my main dogs.
Rocky. I haven’t had him for long. He’s about 18 months old and unfortunately he and I have had a personality clash and I hope to shift him on as soon as possible.