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Working like a dog for the man on the land

David Hart and his dogs.
David Hart and his dogs. Craig Warhurst

WITH a quick chirp on a New Zealand sheepdog whistle David Hart guides his prized kelpies around lush green paddocks of his family's Upper Kandanga property.

Kelpies Chief, Moss and Fi are the stars of the show.

The energetic dogs bound down the paddock and start to round up about 30 cattle and bring them to David.

The dogs work like they are on automatic pilot swiftly sweeping from side to side behind the herd guiding the cattle toward the gate.

When one beast heads out of the pack Fi takes chase, works out wide, blocks it and stares the animal down.

Although 100 times the size of the dog the young steer loses the mind game and returns reluctantly to the rest of the herd.

Winning the mind game is what makes a great working dog, according to David.

The dog breeder and cattleman says he teaches his kelpies to use their inbuilt instincts to control the cattle.

"It's all about pressure and relief," David said.

"The right dogs give can give relief to livestock."

The kelpies are taught to give the cattle space (relief) while they are doing the right thing and only become aggressive (pressure) when the dog's authority is threatened.

"People think you need hard biting dogs - they just upset livestock - what you need is clever dogs," he said.

"I want the dogs to use their own brain to bring me the cattle."

David's method works; the cattle stayed calm and dogs only barked when cattle turned on the dogs.

The dogs even slow down the herd when they approach gates to allow the cattle time to work out where they have to go. According to David the concept of pressure and relief works in many areas.

"The idea works for livestock, horses, dogs and probably kids too," he said.

David currently has 19 kelpies on his Oakwood property and said he wouldn't be able to muster cattle without them.

Their natural ability to go where bikes and horses can't makes them an asset on the property.

>> David has a website that teaches his principles and the 10 commandments of dog training

Topics:  farming kandanga kelpies sheep

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