working puppies have their own reality series
COLLECTION DOGS, New Serie. Sunday, January 23, 7:40 p.m., ABC
Aticia Gray manages a half-million acre (over 200,000 hectares) property in the Pilbara, – “That’s about the average size for this region” – a cattle station that is owned by the family for generations. But in 2019, the drought was so bad that they had to start destocking. And although some rain fell in 2020, Gray and his brother had already decided they had to start farming differently.
“We went: Okay, it’s a reset button. We will take this chance now to adjust our management systems, take better care of the country.
This involved a host of initiatives, including letting the property regenerate before repopulating. It also meant using dog teams to work their cattle, rather than the helicopters, bicycles and bull wagons that had become the normal way of doing business.
Gray is one of the ranchers we meet in ABC’s new factual series, Herding dogs. It’s kind of a competition to see who can best train a working pup in just 12 months, but the most interesting face of the show is the insight into the dogs themselves, the people who raise them, and the people who raise them. train, and the farmers who work them. .
Gray says the benefits of working with dogs rather than machines are many. They are obviously lighter on the ground. “There is the cost,” she says. “It doesn’t come cheap when you have to get helicopters under contract.” Dogs are also so much more fun, she says.
Gray actually started working with dogs in 2013 when she heard about a guy called Neil McDonald who was training working dogs and training people to work with working dogs. “I didn’t know anything about dogs. I didn’t even go there with a dog. But at the end of that first school, I thought, this is what I want to do. So Gray got a dog. Then another, and another. “I was as green as they come,” she says of that first year. “My dogs had to train me a lot. So full points for them!
Perhaps most importantly, dogs play a vital role in animal welfare. “It’s the education of the cattle that’s important,” says Gray. “Good dogs have so much natural feeling and understanding of animals, it takes the stress out of stock.”
It’s hard to describe until you see it, but essentially cattle learn to read dog behavior and choose to work with them. It’s a totally different dynamic from a guy on a motorcycle or a dive helicopter.