A working dog can be the most useful employee on a station sometimes, although all he receives in exchange for his hard work is free rent and board. Most working dogs are Kelpies, Border Collies, Huntaways, Coolies, Blue Heelers or a mixture of some of these breeds.
All a great working dog needs is to be highly intelligent, have a strong desire to herd other animals and be loyal to its owner. There are other characteristics that determine whether the dog is suitable for a particular job or not, for example, a dog that uses a lot of force to block the lead of a mob in the paddock will be a hindrance when moving sheep, however when the same dog uses force to push sheep in the yards or up a race it may be highly effective.
Every dog owner has a set of characteristics that they value in their working dogs and that will depend on what stock they have, how they work their stock and how they work their dogs. A dog that is no good to someone because it is too forceful or not forceful enough or it is too strong in the lead, could be the best dog the next bloke has ever seen!
Buying a dog
Working dogs are a highly valued commodity in agriculture and as such the price for a well bred working dog can be in the thousands of dollars, you don’t have to spend this much though as there are also many brilliant working dogs about with no traceable breeding. Many dogs are sold by word of mouth or given away to friends or family but those that aren’t usually end up in one of the rural newspapers. This is a great place to try and find yourself a working dog, be prepared to spend anywhere from $150 for a pup with no pedigree and from $500 upwards for a pup with pedigree, if you don’t have time to wait for a pup to grow up and become useful, started dogs sell from $600 but can be $1000 or more. It helps to know the characteristics you want in a dog, are they lead dogs, do they bark or bite, can they back sheep etc. buying a dog if it or it’s parents don’t do what you need them to is a big waste of money.
The biggest danger in spending big money on a pup or started dog is that it will injure itself or worse still die, there are thousands of dogs lost every year to snake bite, being kicked by cattle or horses and most frequently by bait intended for wild dogs or pigs. You might want to take some precautions with your dogs such as muzzling if there is bait around or getting pet insurance so you can have a broken leg fixed. The one precaution everyone can take to prevent dogs dying is to tie them onto vehicles properly, a dog should be on a short chain or leash on the back of a vehicle so that it cannot fall out and hang itself, it is a simple solution to a problem that kills dogs every year.