On The Land

31 March, 2023

Expert shares tips on working dog training

WINNER of the ABC’s Muster Dog program, Frank Finger, has been training working dogs for over 20 years on his Clermont, Queensland property. His passion for training working dogs is shared through his training schools which attract owners, breeders, and the next generation of trainers.

Winner of the ABC’s Muster Dog program, Frank Finger, has been training working dogs for 20 years
Winner of the ABC’s Muster Dog program, Frank Finger, has been training working dogs for 20 years

With more than 270,000 stock-herding dogs across rural Australia, the importance of working dogs to Australian farmers and property owners cannot be underestimated.

This importance is also reflected in the strong sale prices of fully-trained working dogs, with some setting eye-watering auction records. Farmers are well-aware that a well-trained dog provides benefits to a farm well beyond its sale price.

Preferring to train dogs from puppyhood, Frank is a big be-liever in starting small in all fac-ets of a dog’s training.

Frank shares his tops tips on training working dogs and working them towards their natural instincts.

Nurture to Nature

From birth, it’s essential to nur-ture working dog pups through their early weeks and look after them with nourishing food and ensure they’re de-wormed, says Frank.

“At six weeks, pups are weaned and at nine weeks I start short bursts of training. The initial training is all about showing them what to do until their instincts come out.”

Forming a Bond

As small and cute as they are, Frank notes it’s important to bond with your dogs but not too much until they are working.

“If too much bonding occurs before they’re working, they can become accustomed to it and come to expect it too much later on,” he said.

“There should be care, but I make sure I don’t become too close to them.”

Think Small

When starting with pups, Frank encourages those training work-ing dogs to think small. Training a small pup should incorporate small livestock such as goats or even ducks, while training should be limited to short peri-ods.

“You don’t want to over-whelm a small pup,” Frank said.

“Training time and size of livestock can increase over time as the dogs grow. Once the

dog is nine months of age, we increase the cattle size and the number of them in the yard.”

Line of Sight

Frank notes that one often over-looked aspect of training work-ing dogs is that a dog’s line of sight extends no higher than a trainer’s knee when in close proximity. This is especially true for pups.

“Remembering the dogs’ eye level when training them is im-portant,” he said.

“This is why we use a plas-tic garden rake to act as an ex-tension of our arm and ensure we’re in their line of sight. The rake is also used as an indicator to get the dogs to stay next to the trainer and not move in front.”

Simple commands

Once trained, Frank notes well-bred working dogs will work instinctively.

“Once the dogs are older, the rake can be replaced by calling their name if they get ahead of you. From there, it’s best to develop a good call with them that doesn’t include too many commands. Keep it short and simple,” he said.

Benefits of a healthy dog

Frank appreciates a well-trained dog has to be healthy to fulfill their potential. Prevention is better than cure and Frank uses Simparica Trio, a once a month chewable, to protect his dogs against heartworm disease and provide treatment and control of fleas, ticks and intestinal worms.

“Simparica Trio is very convenient,” Frank said.

“Heartworm treatment used to be a daily occurrence, but Simparica Trio makes it an easy-to-remember monthly treatment. My dogs have never had any problem with it.”


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