30 September, 2022
PATIENCE and calmness when communicating with animals were the key messages to participants at dog herding workshops held at the Mareeba Pony Club recently
The two workshops focused on training not only the dogs but also their owners on how to successfully communicate with their canine friends as they learned how to herd sheep, goats and cattle.
Hosted by renowned trainer Tony Cocks, the herding school catered to young “unstarted” pups, dogs that work but just needed fine tuning, and even dogs that live in suburban areas but just want to exercise their natural instinct.
This year’s event saw a record number of participants and a significant amount of improvement in both the dogs and the humans, with Mr Cocks saying he felt proud of everyone who came along.
“There has been a really good mix of people and skill levels and there has been some big challenges and big wins for the dogs,” he said.
“We had a little four-month-old pup who came in and its owner thought it was a little bit naughty, but he has turned into an absolute super star. To see the smile on the owner’s face was amazing.
“We also had a young 16-year-old fella who came in and wanted to cheat and use his mum’s good dog, but we got him to use his own dog and he has gone ahead in leaps and bounds.”
Giving back to the livestock industry was the goal for Mr Cocks, hoping more young people will get into herd-ing on stations and farms across the country.
Using his years of expertise on his station out west and his love for dogs, he knew he had to get people on-board with this workshop.
“This workshop is my way of giving back to the cattle industry as we are struggling to get people into the industry at the moment,” he said.
“There is a lot of young people with dogs, and no one is teaching them (herding) anymore. I try and be very practical in the way I educate and teach people and how to workshop.
“I am willing to try and help anyone who wants to learn how to work dogs for livestock.”
Staying calm and taking your time was the key piece of advice given throughout the three days, with participants such as Darren Hebbard soon learning just how important it is.
Travelling all the way from his station just west of Rockhampton, he bought along his two dogs, with his young pup Ace being the main reason for his trip.
The young border collie x kelpie was renowned for his aggressive behaviours, often nipping and barking at livestock.
Determined to help Ace, Mr Hebbard knew he had to make the trip north.
“We came along to Tony’s school to try and get our little pup under control and help our older dog who was a little bit aggressive with sheep,” he said.
“Ace’s first experience in the arena with the sheep was absolute chaos as he was super aggressive, and we had to muzzle him.
“He just wanted to attack and dominate the sheep and that left me feeling a bit down at the end of the day be-cause of the way the dog reacted.
“Tony took me aside and gave me some good advice and some good methods to get a bit of respect from the dog and he performed at almost 100 per cent at the end of the day.
“We had a really good run (on the last day of the workshop) as Ace had no aggression or nips and we came out feeling really pumped.”
As well as benefitting the dogs, Mr Cocks advice benefitted the humans, teaching them that feeling “cranky” and rushing through the process would not get them anywhere.
Several participants commented on how his advice in regards to herding will be taken on in their everyday lives.