Working Dogs

Man’s Best friend - Sue Crowther

By Madeleine Caccianiga

Yarroweyah cattle farmers Neil and Sue Crowther farm on 230ha with the help of their dogs Tess and Pip. Thirteen-year-old Tess is described as the matriarch of the family and two-year-old Pip filled a hole in the family’s heart after losing their dog Duster. Both dogs enjoy life on the farm, chasing motorbikes and stirring up a cow or two.

What are their names, breed and age?

Tess is a collie-kelpie cross and she is the matriarch of the family at 13 years old. And then we have Pip who is a two-year-old kelpie.

Do the dogs help with the cattle?

Tess thinks she’s a really good cattle dog, but she’s not very assertive. When I try and get her to “push them up” she will end up having a nose to nose stand-off with them and then 10 minutes later will follow through with the command.

Quite a few years ago we were away and my mum came around to shift some cattle for us. She tried sending Tess around the back and she wouldn’t come and then all of a sudden a cow started chasing her so she ran back to the gate and the whole herd followed her — so the cattle were moved.

And Pip?

Pip is very enthusiastic about working with the cows and she is really starting to learn and respond to commands. However, she wants to go to the cows' head, so I’ve got to bring her back around; and we’ve tried to get her to work with the chooks but we have to pull her back a bit. But I think she will make a good cattle dog.  

Do they travel with you?

When I go around to my brother's in the farm ute Tess will jump in the cabin — she knows exactly where she’s going. I remember one day I had to go down to another place first and we got to the crossroads and I went straight and she looked at me as if to say “we’re going the wrong way”.

They both love to chase the motorbike and Tess will hop up on the back, but Pip is happier running beside it.

Do they have any funny habits?

We’ve decided that one of them is pinching eggs. The other day my husband went out and opened the door to let the chickens out and there were three eggs. He set off to do a couple of other jobs, intending to collect the eggs on his way back – (when he came back) they were gone. I’m not sure whether that might be Pip doing that or not, but it hasn’t been happening for 13 years so I’d say it would be Pip.