Working Dogs

A good dog is worth its weight in gold

By Sophie Baldwin

Robert Browne has always used the help of a good dog when it comes to working sheep on his Deniliquin mixed farm. There have been many dogs in his life over the years and he has come to rely on the intelligence, strength and good all-round traits of the kelpie breed. His latest dog, Ben, bounded into his life as a nine-month-old and has been helping out and following Robert around ever since.

So tell me where did Ben come from?

He came from Berawinnia (near Balranald) kelpie breeder Dave Kennedy and his Fapaelda bloodlines. I got him as a nine-month-old dog because I didn't want to have a six-week-old puppy around the place. David's brother is my stock agent so I was able to pick Ben up from him instead of travelling there.

So how did that work out?

He has been a pretty good dog actually except for the time he snuck into the house and got tangled up in my wife's knitting, that wasn't his best moment.

Did you have any trouble bonding with an older dog?

Within a week we were great mates. He is very loyal and no matter where I go, he is always following right behind me. For the last 30 years I have been buying dogs from good bloodlines because I find they are just better dogs when there is no work for them.

What do you mean?

I buy lambs in September and sell them in April so there are a few months there when there are no sheep for Ben to work. I find the better-bred dogs pick back up on the work quicker. If Ben was working every day he would be a very good dog.

How do you describe Ben?

He is a big and very athletic dog. He is always aware of what is going on around him and he always presents very well. He is an all-rounder and a very good worker around the yard.

Have you always had kelpies?

Yes. I did have a long-haired border collie once but I found they got too hot and burrs were a real problem. I have had some pretty good kelpies over the years including some bred from station dogs.

What difference does a good dog make?

My son works on the farm but he likes working with machinery more than sheep so a good dog is very handy for me. It is always good to have a dog that wants to work for you and it makes everything run a lot smoother with a lot less human arguments too.