This event was supported by Murray Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.
4-5th September 2017
Eleven people attended the 2 day Dog Handling Workshop with Ian O'Connell in early September. The clinic was initiated by local farmer Mark Martin, who wanted to improve his animal husbandry- starting with his dogs. Western Murray Land Improvement Group and Central Murray Bestwool Bestlamb enlisted the services of 'Doghouse Training' to run a clinic in Wakool, NSW. Participants were asked to bring their own dogs to work with sheep provided. These sheep were separated into two yards of differing size so that dogs could be worked according to their training level. Ian started the Dogs in a small yard with 4-6 sheep to build their confidence, giving constant praise for any interest shown by the dog toward the sheep. "You've got to judge a dogs temperament and train accordingly, it's a real balancing act to get it right". Throughout the clinic, Ian demonstrated the importance of 'pressure and release' tactics while training a dog. "Sometimes you have to use a lot of pressure to get the response you need, but this should always be followed with a big reward", he explained while using short, sharp tugs of the lead to get a dog's attention. As soon as the dog relaxed, Ian responded with an excited "Good boy, good boy!" during pats. Once the dogs were confident around sheep, participants were asked to use a rake to start guiding their dog around, creating corridors between the dog and the wall. Ian suggested this tool was to be an extension of the participant's arm and should follow behind the dog as a guide. "They have to get used to the training aid, you just can't guide them without it. The small amount of pressure from the rake keeps them from going where they want to go, they are incredibly aware of it". Lastly, Ian emphasised the importance of forming a bond with your dog, "It doesn't matter if you only do sheepwork a few months per year, just make sure your dogs sees you at least 2 times a day and gets used to you calling them and teaching little things." Participant Robert Grant praised the clinic, saying "we should be doing this type of thing more often, maybe once or twice a year, it's so important".
Western Murray Land Improvement Group and Central Murray Bestwool BestLamb would like to thank Mark Martin for the venue and use of his sheep, as well as the Barham Bakery and the Riverside Café for the delicious morning tea and lunch provided.
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