News

Every dog has its day as Farm Dog Survey goes live


25 March 2013

This survey is lookings for ways to improve the breeding, training and performance success of working dogs.
This survey is lookings for ways to improve the breeding, training and performance success of working dogs.

It is no secret that Australian farmers rely heavily on their working dogs to carry out stock work economically and efficiently. The value of these dogs was highlighted last year with the record sale of a kelpie for $12,000 at the Casterton Working Dog Auction.

Such successful dogs are undoubtedly the result of the work of skilled dog breeders, trainers and handlers but to date these dog-folk have not enjoyed the benefit of scientific research to support their work.

To address this researchers at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science with the support of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia and the Working Kelpie Council of Australia are undertaking The Farm Dog Project to analyse ways of improving breeding, training and performance success in working dogs.

"Although scientific studies have been used extensively to advance livestock breeding and production, these principles have not been applied to working dogs - until now," said Jonathan Early, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Veterinary Science and a researcher on the project.

"The ultimate goal is to identify DNA markers for valuable working traits but the first step is to find out what dogs are out there, how they live and work and what traits farmers value in their dogs."

To gather this data, the researchers are inviting working dog users across Australia to participate in The Farm Dog Survey. All working dog users are encouraged to take part including farmers with single working dogs, producers with multiple dogs, cattle and sheep dog triallers, saleyard employees and small or large scale breeders.

"The survey asks people to describe three of their farm dogs by giving information such as the type of work they do, how they were trained, what specific traits are easy or hard to train for and if the dogs take part in competitions," Early said.

Participants will assist the researchers to find ways to minimise the time and resources wasted on unsuccessful dogs.

They also have the opportunity to win a share in working dog dry food valued at $1000.

To participate follow the link to the Farm Dog Survey or if you are unable to access the survey on-line request a reply-paid paper copy by phoning 0467 347 283.

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au