19 August, 2020
Man's best friend a $40,000 employee
FOR LONGREACH sheep grazier, Denise Hawe, a faithful team of working dogs was her sanity through the seven years of prolonged drought on the family property, Spring Plains Station, 125 kilometres south-west of Longreach.
“You don’t realise the value of a good dog until you need one but don’t have one,” Ms Hawe said.
“Dogs are my life and my passion, particularly the Border Collie breed — working, breeding or looking after them.
"Through the terrible dry I had to concentrate on them.”
A 2015 National Farm Dog survey pitched the net worth of a working dog as equivalent to $40,000 in wages per year.
Ms Hawe said “man’s best friend” was essential to the working property, and it paid to train the dog well.
“It was important that, even in drought, I kept my dogs well fed and trained,” Ms Hawe said.
So it was at the age of 60 that Ms Hawe studied Concept Training to develop the Kaden Way of training dogs.
“Age is no discriminator in the challenge of living in the Outback,” Ms Hawe said.
“Even at my age I had to be willing to get in and have a go, and to adapt my skillset to survive.”
On Friday of last week eight working dog enthusiasts converged on Spring Plains Station for a five-day intensive course in the Kaden methodology.
Handlers travelled from as far as Jandowae, Monto, Kingaroy, Childers and Toowoomba, and Bogan Gate in New South Wales.
Ms Hawe said all of her two- and five-day property schools had been booked out this year.
“We take small groups of six to eight people at a time, allowing for two dogs per person,” Ms Hawe said.
“We supply country accommodation, all meals and smokos, and hope to provide a true Outback experience.”
Ms Hawe said the small group sizes allowed for a thorough assessment of each dog and handler on day 1, and then ample practice in the round yard and the paddock.
“It’s important we give our students the opportunity to work real stock,” Ms Hawe said.
“Dogs and their handlers learn to deal with real-life paddocks and their creeks, gullies and burrs, all of it.”
After foundation work, the dogs are trained on 70 Dorper weaners.
Ms Hawe said in the learning stages sheep were much safer to use than cattle.
“Our sheep allow dogs and handlers to really get their confidence up,” Ms Hawe said.
“The dogs can’t get in behind cattle, like they can with sheep, without a good wack in the teeth. We aim to take the fear and the expectation out of the exercise.
“Dogs immediately sense the release of the stress hormone cortisol on human skin, so we hope to build calm and very confident handlers.”
Ms Hawe said Concept Training and her Kaden methodology required handlers to work within the personality and mind of the dog.
“Did you know dogs have 13 different tail wags?” Ms Hawe said.
“And did you know that a dog can refresh its sense of smell constantly, and that dogs receive sound waves into their two ears independently?
“Each of these facts is useless on its own, but together they create a very important picture of the mind of the dog.”
Ms Hawe said just like people, dogs should be treated as individuals with strengths and weaknesses.
“One dog may be a pessimist while another is an optimist,” Ms Hawe said.
“One dog may have trouble with focus, and another might be what we call thinking in arousal. That last dog is on a high, and can’t learn or listen properly.
“The uneducated handler might say ‘that dog is just arrogant’ and never diagnose the problem. I would run the dog through a variety of dry exercises to improve focus before turning him on to stock again.”
Ms Hawe said to learn more about Concept Training she took American-based courses in veterinary behaviour and dog psychology.
“The old-fashioned training doesn’t give insight into the animal, and so it promises little consistency of success and results in a high turnover of farm dogs,” Ms Hawe said.
“Concept Training was recently dubbed the most consistently successful technique out of 175 others worldwide.”
Ms Hawe said she was pleased with the progress dogs and handlers had made in the August intensive course.
“We had dogs that wouldn’t get off the fence, and now they’re working beautifully in partnership with their owners,” Ms Hawe said.
“After working on positioning and teaching rather than correcting, the dogs want to go to work.
“We want handlers and dogs happy to enter the yards or the paddock together. If they’re not enjoying it, they’re doing it wrong.”
Ms Hawe is now taking bookings for her 2021 Kaden Working Dog Property and Online Schools.