Dog education makes for happy lifestyle
While Bob Pronard stands on a marker in the paddock, his border collie Peach is busy keeping a flock of six sheep in a tight pack.
Bob whistles and his dog stops, waiting for her next command.
They're moving the flock through a course similar to what is used in sheep dog trials, and it's taken plenty of work and training to get to this advanced level.
While Bob walks back to the yard at his Yimbun (via Toogoolawah) property, his younger dog Breeze eagerly awaits her turn, but is confined to working sheep in a pen until she is confident and responding to all of Bob's commands.
It's all part of Bob's working dog training program he has built to help not just farm dogs but domestic dogs with herding instincts.
He says providing these dogs with an opportunity to utilise their biological instincts will create a happier animal and keeps their mind occupied.
But not everyone has access to sheep to work their dogs, which is where Bobb n Co Working Dogs steps in.
Bob has turned his hobby using working dogs to work livestock into a business, designed to give people a chance to work their dogs, and even progress to competitions.
"My approach to the low stress handling of stock, using trained herding dogs, has been a big part of where I am today,” Bob said.
In his earlier years, Bob began with bull terrier-cross-cattle dogs to control scrub cattle.
As the years went by, the old ways of using rough dogs followed on the back of a galloping horse were slowly replaced by using smarter herding type breeds such as border collies and kelpies.
He competed in cattle dog trials for about 18 years but had a three-year break after he was injured in a farm accident.
Bob's program offers three levels of education, starting at a beginner level where dog owners learn to move their dogs around a yard using voice commands and/or whistles.
They progress to an intermediate level, where the dog responds to commands, and can take sheep through a course with assistance from the handler.
The final stage involves the owner standing on a marker or peg and having their dog manoeuvre a flock of sheep through the course, all with voice commands or whistles.
"I can get people and their dogs to competition level if they want to, or (just) provide some exercise and fulfilment for their dogs,” Bob said.
His training program will be offered both on-farm at Yimbun, or at venues such as local showgrounds. Bob's methods involve no fear tactics and reinforcing correct behaviours.
His dog's abilities are a testament to his hard work with his old-faithful bitch Bobb n Co Abby claiming first place in the Toowoomba Royal Show Sheep Dog Trial Encourager Final earlier this year.
Despite having worked with sheep in the paddock, Bob said it was the dog's first time competing using sheep instead of cattle.
"It's not all about winning, but your dog enjoying its work,” he said.
His most memorable victory was with Abby's mother Pepper who at the 2005 Esk Show in her first Open Cattle Dog Trial.
The duo went into the final of 10 competitors with the lowest score but pulled a perfect run to seal the deal.
"At the end I gave Pepper a pat and knew it was a good run,” Bob said. "When we left I heard the judge say he couldn't take a point off, it was a perfect 100.”
Bob and Pepper were the fifth combination in 30 years of competition to score a perfect 100.
He said the competitions provided an opportunity to meet like-minded people and their dogs.
Bob is also completing his Certificate III in Dog Behaviour and training through The National Dog Trainers Federation of Australia, and is also training assistance dogs.
If you are interested in learning more about training your dog call Bob on 0439 812 010.