THE ABC’S Muster Dogs series has been a boon for the status of the Kelpie, raising the breed’s popularity and its key role on Australia’s sheep, cattle and goat properties.
For one young Kelpie handler, Clancy Mullins at Ripponhurst in Victoria, the show that chronicled the milestone training of five Kelpie pups across Australia was the catalyst and guide for the training of his first pup – Moss.
Clancy was 11 in February this year and Moss was about four months-old when the first Muster Dogs series was on TV screens across Australia.
Moss was bred out of a black bitch owned by top trialler Bree Cudmore by a straight red and station bred dog with strong yard skills owned by Yarram Park sheep overseer Justin Coote.
When the first Muster Dogs series started Clancy had started training Moss to lead, to sit and be calm off stock. He started following the Muster Dogs’ trainers Neil McDonald’s training milestones that involved moving pups through stages such as coming to their name, finding that ‘bluetooth connection’ and communal feeding.
“Moss did most of it,” Clancy said.
“Watching it showed me things that I can do with Moss and at the end what she could be if we followed all those things.”
Father Scott Mullins said it was good for his son to have a bit of roadmap when training the pup.
“He can’t listen to me all the time and what I think is a clear directive might not be necessarily too clear.
“So for him to have that roadmap or the stepping stones of how to get to a point has been good,” he said.
“It’s definitely re-invigorated Clancy.”
By mid-February, part way through the first Muster Dog series, Clancy had trained five month-old Moss to come to her name, she could “sometimes” sit, be calm on the lead without straining and was just being started on stock.
The pup was already showing signs she was happy to be on the backs of sheep in a race and once when Moss got away on Clancy, she broke around a mob of 35 sheep like a real muster dog and held them together.
“And then when I got between her and the sheep, she came to me when I called her,” Clancy said.
“And it’s because he is doing all the hard work now,” Scott said.
Despite being on the bus early for school in Hamilton and with sport four nights a week meaning getting home at 7.30-8pm, Clancy said he put in about 10-20 minutes a day a couple of times a week training Moss.
Exercises included getting Moss and some other pups to be quiet on the lead while Scott, Clancy and younger brother Hilton work sheep in the yards.
Scott said watching the show and his son has also encouraged him to do more work with his dogs.
“We’re having a mini competition ourselves and at the moment he is cleaning me up.
“Clancy is just proving that having the little bit of consistent time is making the difference.”
Clancy said Muster Dogs taught him that if something is not working or just goes wrong, to be calm and tie her up and try again later.
“I reckon she is going to be a strong-willed dog, she is going to have a lot of energy.
“You need a dog that can move sheep.”
Clancy said he is looking forward to the day when he can muster sheep with Moss without using one of his father’s dogs. He also wants to try Moss in a yard dog trial.
Clancy now has Moss balancing, coming off stock when called, heeling off lead, with an improved ‘bluetooth’ connection and a stronger bond.
“He’s got Moss to the stage where I can start bringing her to work myself and doing little jobs with her, so it means I can put a bit of work into her too because he has done all the grounding,” Scott said.
“She’s a much better dog than I gave him credit for.”
Clancy’s well-read sister Nellie – the family’s recognised dog whisperer — suggested the pup’s name. A dog called Moss was one of the Kelpie breed’s founding dogs, bred from imported Scottish collies and famously joined to Gleeson’s Kelpie to create one the original Rutherford strain bloodlines that led to Kelpies spreading across Australia.
After seeing how the dog called Lucifer fared in the Muster Dog series, whereas the top performer Annie, was named after the handler’s mother, Scott said the naming of dogs is so important.
“We think long and hard about every name and sometimes they might be here a week before we come up with a name that suits the dog,” he said.
Until recently, Clancy’s parents Scott and Annie operated a stock contracting business from their small farm near Macarthur and Scott has just taken on the manager’s role at Halt Farms, where 32,000 composite ewes are joined annually on Macarthur and Branxholme properties.
Hilton has also taken on his first Huntaway pup, Bo, so with Moss and Clancy they are certain to get lots of work helping Dad.
“And I’ll tell you what, the competition is strong, because he (Hilton) is doing a pretty good job with Bo,” Scott said.
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