Keep your working dogs safe while baiting

Keeping working dogs safe while baiting

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DRINK BREAK: Perfectly comfortable in a muzzle, Brokenriver Bank pauses for a quick drink between mobs. Supplied.

DRINK BREAK: Perfectly comfortable in a muzzle, Brokenriver Bank pauses for a quick drink between mobs. Supplied.

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There are ways to keep working dogs safe from accessing baits without having to cease baiting operations.

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Effective bait stations and use of muzzles kept working dogs safe and healthy, while landholders carried out baiting programs.

The role that working dogs played in livestock enterprises, meant that owners prioritised their dogs when planning feral predator control programs.

The National Wild Dog Action Plan (NWDAP) and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and industry partners Wool Producers Australia, Sheep Producers Australia, Animal Health Australia and NSW Local Land Services, to create a video 'Using Muzzles for Working Dog Safety'.

The video featured working dog trainer and breeder Joe Spicer, GoGetta Kelpie stud, Glenthompson, and National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud.

Mr Mifsud said some producers were reluctant to bait, even when suffering significant stock losses from foxes and wild dogs.

"Working dogs are highly valued by livestock businesses, in fact the Australian Farm Dog Survey (2013) estimated a dog's lifetime median work value at $40,000, with a 5.2-fold return on investment," he said.

"Given this, it's understandable people don't want to put their dogs at risk, however, this video shows how livestock managers can have their cake and eat it too.

"It enables them to train their dogs to work effectively and safely, while employing best practice baiting techniques as part of strategic, coordinated predator-control programs."

Mr Spicer said it was always a concern owners of working dogs that there may be baits in the area..

He said there were bait stations available that provided a fixed point and prevented crows, foxes or cats from moving baits.

When owners were out mustering or just running their dogs they needed to minimise the chances of the dog picking up a bait.

"The best way was for the dog to wear a light-weight, fitted muzzle from the time it came out of the pen to when it was put back in the pen," he said.

"The wire muzzles allow the open its jaw and pant and keep itself cool with plenty of air flow to make sure the dog has no negative effects."

Mr Spicer said a lot of people struggled with only fitting the muzzle only when the dog went to work.

That meant the dog spent a lot of time trying to get rid of the muzzle because it wasn't used to wearing one.

He said that every time he has a dog that was barking in the kennel, rather than yelling at it and chastising it, destroying his relationship with the dog, he fitted a muzzle and that made it "sulk a bit" but stopped it from barking.

It also meant that the dog became used to a muzzle when it was taken out for work.

Mr Spicer said muzzles were also useful in forcing the dog to find other ways of creating movement in sheep.

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