Working dogs significantly improve farm productivity and significantly reduce stress on farm managers and livestock, Australian consulting group AgriFutures came to such conclusions in the course of their research with Emerging Industries program.

Four-legged and toothy friends are still replacing human labor in livestock enterprises. At the same time, farmers today are looking to improve dogs’ abilities, and, therefore, their own welfare.

The specialists of the University of Sydney, with the support and funding of AgriFutures, monitor all the dogs working in the farms, studying how their temperament and abilities affect their working skills.

According to genetic scientist Claire Wade, a university professor, 83,000 dogs are currently working on Australian farms. Their contribution to the rural economy is significant, but so far poorly understood.

“We are looking to improve the selection process of livestock working dogs to better suit the needs of the farmer and working dog breeding community,” Professor Wade said, “Behavioural attributes have considerable impact on the success of young dogs in the training program, the length of the dog’s working life, and whether it is ultimately chosen as a breeding animal.”

As a result of selection, farmers will be able to choose dogs in accordance with their needs. For example, some animals can help with loading and unloading trucks, while others are needed to muster a large paddock alone while the farmer waits at the gate.

Breeding and training successful farm dogs is a complex process. The Emerging Industries program provides a unique opportunity to create a database of Australian and international livestock working dogs with their particular temperament and working traits.

AgriFutures encouraged farm owners to participate in the study, assuring that the information they provide about their dogs would be used exclusively in confidence.

Each dog is assigned a number to de-identify them from their names and their information goes into a pool of data comparing dog behaviour and genes.