Robert leader of the pack
Cattle dog trainer wins national title
IT IS lucky the Johnstons are building a new house – they are going to need more storage for Robert’s trophies.
The Tatham cattle dog trainer has come home with a swag of buckles, a trophy and a cheque for $10,000 from the inaugural Australian Cattle Dog Challenge in Tamworth.
He is also trying to negotiate how to get 72 bags of dog biscuits back to the farm.
Not bad for someone who has only been in the game for 11 years.
“It’s the biggest prize money for cattle dog trials ever,” Mr Johnston said.
His dog of the moment is Zach, who is one of 16 border collies he is training.
“I can often have up to 25 dogs at any one time.”
Mr Johnston’s tips for training a dog include starting as early as possible in their lives.
“When you put the food in their bowl, they don’t eat until you tell them,” he said.
“Put them on a lead and tell them to ‘stop’, using one word. At the last competition one of the judges’ comments was that I kept my instructions simple.”
He has had no qualms about getting rid of a dog he didn’t get on with or, in one case, a dog that couldn’t cope with travelling.
“I had one dog that would hide when he saw me hitching up the caravan,” Mr Johnston said.
“I had to give him to (someone else) as the dogs need to get used to travelling.”
Mr Johnston travels across the state to attend cattle dog trials, and has been to 38 this year alone.
“When you go in the ring it’s between you, the dog and three head of cattle,” he said. “You have to complete the course in five minutes and it includes a ‘hold’, a ‘get’, a ‘race’ and a ‘put away’.”
Glen Innes is the next show this weekend, after which Mr Johnston and his dogs will have a break until February.
TOP OF HIS GAME: Robert Johnston, of Shady Acres, surrounded by his adoring border collies and pup Crystal on his lap.