There are more than 200,000 working dogs in New Zealand, mainly handling over 50 million sheep and 6½ million cattle. They have proved indispensable in this work. Rabbiting dogs, police dogs, seeing-eye dogs, watch dogs, and hunting and gun dogs also do valuable work. The Collie, first brought out by pioneer Scottish shepherds, is by far the most important breed of working dog in New Zealand.
Sheep-dog trials show how much the intelligence of these dogs can be developed by training. In 1965 there were 187 sheep-dog trial clubs affiliated to the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Association. The association supervises and controls the activities of the clubs, and aims to maintain sheep-dog trials as tests of sound and practical shepherding, as well as to improve the working and breeding of sheep dogs and to educate competitors in the handling and treatment of sheep and dogs. Well bred and well trained dogs are keenly sought after.
The following types of dogs have been bred for special work in New Zealand. Heading Dog: A dog which has a natural instinct to cast out (i.e., circle widely) round sheep and bring them back to its owner. These are silent working dogs. They are used for “heading” sheep and also for any quiet and careful work at close quarters at lambing time or for “shedding” (cutting out) sheep. Huntaway: A noisy dog, whose natural instinct is to hunt or chase sheep away. On account of their noise, they are used for forcing mobs, work in the sheep yards, and for clearing or hunting sheep off tracts of country. Handy Dog: A dog which can do both heading and huntaway work. This “all-round worker” is probably the most useful of all sheep dogs. Leading Dog: Some “heading” dogs have a natural aptitude for leading sheep. They are trained to work at the head of a mob of sheep and keep them in check. This is a most useful dog when droving sheep. Backing and Yard Dog: Usually this is a “huntaway” or “handy dog” trained to run over the backs of tightly packed sheep and to walk back through a mob in the yards to keep them moving ahead. It is a useful dog for loading and unloading sheep. Stopping Dog: This is a heading dog which, once it has headed sheep, will hold them quietly until his master arrives. The ordinary heading dog will endeavour to “pull” the sheep. Stopping dogs were common in the early days for handling high-country Merino sheep which had become wild and difficult. Cattle Dogs: Most of the cattle in New Zealand are worked by sheep dogs. In Australia the “Blue Merle Cattle Heeler” is well known as a severe “heeler”, and dogs with this ability are sometimes used for handling stubborn and refractory cattle in New Zealand.
All dogs must be registered when they reach six months of age, and all dogs must be tested and dosed in order to eradicate hydatids. The National Hydatids Council controls the eradication scheme. G.L.WI.
- Bulletin 308, New Zealand Department of Agriculture (1948), “Rearing and Training a Sheep Dog”, Broad, E. G.
- New Zealand Working Sheep Dog Stud Book, New Zealand Working Sheep Dog Stud Book Association (1948–55)
- Wayleggo, Newton, P. (1947)
- High Country Days, Newton, P. (1949)
- High Country Journey, Newton, P. (1952)
- Musterer on Molesworth, Stronach, B. (1953)
- The Shepherd's Dogs, Hartley, C. W. G. (1956).