Working dog interactions with livestock

Working farm dogs have made a profound contribution to the farming of livestock in Australia since the 1800s. While scientific research into the sheep and cattle they work has been extensive, little is known about what makes a successful dog. This project will focus on identifying valuable type of behaviours that play a role in the interactions these dogs have with livestock.

A recent survey of over 800 Australian working dog owners sought to identify the working traits most valued by handlers on farm. Informed by this survey this project aims to develop objective measures of desirable behavioural and health characteristics – specifically related to dog-livestock interactions – in Australian working dogs, focusing on measures that are practically applicable in the farm setting.

GPS tracking equipment and behavioural coding software will be used to analyse the behavioural interactions of working dogs and livestock. Modern genomic technologies will also be used to identify genetic markers that are predictive of trainability and success in working dogs. Following identification of key valuable behavioural phenotypes, estimated breeding values will be constructed. These will be used in the selection of dogs for training and breeding programs. This project aims to benefit the agricultural sector in Australia by reducing behavioural wastage in dogs entering training and assessment programs and ultimately improve on-farm efficiency.

Researcher: Jonathan Early BA BVSc MANZCVS | Paul McGreevy

Contact: jonathan.early@sydney.edu.au

Research website: http://bit.ly/115XpSv

Institute: University of Sydney