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  • Open Access

Work-type influences perceived livestock herding success in Australian Working Kelpies

Canine Genetics and Epidemiology20185:5

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-018-0063-y

  • Received: 26 March 2018
  • Accepted: 30 May 2018
  • Published:

Abstract

Background

Working dog handlers and breeders have very different behavioural requirements in the animals that they employ for managing livestock. The Australian Working Kelpie breed may be used in several working contexts, notably yards, paddocks and a combination of both. The working context influences the skillsets required and gives rise to three corresponding work-types: Yard, Paddock and Utility Kelpies. In particular, dogs used for working stock in the confines of yards and trucks interact with stock more forcefully than those mustering in larger areas (paddocks) where they can herd stock effectively from a greater distance. This article explores owner assessments of dog working quality and assessment of genomic similarity by multidimensional scaling, to ask whether it is sufficient for breeders to aim for a multipurpose breeding objective, or whether breeding only specialist lines maximises user satisfaction for yard and paddock work.

Results

Reported owner perceptions of 298 dogs assessed with the Livestock Herding Dog assessment tool showed that dog handlers across all working types were very happy with their dogs’ level of general skills.

Compared with both Yard and Utility Kelpies, Paddock Kelpies had significantly lower trait scores for force (pressure applied by the dog to move livestock), willingness to back the stock (run along a sheep’s dorsum) and bite (frequency of using the mouth to grab or bite the livestock). Meanwhile, compared with both Paddock and Utility Kelpies, the Yard Kelpies had significantly higher scores for hyperactivity and excitability (both with and without stock) and impulsiveness without stock. As one would predict for all-rounders, Utility Kelpies had intermediate scores for all behaviours and working traits.

Conclusions

Specialist characteristics were displayed by dogs in the Yard Kelpie and Paddock Kelpie groups. In particular, Yard Kelpies demonstrate higher excitability, willingness to back the stock, and a higher tendency to bark and bite the stock. Conversely, Paddock Kelpies rarely display these characteristics. Utility Kelpies, as the name suggests, are intermediate between the other two groups and display the characteristics of both. Genetic analysis suggests that the Yard, Utility and Paddock Kelpies are not distinguishable at a DNA level. In conclusion, at this time there is no suggestion of a breed split in the Australian Working Kelpie generated by selection for work type. A common breeding objective should enable dogs to be produced that fulfil all potential working requirements. This reinforces the importance of breeder skill in recognising the phenotypic potential of pups in order to place them in appropriate working contexts.

Keywords

  • Kelpie
  • Behaviour
  • Livestock
  • Working-type

Plain English summary

Dogs from the Australian Working Kelpie breed were categorised by their owners and handlers into different working type categories. Dogs from this breed may be used in several working contexts, notably moving stock in the close quarters of stock yards, through large fields and a combination of both. The working context influences the skills required by the dog and gives rise to three corresponding work-types: Yard, Paddock and Utility Kelpies. We compared the work-type and personality attributes of dogs that were declared by their owners to be one of the three working types. Yard Kelpies demonstrated higher excitability, willingness to back the stock, and a higher tendency to bark and bite the stock. Conversely, Paddock Kelpies rarely displayed these characteristics. Utility Kelpies, as the name suggests, were intermediate between the other two groups and displayed the characteristics of both. Genetic analysis suggests that the Yard, Utility and Paddock Kelpies are not distinguishable at a DNA level suggesting that there is no current genetic breed split that is related to the different working types.

Background

The Farm Dog Project at the University of Sydney aims to better understand the phenotypic behavioural attributes (traits and manoeuvres) that characterise excellent livestock herding dogs. It is well understood that there is a major breed split between Australian Working Kelpies (AWK) and conformation-bred Australian Kelpies (AK) [1]. However, people outside of the working dog community are largely unaware of a further perceived split among the AWK. While some AWK breeders specialise in producing dogs with specialised attributes suited to paddock (extensive) or yard (intensive) stock work, others aim to produce dogs that can “do it all”.

The Australian working kelpie

The Australian Working Kelpie (AWK) was developed in the late nineteenth Century from three pairs of “Working Collies” imported into Australia from Scotland [2]. All of the early pairs were black and tan or solid black with little or no white markings [2]. Two bitches from the early intermingling of these pairs had the call-name “Kelpie”. One of the first to be bred from was “Gleeson’s Kelpie”. This animal was bred with an all-black dog “Moss” and one female pup from the resultant litter “King’s Kelpie” displayed outstanding working ability in herding trials, although the metrics supporting this assessment are unavailable. She went on to found the Kelpie breed. Breed registrations are maintained by the Working Kelpie Council of Australia and the registry is “open” allowing unregistered animals with good working ability to be crossed into the breed. Despite being tough and relatively free from inherited disorders, the so-called working failure resulting in cull of livestock herding dogs, chiefly Kelpies, in Australia has been estimated at around 20% [3].

Three dominant working types within the AWK

Working types of Kelpie are detailed in other work [35], but briefly:

Paddock Kelpies are used to gather (muster) animals from extensive open fields and ranges. These dogs are required to show great intelligence (sagacity), work independently from the human handler, calmly and effectively gathering the stock without unduly disturbing them. They typically start work facing the front of the stock, running around the periphery of the mob in an extensive cast and then using their behavioural characteristics of eye and hold, pressure the animals into a single group that they can move calmly towards the handler, who typically remains at the mob’s targeted destination (such as a gate).

Yard Kelpies work at close quarters to the livestock, pushing them through networks of yards for the purposes of transit (e.g. loading onto trucks), husbandry (e.g. for shearing or routine medication) or slaughter. This working type typically uses forceful measures to move the stock out of corners and through tight spaces (force, bark, bite) and they may move rapidly and efficiently around the yarding system by backing the animals (the action of a dog jumping up onto a sheep’s backs to assist in moving those sheep that are at the head of the mob). Yard dogs work under the direction of the handler and may work either at the front or the rear of the stock.

Utility Kelpies are general purpose livestock herding dogs. These animals are expected to muster (the traits demonstrated by the Paddock dogs) but are also expected to do move animals around the stock-yards or onto trucks.

Among these types, the Paddock and Yard dogs are regarded as specialised while the Utility dog is a generalist type.

Aims

In the current study, we analyse owners’ reports of the individual phenotypes of their dogs that were categorised by their owners into one of three working types (Paddock, Yard and Utility). Dogs that were categorised across multiple types are recorded as Utility dogs. We then explore the major working behaviour requirements of these types and ask whether it is possible in a single breeding program to breed dogs that have the required expression of every working characteristic to work across the spectrum and, if so, the extent to which users’ expectations of the “working-quality” of the dogs has to be moderated for the working context. Understanding these requirements will refine relevant breeding objectives for the three major working types and provide resources to direct dog buyers to appropriate breeders. Better matching of clients and breeders is expected to result in better welfare outcomes and reduced wastage.

Methods

The Livestock Working (Herding) Dog Assessment Form was designed to elicit data from livestock working dog handlers on the perceived quality of performance of their dogs according to 63 working and behavioural metrics, described in detail elsewhere [6]. Of the responses recorded as of May 19 2017, 298 participants’ dogs were described as being of the Kelpie breed. Among these, 35 were described as Yard dogs, 115 as Paddock dogs and 145 as Utility working dogs. Responses were recorded via a web based survey tool that enables participation from handlers Australia wide. Pedigree information on survey participants was not available.

For each trait (such as eye) and desirable manoeuvre (such as cast), the descriptive metrics from the assessment form were converted to numerical scores (Additional file 1: Table S1) and Glossary. For these scores, means and variances were estimated within each of the three dog working-types. Dog phenotype scores for each trait and manoeuvre were compared across work-types (Paddock versus Yard, Paddock versus Utility, Yard versus Utility) using a Welch’s t-test [7] with Welch-Satterthwaite degrees of freedom. Probabilities were determined from critical values of the Student’s t-distribution using the t.test function in Microsoft Excel. Significant Welch’s t-test scores were used to define group characteristic traits and behaviours. Pair-wise comparisons were re-assessed for significance after multiple test correction for the 63 comparisons.

Traits were regarded as unique to a work-type if the work-type obtained a trait score distribution that was statistically significantly different, at the 0.05 level, from the trait score distributions of the other two work types.

Venous blood samples were obtained from 22 dogs and the samples transferred to Whatman FTA (Flinders Technology Associates) cards for submission to the genotyping supplier. A further 42 dogs were sampled using Performagene saliva collection kits (DNA Genotek, Ontario Canada) and DNA was extracted following standard kit-issued protocol. Samples were collected with University of Sydney animal ethics committee’s approval (N00/10–2012/3/5837 and N00/10–2012/3/5928). Genotyping was conducted on the Illumina Canine High Density Genotyping array (172,939 markers) by Neogen/Geneseek Nebraska USA.

The genetic similarity between working-type groups was assessed through the application of clustering and multi-dimensional scaling of genotyping data for 19 dogs classified as Paddock dogs, 11 dogs classified as Yard dogs and 34 dogs classified as Utility dogs in the package “Plink” [8].

Results

Trait means and standard errors are shown in Additional file 1: Table S2.

Compared with both Yard and Utility dogs, Paddock dogs had significantly lower trait scores for force (pressure applied by the dog in order to move livestock), willingness to back the stock and bite (frequency – assessed on a scale from never (score 1) to very frequently (score 5)).

Participants rated the quality of their ability in the manoeuvres and traits of cast, gather, force, cover, head, hold, balance, break, back, initiative, anticipation, trainability and natural-ability (extremely poor (score 1) – excellent (score 5)). Working groups were rated with a mean force scores of 3.64 ± 1.1, 3.99 ± 0.73 and 4.15 ± 0.89 for Paddock, Utility and Yard groups, respectively (Additional file 1: Table S2). Paddock group scores for force were significantly lower than those of the other two working groups. Fifty-eight percent of Paddock dogs still scored either “very good” or “excellent” (compared with 70% for Utility and 80% for Yard dogs). With respect to the dog’s willingness to back the stock: only 23% of Paddock dogs scored as either “very good” or “excellent” compared with 50% of Utility dogs and 71% of Yard dogs. It should be recognised that excellent” force is not necessarily maximum force and is more likely to be highly appropriate force.

Compared with both Paddock and Utility dogs, the Yard dogs had significantly higher scores for hyperactivity and excitability (both with and without stock) and impulsiveness without stock (Table 1). They are also reported to take more time between stimulation (commands) and response (longer latency to respond). Their defining feature was a significantly higher mean score to back the stock. Unsurprisingly, as bite is a frequent requirement of the Yard work-type, Yard dogs were reported to bite/nip stock more frequently. The Yard dogs had significantly lower scores for calmness (with and without stock), less patience with stock, less ability to cast, gather, head or hold the stock than other working types. They also showed less eye (i.e., standing with their head lowered in a predatory stance, staring intently at the stock) and less balance when working stock (the ability of the dog to judge the optimal working distance from the livestock). They also attracted lower scores for break quality (the movement a dog performs to move around and redirect livestock, usually when some animals separate from the main group).
Table 1

Pairwise comparison of work-type in the Australian Working Kelpie over 63 traits

Comparison

Trait

Welch’s t-test (unequal size& unequal variance)a

Degrees of freedom (Welch-Satterthwaite)

Probability

Paddock versus Yard

confidence_stock

−0.641

59

0.3226

 

calmness_stock

3.033

61

0.0051 b

intelligence_stock

1.133

54

0.2080

trainability_stock

0.915

58

0.2603

boldness_stock

−0.923

55

0.2582

patience_stock

2.864

73

0.0078

timidness_stock

1.453

58

0.1383

persistence_stock

0.346

55

0.3737

hyperactivity_stock

−3.485

53

0.0015

initiative_stock

0.565

60

0.3378

excitability_stock

−4.267

58

0.0001 *

obedience_stock

−0.096

48

0.3950

nervousness_stock

−0.054

56

0.3965

impulsiveness_stock

−3.269

57

0.0027

stamina

−0.536

63

0.3436

confidence_without_stock

−1.839

59

0.0746

calmness_without_stock

2.082

49

0.0477

intelligence_without_stock

0.135

57

0.3935

trainability_without_stock

0.000

57

0.3972

boldness_without_stock

−0.100

60

0.3952

patience_without_stock

1.156

56

0.2027

timidness_without_stock

0.607

57

0.3295

persistence_without_stock

0.794

58

0.2887

hyperactivity_without_stock

−2.955

58

0.0063

initiative_without_stock

−1.154

68

0.2037

excitability_without_stock

−2.401

56

0.0244

obedience_without_stock

0.321

50

0.3766

nervousness_without_stock

−0.397

62

0.3668

impulsiveness_without_stock

−3.407

58

0.0018

sociability

−0.047

54

0.3967

friendliness

1.133

55

0.2081

cast

2.896

51

0.0076

gather

3.788

51

0.0006 *

force

−2.692

59

0.0123

cover

2.177

51

0.0394

head

2.322

52

0.0291

hold

1.842

50

0.0744

balance

2.499

57

0.0195

break

0.657

57

0.3191

back

−5.864

61

0.0000 *

initiative

−1.333

57

0.1631

anticipation

−0.369

51

0.3704

trainability

− 0.731

56

0.3028

natural_ability

1.843

51

0.0742

eye

1.178

49

0.1974

confidence_level

−0.149

49

0.3924

calmness_level

2.305

57

0.0300

boldness

−1.624

47

0.1071

bark

− 1.755

63

0.0862

bite

−1.462

59

0.1367

cast

0.701

42

0.3089

force

−3.540

51

0.0013

bite_frequency

−5.615

65

0.0000 *

bark_frequency

−1.597

51

0.1116

overall_ability

0.000

59

0.3973

obedience_come

1.075

54

0.2217

obedience_sit

0.239

49

0.3855

obedience_stay

1.922

56

0.0643

listening

−0.092

53

0.3953

latency

−3.091

46

0.0047

tricks

−1.211

43

0.1896

distraction

−1.554

44

0.1191

fetch

0.273

31

0.3807

Paddock versus Utility

 

confidence_stock

−1.921

198

0.0635

calmness_stock

0.152

235

0.3939

intelligence_stock

0.575

233

0.3377

trainability_stock

−0.086

233

0.3970

boldness_stock

−1.367

215

0.1564

patience_stock

0.235

228

0.3876

timidness_stock

0.489

243

0.3535

persistence_stock

0.486

222

0.3539

hyperactivity_stock

0.000

227

0.3985

initiative_stock

−0.585

231

0.3356

excitability_stock

−0.416

226

0.3654

obedience_stock

−0.432

239

0.3630

nervousness_stock

0.165

240

0.3931

impulsiveness_stock

−1.337

251

0.1630

stamina

−0.349

221

0.3749

confidence_without_stock

−1.694

225

0.0951

calmness_without_stock

−0.647

233

0.3230

intelligence_without_stock

1.381

245

0.1535

trainability_without_stock

−0.675

235

0.3170

boldness_without_stock

−1.943

217

0.0608

patience_without_stock

0.247

231

0.3865

timidness_without_stock

0.950

226

0.2534

persistence_without_stock

0.168

219

0.3929

hyperactivity_without_stock

0.000

223

0.3985

initiative_without_stock

−1.715

235

0.0919

excitability_without_stock

−1.706

221

0.0933

obedience_without_stock

−0.412

224

0.3660

nervousness_without_stock

1.033

222

0.2336

impulsiveness_without_stock

−1.134

234

0.2093

sociability

−0.307

225

0.3800

friendliness

−0.350

206

0.3747

cast

− 1.336

223

0.1633

gather

−0.089

225

0.3969

force

−2.879

216

0.0067

cover

−0.597

225

0.3332

head

−0.623

231

0.3279

hold

−1.910

228

0.0648

balance

−1.104

228

0.2164

break

−2.218

230

0.0346

back

−4.696

231

0.0000 *

initiative

−1.121

230

0.2124

anticipation

−1.613

233

0.1087

trainability

−0.808

226

0.2872

natural_ability

−0.824

209

0.2834

eye

0.325

250

0.3780

confidence_level

−0.538

229

0.3446

calmness_level

−0.503

220

0.3509

boldness

−2.377

218

0.0242

bark

−0.076

231

0.3973

bite

−1.761

250

0.0848

cast

−0.888

245

0.2685

force

−1.392

222

0.1511

bite_frequency

−2.379

235

0.0240

bark_frequency

−2.070

240

0.0473

overall_ability

−1.767

213

0.0839

obedience_come

−0.480

237

0.3551

obedience_sit

0.492

244

0.3530

obedience_stay

0.315

240

0.3792

listening

0.072

241

0.3975

latency

−1.307

212

0.1695

tricks

−0.080

210

0.3972

distraction

−0.133

191

0.3949

fetch

0.836

139

0.2803

Yard versus Utility

 

confidence_stock

−0.582

43

0.3338

calmness_stock

−3.058

52

0.0050

intelligence_stock

−0.806

47

0.2854

trainability_stock

−1.016

50

0.2358

boldness_stock

0.103

44

0.3945

patience_stock

−2.877

58

0.0078

timidness_stock

−1.144

54

0.2054

persistence_stock

−0.052

45

0.3962

hyperactivity_stock

3.641

46

0.0010

initiative_stock

−1.010

51

0.2373

excitability_stock

4.215

48

0.0002 *

obedience_stock

−0.148

44

0.3923

nervousness_stock

0.167

51

0.3913

impulsiveness_stock

2.310

58

0.0296

stamina

0.319

50

0.3769

confidence_without_stock

0.766

49

0.2946

calmness_without_stock

−2.520

44

0.0192

intelligence_without_stock

0.828

54

0.2807

trainability_without_stock

−0.462

50

0.3561

boldness_without_stock

−1.233

47

0.1848

patience_without_stock

−1.043

48

0.2291

timidness_without_stock

0.000

48

0.3968

persistence_without_stock

− 0.731

46

0.3024

hyperactivity_without_stock

3.130

48

0.0042

initiative_without_stock

−0.128

58

0.3939

excitability_without_stock

1.415

46

0.1458

obedience_without_stock

−0.573

43

0.3354

nervousness_without_stock

1.166

50

0.2003

impulsiveness_without_stock

2.770

50

0.0104

sociability

−0.146

46

0.3924

friendliness

−1.435

43

0.1417

cast

−3.819

43

0.0006 *

gather

−4.002

44

0.0004 *

force

0.904

47

0.2624

cover

−2.621

44

0.0152

head

−2.791

45

0.0101

hold

−3.015

43

0.0058

balance

−3.363

48

0.0022

break

−2.177

48

0.0395

back

2.780

52

0.0101

initiative

0.634

49

0.3235

anticipation

−0.600

45

0.3302

trainability

0.236

47

0.3856

natural_ability

−2.422

41

0.0239

eye

−0.986

49

0.2428

confidence_level

−0.154

43

0.3918

calmness_level

−2.776

46

0.0104

boldness

0.434

40

0.3600

bark

1.791

53

0.0812

bite

0.176

59

0.3911

cast

−1.131

41

0.2081

force

2.881

43

0.0082

bite_frequency

4.084

55

0.0002 *

bark_frequency

0.372

47

0.3697

overall_ability

−1.209

46

0.1902

obedience_come

−1.418

48

0.1452

obedience_sit

0.048

46

0.3963

obedience_stay

−1.759

51

0.0858

listening

0.140

51

0.3930

latency

2.434

41

0.0233

tricks

1.199

40

0.1921

distraction

1.519

40

0.1255

fetch

0.235

26

0.3838

*Comparisons remaining significant after multiple-test correction for 63 tests (p < 0.000794)

aNegative scores indicate a lower trait mean score for the first listed group (e.g. Paddock in Paddock versus Yard)

bProbabilities < 0.05 are highlighted

Utility dogs had scores that were intermediate between the Yard and Paddock dogs for bite and back. Indeed, all three groups differed significantly for these two traits. In general, the behaviour scores of the Utility work-type clustered more closely with the Paddock work-type than the Yard work-type. Of the 63 traits and manoeuvres measured, only six differed significantly between Paddock and Utility dogs (force, break, back, boldness, bite-frequency and bark-frequency). Between Yard and Utility dogs, 21 characteristics differed significantly. Between Yard and Paddock dogs, 20 characteristics differed (18 of which were the same as those differing between the Yard and Utility dogs).

Overall-ability, natural-ability and trainability did not differ significantly among working-type groups. Overall-ability (scored between “worst dog I have ever seen/trained” to “best dog I have ever seen/trained) is perceived by breeders and handlers to represent a culmination of breeding, training and handling”. Natural-ability is regarded as the dog’s inherent talent for the working tasks and is thought to more likely represent genetic potential. Trainability is the ease with which the dog can be trained to accomplish the skills required for its working context.

The proportions of dogs at each scoring level for the traits of Overall-ability and Natural-ability across working types are shown in Fig. 1a and b respectively.
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Proportion of dogs at each qualitative trait score (1 = worst, 5 = best) for a overall-ability and b natural-ability by work-type in the Australian Working Kelpie

Paddock dogs, Yard dogs and Utility dogs were unable to be genetically differentiated on a whole-genome level (that is, the genomic inflation estimate of lambda (based on median chi-squared statistic = 1). Similarly, clustering analysis identified dogs in the analysis as a single genetic cluster although there is some evidence of potential cross-breeding within the study population as is evidenced by the directional trends in the data for the Paddock and Utility dogs (Fig. 2). Genetically, Yard dogs were centrally located in the Australian Working Kelpie population cluster based on genetic variation.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Multi-dimensional scaling plot displaying genetic distances between individuals from Australian Working Kelpie populations described as Paddock, Yard and Utility working types demonstrating that there is no clear genetic differentiation between the working types (Table S3). (Legend: Paddock (N = 19) –square marker; Yard (N = 11) – diamond marker; Utility (N = 34) – triangular marker)

Discussion

This study of herding dog owners’ reports of their dogs’ behavioural attributes clearly demonstrates that, over the three work-types of dogs assessed, owners and handlers held their dogs in high regard. For example, the majority of participant dogs (86%) were assessed as having overall-ability that was “above average” or “the best dog I have ever owned/trained” and had “good” or “excellent” natural-ability. Conversely, very few dogs rated poorly for their overall-ability; with only 6% being judged as “below average” or “one of the worst dogs I have ever owned/trained”. Even fewer (~ 4%) were judged to have “extremely poor” or “poor” natural-ability. Of course, this may reflect respondent bias in that owners of dogs that are currently disappointing may be disinclined to spend time describing them for research purposes or it is possible that dogs already assessed as poor are no longer with them. Compared with the owners of Paddock and Utility dogs, the owners of Yard dogs were more likely to be critical of their dogs; with 11% being rated as “below average” or “one of the worst dogs I have ever owned/trained” and only 74% rated at “above average” or “one of the best dogs I have ever owned/trained” (Fig. 1). The relatively small number of Yard dogs assessed means that it is possible that these ratings reflect a form of sampling error.

Two traits (bite and back) differed significantly across all three groups and these, along with force, uniquely differentiated the Paddock dogs (which had the lowest scores for all three attributes). Yard dogs had significant strengths in several attributes pertaining to energy level, vocalisation and intensity of interaction with stock (calmness, hyperactivity, excitability, bark, bite, back, and patience). In contrast, they also had significantly lower scores for the trained manoeuvres of particular value in the context of paddock. It is possible that this finding is a function of training and exposure, rather than innate talent. Across all of the assessed attributes, Yard dogs were the most differentiated group but only 35 of 298 dogs were used for this purpose. The higher level of bark and bite demonstrated by the yard dogs is a characteristic of the desirability of these traits in the work context.

This work underlies a broader project goal to create a breeding program aiming to reduce loss of dogs from the industry through their being unsuited to the purpose for which they were bought. Our work demonstrates that separate breeding objectives for the groups are not required. The three work-types of dogs partitioned in this analysis did not differ significantly in overall-ability, natural-ability or trainability, suggesting that breeding for “all-rounders” does not endanger the global working quality of this breed when dogs are used in their correct context. This indicative finding was also supported by the DNA analysis that showed that the work-types did not cluster separately at the genetic level. Despite this, people employing different working types have very different perceptions of what attributes are acceptable and desirable. For any breeding program that aims to influence the prevalence of a range of attributes, there will always be a distribution of quality for individual characters produced in any kennel.

Given the relatively limited demand for Yard dogs, it is expected that most breeders would rather specialise in either Paddock dogs or Utility dogs and then on occasion be able to effectively identify the outlier pups (from Utility and Paddock lines) with especially strong Yard attributes.

Mapping genes for bite and back which are the attributes that critically qualify the dogs for purpose might be central to the early identification of working homes for dogs, particularly for animals bred in Utility kennels. Alternatively, identifying other early predictors of these traits via behavioural testing would enhance welfare outcomes.

Conclusions

Specialist characteristics were displayed by dogs in the Yard Kelpie and Paddock Kelpie groups. In particular, Yard Kelpies demonstrate higher excitability, willingness to back the stock, and a higher tendency to bark and bite the stock. Conversely, Paddock Kelpies rarely display these characteristics. Utility Kelpies, as the name suggests, are intermediate between the other two groups and display the characteristics of both. Genetic analysis suggests that the Yard, Utility and Paddock Kelpies are not distinguishable at a DNA level. In conclusion, at this time there is no suggestion of a breed split in the Australian Working Kelpie generated by selection for work type. A common breeding objective should enable dogs to be produced that fulfil all potential working requirements. This reinforces the importance of breeder skill in recognising the phenotypic potential of pups in order to place them in appropriate working contexts.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by grants from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, and the Working Kelpie Council of Australia. We gratefully acknowledge all of the dog owners that participated in the research.

Availability of data and materials

All data relevant to study are included in the manuscript and associated supplementary materials.

Authors’ contributions

CMW and PDM conceived and designed the project. JBE, EAA, LJM, DVR and CMW collected and analysed the data. All authors collaborated in the writing or the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Samples were collected with University of Sydney animal ethics committee’s approval numbers (N00/10–2012/3/5837 and N00/10–2012/3/5928). Human participation consent was collected with University of Sydney Human Ethics Committee approval number (2012/658).

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Glossary

Backing

action of a dog jumping up onto sheep’s backs in order to assist in moving them in tight spaces such as in yards, sheds or trucks.

Balance

position a dog assumes in relation to the livestock and the handler that is best suited to move the livestock to the desired location efficiently.

Break

Type of movement a dog performs to move around and redirect livestock usually when some animals separate from the main group.

Cast

initial movement of a dog around to the far side, in relation to the handler, of the livestock in order to gather and deliver them back towards the handler.

Cover

type of movement a dog uses around livestock while keeping them together.

Eye

postural behaviour that involves staring at livestock from a stationary position or involve stalking-like movement. Considered to be a remnant of stalking behaviour that forms part of the predatory sequence in wild dogs and wolves.

Force

pressure applied by the dog in order to move livestock.

Heading

movement of a dog to the front of a group of livestock to stop or redirect their movement.

Hold

the action of a dog to keep livestock together.

From: McGreevy et al. [6]. Barton (ACT), Australia: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, 2006, Australia

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