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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Pups go turbo for international working dog challenge

The Cobber working dog challenge is looking for the toughest pup in Australia and New Zealand, as canines are judged on speed, distance and duration.

Turbo the black and tan kelpie may not be a cat, but he has definitely lived nine lives.

During his years on the land working sheep, Turbo has broken bones, suffered a life-threatening bacterial infection and battled with stubborn grass seeds stuck in his skin.

But nothing will tame his finely-tuned instincts for herding livestock, his owner Daniel Pumpa said.

"He's got a great attitude to life," Mr Pumpa, from central west NSW, told AAP.
"He's had a lot of injuries over his time and come back from them, which shows the determination of the kelpie breed - he's one hell of a tough dog."

After recovering from his ailments, Turbo competed in the top 10 in the international Cobber Challenges in 2019 and 2021.

The competition puts working dogs across Australia and New Zealand to the test, tracking them over three weeks with a GPS collar that monitors speed, duration and distance.

Last year, four NSW kelpies called Cracka, Drake, Sorcha and Bundy won a new relay format by collectively covering 854km at an average speed of 10.14km/h and working 84 hours while managing thousands of sheep and cattle.

Western Australian kelpies Flick, Millie, Suzie and Tez came in second, though they took out the top spot for speed with an average of 11.1km/h.

Victorian dogs Ruby and Tully came in third, ahead of Tasmanian pups Nip, Nuts and Claire.

This year the challenge will return to single dogs competing over 12 weeks, with data taken from their best three. Nominations open on Monday and close on June 25.

Mr Pumpa, who has chosen to give Turbo a rest this year, said it can take up to three years to fully train a working dog, depending on its level of maturity.

"You can get a dog that has all the natural abilities even as a young pup, but you can't bring out their full potential by just letting them run rogue," he said.

"We do what we call balance work, which is holding sheep and learning to read their stock and not be too silly and just treat them well.

"Once they get to 12 months you start taking them to work so they can start learning the real life stuff."

Working dogs have grown in popularity in recent years, as workforce shortages across agriculture heighten their value.

A kelpie named Eve set a new auction record last year when she was sold for $49,000 near Blayney, NSW. 

Some farmers say a good dog can do the work of three humans and even city-dwellers have started taking them in for their intelligence and charm.

Mr Pumpa is very attached to his 15 working dogs, including his 12-year-old retirees.

"I can't let them go, they're too close to family.

"They're like my kids."


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