Stockman Murray Wilkinson has developed his own secret language of whistles that he uses to direct as many as nine working cattle dogs at the same time.
"One dog can do the work of six to eight men," he said. "And I have never had a dog call in sick on Monday. They are available rain, hail and shine, and they work for a bit of kibble, a few pats and affection."
Wilkinson was eight when he was transfixed by a stockman at the Easter Show who commanded his working dogs with a series of whistles.
Using nothing but whistles, his border collie cattle dogs – including Zac, Merle, Chime, Boo and Mambo – put cattle through an obstacle course and herded them to different parts of the arena.
Each whistled command is personalised with a different tone for each dog.
So why whistle? "Because of the distance it can carry,"
His dogs are so well trained that even if he put a T-bone steak inside the front door, they wouldn't dare cross the threshold.
"You've got to set boundaries," he said.
They are strictly outdoor dogs, rewarded with lots of pats and motivated only by an innate love of rounding up animals. To discipline them, he issues a deep doggy growl.
The Farm Dog Survey, by Sydney University, found a working dog costs its owner about $8000 but does about $40,000 worth of work in its lifetime.