TV loves dogs, whether it’s a cartoon Blue or save the bastards The dog house in Australia.
The last one is so dinky-by as they come, Rally dogs, a 4-part series that follows 5 breeder-trained Kelpie puppies over 12 months. These puppies are all from the same litter, a lineage of trained dogs, but can they all be trained when split up and given to new owners? Think Farmer Wants a Pooch… or maybe a delicate TV experiment to contrast wildly with that other infamous TV experiment.
Overseeing the process is expert trainer Neil McDonald, who assigns 5 of the cutest and most adorable Kelpie puppies to 5 breeders from Victoria to the Top End and WA. In fact the journey just to drop them off is a 7000km hike if you don’t mind. I feel sorry for the puppies on the road for days on end, but somehow the camera skips that bit and prefers the feel-good moment where they meet their new owner. Lick, lick, lick…
It normally takes 3 years to train a muster dog but this one will try to find a quicker route with cattle and sheep farmers who all have some experience with dogs. The real blue farmers are part of the character in this series by Ambience Entertainment.
In Glenthompson, West Victoria is Rob Tuncks, whose current dogs are very relaxed about keeping his sheep in line. Kind of like the dude himself. This contrasts with CJ Scotney in the Northern Territory who once used helicopters to round up his cattle. He learned land management from his family, with his mother having been a station manager.
“It wasn’t a man’s job, it wasn’t a woman’s job. You just introduced yourself,” she says.
He’ll need all of his skills to deal with a particularly spirited puppy.
Queenslander Frank Finger is as rugged as they come, we learn, and with 45 years of dog experience.
“It feels like you forgot to dress if you go out in the paddock without a dog,” she explains.
There are two other ranchers (take note, Seven), including Top End’s Joni Hall, a “cattle whisperer or dog howler” who spent 7 hours pinned under a motorcycle, followed by 9 months of recovery. She even lives on site with her dogs in the bush for weeks on end, but while she admits loneliness, she is devoted to her dogs.
“I’m pretty sure they trained me more than I trained them,” she reveals.
Finally there is Aticia Gray of WA, a third generation rancher whose Pilbara property is suffering a severe drought. Many animals are fussing, but she keeps a small group just for the dogs to keep up their skills.
The series charted 4 training milestones for dogs to achieve with their new owners, at varying intervals in distance, with one dog to be considered the series champion at the conclusion. Not sure if that’s necessary, but hey, at least we don’t take out a poor little dog every week. There are also some references to “little whores”, a technical term of course…
ABC’s Lisa Millar tells it all in a lovable, expansive style, even if the episodes were a bit long, an hour each. The premise is also similar to the 2020 AACTA Reg Grundy Award winner Seven puppies in which a litter is raised by seven different families, but has yet to reach the screens.
Earth snaps, true blue characters, and the infectious puppies themselves are reason enough to tune in.
As coach Neil reminds us, “All you have to do is put in the right amount of effort.”
Muster Dogs premieres Sunday at 7:40 p.m. on ABC.