The working dog is an undisputed icon of Australian rural life and working dogs have made a significant contribution to Australia’s economy.
In this Plan the preliminary findings of the Australian Working Dog Survey Report have been extended to develop an Action Plan that can be used to advance the canine welfare and productivity measures of the Australian Working Dog Industry (pdfs of the summary and full action plan are available for download).
The aims of the Australian Working Dog Industry should be to promote the value and sustainability of the industry and to assist caretakers to deliver the best working dog welfare and productivity outcomes possible. This can be achieved by extending the benchmarking commenced by the AAWS Working Dog Survey Report within and between industry sectors and across international working dog programs.
High standards of animal welfare underpin both industry productivity and sustainability. The Australian Working Dog Industry should support the development of a national strategy that would optimise the wellbeing of all working dogs. In so doing, the goal of enhancing its position as world leaders in working dog breeding programs, selection processes, training methodology and performance outcomes can be achieved. This Plan highlights the key role of an educational framework that focuses on developing a positive bond between dog-trainer and dog-handler partnerships.
What differs between working dog sectors is the task that the dogs are trained to perform. In this sense, the working dog industry sectors have much in common. In order to provide a broad level of support for all stakeholders, administration and communication systems should be used to unite both practitioners and researchers within the industry. This should be adopted in a manner that best meets the needs of members of the wider working dog community – rural, regional and metropolitan. Such an approach will best facilitate the flow of information between all interested parties.
Government and corporate funding bodies should be approached to ensure that the resources are available to assist the industry at large to adopt best practice principles. Sectoral groups should unite to lobby government and engage with corporate partners to assist with raising the industry profile, and in so doing, open up additional revenue streams to ensure the needs of industry stakeholders are met. This approach would ensure that research capabilities are developed and evidence-based best practice is utilised in the development of coach educators, dog trainers and dog handlers.
It is recognised that not all members of the working dog industry will be motivated to change their current practices solely to improve animal welfare standards. However, it would be cognisant for the industry at large to recognise that market expectations are moving toward higher standards of animal care and greater transparency of processes.
Industry-wide adoption of an ethos of continuous quality improvement, voluntary welfare accreditation and certified training qualifications will result in a degree of difference occurring between service providers – both within and between industry sectors. Market forces will influence the adoption of best practice by this industry.
The Australian Working Dog Industry should acknowledge the need to increase the understanding of factors affecting working dog welfare and in this Plan it is recommended that a multi-disciplinary research program is pursued to deliver the best welfare and productivity outcomes from cradle to grave.
The Goals, Strategies and Targets described for the Australian Working Dog Industry to realise improvement in animal welfare and productivity are summarised in the Australian Working Dog Industry Action Plan that follows.
A registered non-profit organisation, the Working Dog Alliance was established in 2013 to engage and unite the Australian working and sporting dog industry to advance the welfare and productivity of Australia’s iconic working dogs. The Australian Working Dog Industry Action Plan forms the basis of activity for the Working Dog Alliance.