Muster Dogs by Aticia Grey

Reviewed by Claire Brook

First time author, Aticia Grey, writes an account of her life on the land, learning how to train Australian Kelpies under the tutelage of Neil McDonald.  Aticia and her dog Gossip Girl appeared in the ABC television programme, Muster Dogs, in 2020. Along with four other farming families, Aticia took on the challenge of training puppies for herding work, each step filmed by the ABC.  This program demonstrated the intelligence of these wonderful dogs, and how they are indispensable when working cattle or sheep – so cost effective and environmentally friendly compared to helicopters, or bikes.  In 2021, Aticia wrote her memoir covering her early life on remote properties in Western Australia and discovering how to train a team of Kelpies. This makes interesting reading for dog lovers and readers wanting a first-hand account of outback living, also included are photographs of the many dogs Aticia has owned.

Although new to writing I found Aticia’s memoir was well organised, told with an authentic voice that gave a true account of being raised on a remote station.  Being at the mercy of drought and flood in the Pilbara, Western Australia is not an easy life, it builds resilience and character, this becomes clear as Aticia tells her story.  But, for Aticia it’s all about the dogs, they are her life-long passion, as the book unfolds readers understand why she is so devoted to them.  Each dog has its own personality and talents and it is incumbent on their owners to learn all about them individually to gain their best work.  In the telling, readers, young and old, will come to appreciate how brilliant dogs are, and in particular the Kelpie.  Kelpies love to work, so perhaps not ideal for suburban life unless they have super active owner-companions.

Hard to criticise this memoir accept to say I would have been interested to read more about Aticia on a personal level.  Early family life, her close relationship with her brother Murray, covered but little written about her partner, initially an electrician adapting to outback life after meeting Aticia, later training up a team of working dogs.  However, there is an account of a decision to shift to regenerative agriculture, an approach that is healing for the loss of biodiversity which also provides a less stressful lifestyle.

The last chapter, ‘Teesh’s Tips and Tricks’, will be of interest to all dog owners – so glad Aticia included this chapter.

There is no such thing as a dog trainer.  You are a situation creator.  You create a situation where a dog does something by reason of “natural instinct”.  You then label the action the dog is about to take.  If you are consistent enough the dog will eventually correlate that command with that action and no longer treat the learning – note I said learning, not training – as an imposition.  

Neil McDonald

Good advice for all dog owners!

Muster Dogs

By Aticia Grey

ABC Books

Paperback

ISBN: 978 073334 158 8

$34.99; 291pp

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