Farmer wants a pooch in ABC's true-blue feelgood new series.
TV loves dogs, whether it’s a cartoon Bluey or rescuing mutts on The Dog House Australia.
The latest is as dinky-di as they come, Muster Dogs, a 4 part series that follows 5 Kelpie pups trained by farmers over 12 months. These pups all come from the same litter, a lineage of trained dogs, but can they all be trained when they are split up and given to new owners? Think Farmer Wants a Pooch….or possibly a gentle TV experiment to contrast wildly with that other notorious TV experiment.
Overseeing proceedings is seasoned trainer Neil McDonald, who assigns 5 of the cutest, most adorable Kelpie pups to 5 graziers from Victoria to the Top End and WA. In fact the road trip just to drop them off is a 7000km hike if you don’t mind. I feel sorry for the pups on the road for days on end but somehow the camera skips that bit and prefers the feelgood moment they meet their new owner. Lick, lick, lick…
Normally it takes 3 years to train up a muster dog, but this will attempt to find a quicker route with cattle and sheep graziers who all have some experience with dogs. True-blue farmers are part of the character of this series from Ambience Entertainment.
In Glenthompson, western Victoria, is Rob Tuncks, whose current dogs are very laid back in keeping his sheep in line. A bit like the bloke himself. This contrasts with CJ Scotney in the Northern Territory, who once used helicopters to muster her cattle. She learned land management from her family, with her mother having been a station manager.
“It wasn’t a man’s job, it wasn’t a woman’s job. You just pitched in,” she says.
She’ll need all her skills to deal with a particularly lively pup.
Queenslander Frank Finger is as sturdy as they come, we learn, and with 45 years experience with dogs.
“You feel like you’ve forgotten to get dressed if you go out in the paddock without a dog,” he explains.
There are two more female farmers (take note, Seven), including the Top End’s Joni Hall, a “cattle whisperer or dog yeller” who spent 7 hours pinned under a motorbike, followed by 9 months recovery. She even lives on site with her dogs in the bush for weeks on end, but while she admits to loneliness, is devoted to her dogs.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve trained me more than I’ve trained them,” she reveals.
Lastly there is WA’s Aticia Grey, a third-generation grazier whose Pilbara property is suffering severe drought. Many livestock are on agistment, but she is keeping a small group just for the dogs to upkeep their skills.
The series has plotted 4 training milestones that the dogs must achieve with their new owners, at several intervals apart, with one dog to be deemed the series champion by the conclusion. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but hey at least we are not eliminating one poor pooch every week. There’s even a few references to “little bitches,” a technical term of course…
ABC’s Lisa Millar narrates throughout in a big, amiable, style although episodes were a little long at one hour each. The premise is also similar to 2020 AACTA Reg Grundy Award winner Seven Pups in which one litter is raised by seven different families, but yet to reach screens.
The shots of the land, the true-blue characters and the infectious pups themselves are reason enough to tune in.
As trainer Neil reminds us, “All you’ve got to do is put fair dinkum effort into it.”
Muster Dogs premieres 7:40pm Sunday on ABC.