Working dogs: The history and value of an 'indispensable' Australian icon

​Few images are ingrained in the national psyche like that of the farmer and their loyal canine sidekick.

And with more than 270,000 stock-herding dogs working across rural Australia, they are far more than just a figment of our collective imagination.

Dog historian, behaviourist and author of The Dogs That Made Australia, Guy Hull, said working dogs were critical to the day-to-day running of farms.

"From managing stock to guarding stock and guarding properties ... dogs can do it all," he said.

Breeds like the kelpie and border collie had not just the ability to work, but an instinctive desire to do so, according to Paul McGreevy, a professor of animal behaviour and welfare science at the University of Sydney.

"The really, truly, wonderful thing is that they love their work," he said.

"We have selected dogs that love to do this … they don't see it as work, they see it as a source of joy."

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