Robert is the leader of the pack

Robert Johnston of Shady Acres surrounded by his adoring border collies, with puppy Crystal on his lap.
Robert Johnston of Shady Acres surrounded by his adoring border collies, with puppy Crystal on his lap. Samantha Elley

IT IS lucky the Johnstons are building a new house, as they are going to need much more storage for all Robert's trophies.

The Tatham cattle dog trainer has just come home with a swag of buckles, a trophy and a very nice big $10k cheque from the inaugural Australian Cattle Dog Challenge in Tamworth.

He is also trying to negotiate how to get 72 bags of dog biscuits back to the farm.

Not bad for someone who has only been in the game for 11 years.

"It's the biggest prize money for cattle dog trials ever," Mr Johnston said.

His dog of the moment was Zach, who is one of 16 border collies Mr Johnston is currently training.


"I can often have up to 25 dogs at any one time," he said.

Mr Johnston's tips for training a dog include starting as early as possible in their lives.

"When you put the food in their bowl, they don't eat until you tell them," he said.

"Put them on a lead and tell them to 'stop', using one word.

"At the last competition one of the judges comments was that I kept my instructions simple."

He had no qualms about getting rid of a dog that he didn't get on with, or in one case, a dog that couldn't cope with travelling.

"I had one dog that would hide when he saw me hitching up the caravan," he said.

"I had to give him to (someone else) as the dogs need to get used to travelling."

Mr Johnston will go all over NSW to attend cattle dog trials, having been at 38 this year alone.

"When you go in the ring it's between you, the dog and three head of cattle," he said.

"You have to complete the course in five minutes and it includes 'a hold', 'a get', 'a race' and 'a put away."

Glen Innes is the next show this weekend and Mr Johnston said that will be it until February next year.

He continues to work with his favourite dogs Pattie and Jimmy, who have won him many trophies and titles.

He also has an upcoming champion in Sam.

The next favourite, however, is definitely fluffy, little Crystal, a seven week old puppy with plenty of personality.

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