WHEN Ian Beard was growing up in the bush, every dog that didn't work was "fixed with a flogging" and stockyards echoed with blokes yelling "get out of it ya mongrel".
Those were the days - in what he smilingly refers to as the not-so-distant past - when working dogs that misinterpreted instructions were simply replaced.
"Definitely a time when dogs were considered fairly easily replaced. When we lost one, or one misbehaved or ignored you, you simply got another one," he laughed.
"So I had a lot to learn before I could get a dog to work for me."
But learn he did: embracing a change so dramatic, he is now regarded as one of Queensland's standout working dog trialers.
"I'd grown up with a fairly tough approach to getting farm dogs to work livestock," he said.
"I used to come in on a Friday night and watch this ABC show on the television called It's A Dog's Life, about sheep dog shows, and think 'one day I'm going to do that'."
And one day he did.
He was a builder by trade with a highly successful kitchen manufacturing business - at its busiest he employed 10 staff - but by 2000 he'd started to feel work was all consuming.
"I needed to do something different," Mr Beard said. So I went to this two-day working dog school with this bloke called Trevor Matheson.
"At the end of it my head was reeling and I thought there is no way I am ever going to be able to do this."
Fortunately, he said the instructor noticed him struggling and invited him back to a second school with a very practical bent.
After that he bought a dog "which had already working" and watched the sport's master trialers keenly until he could hold his own in the arena.
"I started trialling 11 years ago and slowly swapped the kitchen manufacturing business for farm life," Mr Beard said.
"I now grow watermelons and trial working dogs; so it's been a pretty big turnaround for me."
But no one can argue his move into the sport started strongly.
During the decade he has been involved in the sport, he has represented Queensland, competed at the Australian Supreme and made the national team for the hotly contested Trans-Tasman battle against the Kiwis.
However, he has never been one to talk up his feats, preferring instead to describe his achievements modestly as having "a bit of a good run with dogs".
"At the start I was definitely a very novice trialer but I enjoyed working dogs. It has become a bit of a passion of mine," Mr Beard admitted.
So much so, his farming pursuits are geared around the dozens of working dog trials he travels to each year.
"I guess I do about 25 trials a year from Canberra to Longreach and everywhere in between," he said.
"I like to make it to the Australian Supreme whenever I can because it really is an opportunity to see the best of dogs and trialers in action."
This year he is on the organising committee for the Coprice Australian Supreme Championships and the Trans-Tasman titles which will be held in Warwick in September.
He said plans were well under way for the event, which was expected to bring hundreds of tourists and competitors to the Southern Downs.
"We have some great people involved in the committee so I know it is going to be a success," Mr Beard said.
"And for anyone even remotely interested in working dogs and the sport, visiting the championships is a must.
"It will showcase some of our best dogs and their hand
lers so I would recommend local people support it."
Meanwhile he said he would be gearing summer watermelon planting around the national event.
"I think I can manage both, just, it's a little bit tricky managing planting and competing," he laughed.
"Basically I plant when I can but trialling is my priority."
When it comes to backing a winner in the gritty showdown between the Aussies and the Kiwis, this successful trialer doesn't hesitate: "Australia has a brilliant chance.
"Our team is as strong as it can be," he explained.