Australian cattle dogs pamper owners

VIDEO: Watch Australian cattle dogs Snoop and Spunk perform the Double Dog Nose Trick.

Snoop and his mom, Spunk, are Australian cattle dogs who possess uncanny dexterity and intelligence.

They have no formal training, yet learn new tasks effortlessly. Snoop even managed to place highly in a disc-throwing competition at this year's Atlanta Dogwood Festival, says Susie Felz, whose family owns the dogs.

Their signature maneuver: a simultaneous nose-balancing, biscuit-catching trick the Felzes refer to as the "Double Dog Nose Trick."

Also known as blue heelers, Australian cattle dogs exhibit talents innate to all herding dogs, such as border collies and German shepherds, which were originally bred to perform a variety of tasks with minimal training.

On a family farm, they might be charged with driving sheep, herding chickens, keeping the pigs out of the garden, warding off strangers or even tracking game.

Dexterity and boundless energy are essential for a breed that managed half-ton cattle in the hostile environs of Australia, and that might be why Snoop has such a knack for disc-catching.

A herding dog's real asset, though, is its seemingly preternatural sensitivity to every desire of its master.

"If we can find a way to communicate it, they'll learn it," said Ms. Felz, who trained Spunk to fetch the morning paper simply by escorting her dog to where the paper lay at the foot of the driveway.

After three days, Ms. Felz simply said "newspaper"; Spunk had it at her feet in moments, and has repeated the favor every morning since.

PERFORMING PETS

The pets: Spunk and Snoop, mother-and-son Australian cattle dogs

The humans: The Felz family, Martinez

What they do: Double Dog Nose Trick

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PET

Are you the proud owner of a fearless stunt dog? Is your cat smarter than a lot of humans? We're looking for animals that do amazing things.

Tell us what your pet can do, and we might feature them in its own Internet video or newspaper story.

Log on to chronicle.augusta.com, or send a photo of your pet in action, and a short description to Tharon Giddens, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928. You can also send an e-mail to tharon.giddens@augustachronicle.com.

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