VIDEO: All paws in for national title at The Caves

STAN Dunkley has a rule in life; don't pat dogs and horses.

The 80-year-old Coowonga farm owner brought his six beloved dogs to compete in the Australia's Best Working Dog competition yesterday at The Caves Showgrounds.

Mr Dunkley may have been the event's oldest competitor, but that didn't stop him and his motley crew of canines from vying for the national title.

The trials assess a dog's ability to herd a small head of cattle into dedicated areas by following instructions from its respective human.

Looking over at his 35 competitors, Mr Dunkley said he knew everyone there adored their dogs.

"I think the sun shines out of Mike (his dog, Michael)... there's no tricks and there's no shortcuts," he said.

"I've been trialling for around 20 years or so, before that I was always into dogs, had them all my life... people see what you can do with them but it's only just old hat to me."

Mr Dunkley said the key to successful training was spending quality time with your dog.

"You might only spend two minutes with the dog but as soon as you get them finishing on a good note you quit," he said. "I don't pat dogs... they might put up with it but they don't like it.

"If you're kind to them they won't let you down."

The three-day competition continues over the weekend until tomorrow, with entertainment and dinner available in addition to the regular festivities tonight.

Prizes will be handed out for open, novice, maiden and bush handler categories.