Competition – One-eyed heading dog and tiny terrier Top Dog winners

Wink, pictured with owner John Taylor, is the NZ Top Dog with a Job winner.

Invercargill’s Wink has been named as ‘Top Dog with a Job’ for his pest detection skills, and Terry the Terrier from Taupo earns ‘Top Office Dog’ for his role as Assistant Quarry Manager

Forget corporate office blocks, this year’s Top Dogs earn their keep outside in the fresh air in rural New Zealand.

Wink, who won the Top Dog with a Job award and Terry, named NZ’s Top Office Dog, are barking in celebration at their wins in the Frog Recruitment’s Top Dog competition.

Heading dog Wink hails from Invercargill and works as a conservation dog, detecting pests and sniffing out Spartina grass. Spartina is a weed that grows in the bare intertidal zone and can destroy the habitat for native wildlife, such as shellfish and wading birds. Often, it’s a grass that’s hard to see, and that’s where Wink comes in, as handler John Taylor says.

“Wink has only one eye, but he teaches us so much about what it is to see. There can be very small pockets of Spartina that are hidden among other tall grasses that have the potential to grow and destroy habitat. I trained Wink to detect this plant, and he’s been really successful. Without his work, we’d still be years away from complete eradication.

“He’s also the only Velvet Leaf detector dog in NZ, and I also use him as a Rabbit Detector Dog. He’s a dog who I saw potential in when he was unwanted because of his eye issue and who has been able to grow and roam and help our natural habitats.”

Six-year-old Wink is a shining example of the powerful impact our four-legged friends can have on helping care for our environment – it’s dogs like him who inspired leading recruiter Frog Recruitment to launch the NZ Top Office Dog competition in 2015. This year’s competition saw nearly 400 canines from Pukenui to Invercargill square off for the hotly contested titles: Top Office Dog and Top Dog with a Job.

Terry the Terrier from Taupo, who works as Assistant Quarry Manager at Atiamuri Sand and Pumice, took out the prestigious Top Office Dog category. The company’s General Manager Sam Atkinson says Terry takes his job very seriously.

“When he arrives at work, he checks there are no moving vehicles before ensuring that there were no trespassers of the pest variety overnight on his turf. Occasionally he stumbles upon a possum and his security instincts kick in and we have a chase across the quarry. After coming back and getting a head pat from all the team, he then does his pre-start checks before jumping into the loader, digger or truck.

“He’s such a morale booster and is spoiled rotten by everyone who comes to site. He is a joy and that’s why he’s been awarded Employee of the Month so many times. He particularly likes driving the machinery, his favourite is the articulated dump truck that weighs 40 tonne and is about a million times his size!”

Owner Jaie Wilson says seven-year-old Terry comes to work with him every day.

“Work is his happy place. If I leave him at home he snobs me for a day!”

Frog Recruitment Managing Director Shannon Barlow says Wink and Terry highlight that size is no barrier when it comes to delivering impact in the workplace.

“This year’s entrants and winners reveal the unique value that dogs play when they have a job; these dogs are vitally important to our economy because their canine abilities help to control pests in our regional parks, secure our borders from biohazards, or perform search and rescues to save human lives.

“It’s well-researched dogs in the workplace also have a positive impact on mental health and morale and can improve productivity and reduce absenteeism. This annual competition was established to celebrate working dogs and dogs at work. It’s fantastic that we have such a huge range of dogs in the lineup, and shows that our canine friends really are ‘man’s best friend’.”

Border Collie Beau, who hails from Dunedin, took out the People’s Choice category award for his stirling work at a daycare. “Beau puts 110% into anything we do together,” owner Taylor Mechen says.

“He always has time to say hello and gives the best cuddles. I’ve been thanking so many times for Beau’s calm nature which has helped young children get over their fear of dogs. He loves coming to work with me at the daycare and lying down with the children. He truly is my heart dog.”

Wink and Terry were picked from the hundreds of much-loved pooches by competition organisers Frog Recruitment and an esteemed panel of canine-doting judges; competition sponsors Indeed and JetPark Hotels, and representatives from Dogwatch, Humane Society, and Chained Dog Rehabilitation.

As New Zealand’s 2023 Top Dogs, Wink, Terry and Beau each trotted away with a $1000 prize package, including the illustrious Top Dog trophies and, of course, barking rights.

Here is a list of winners and runner-up dogs:

Dog with a Job Award:

  1. Winner – Wink: Invercargill
  2. Runner-up – Bobby the Blue Heeler x Cattle dog:from Auckland Council
  3. Runner-up – Mabel the Golden Retriever: from TaurangaDistrict Court

Office Dog Award:

  1. Winner – Terry: Taupo
  2. Runner-up – Koozer the Huntaway: from Airpark Christchurch
  3. Runner-up – Jess the German Short haired Pointer: from Taipa’s Far North Tropicals