Teaching a Dog to Guard the Gate

Posted February 14th, 2018 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question:   One thing that I wanted to quiz you on Bud told me he could teach a dog to watch an open gate in a day, I would like a few tips on this please.

Answer:   This is the way Bud inadvertently trained two different dogs to guard the gate.

In about 1960 we were working on a sheep ranch back in the hills in Northern California.  One day a timber cruiser stopped at the house looking for a line-marker.  Bud and he got to talking about dogs and we had a Border Collie pup Bud was pretty proud of.  Patsy was only about 8 months old but was already well on her way to being a very good dog.  The entrance to the sheep corrals was a narrow spot between two houses.  It was a very difficult place to put the sheep through.  There were about 50 sheep in sight so Bud sent Patsy to bring them in.  She had a little trouble getting them through the gate, but she really impressed our visitor and managed to do the job.  As soon as they went in the corral, Bud sent her to bring them out again.  He fooled around with her putting the sheep in and out of the corral while he talked to the timber cruiser.  A week or so later, we had to corral the sheep.  We had about 800 ewes with their lambs heading right for the gate when Patsy ran to the lead and turned them back.  After regrouping we got them going again and she did the same thing.  We finally had to put her on a leash in order for the other dogs to be able to corral the sheep.  By sending her too quickly to bring the sheep out of the corral when they went in, Bud accidently made her think he didn’t want them in the corral.

Fast forward to about 1970 . . . We had a young Border Collie that just didn’t have enough force for cattle so we gave him to a friend who ran sheep.  In about a week Tommy brought Moss back along with a trailer load of sheep and said “This is a great dog and I don’t want to ruin him.  Will you get him started on sheep for me?”  After a couple of weeks Bud could stand in one spot and direct Moss to put the sheep in any pen in the corral system.  He was hard-pressed to find anything to challenge him with so one day we opened the people door to the barn which led into the area where we kept the saddles and grain, etc.  It was pretty dark and full of stuff.  The sheep gave Moss a real work-out but he was able to put them all in.  Since we really didn’t want the sheep in there Bud quickly sent him around to bring them back out.  When he asked him to put them back in again, Moss would hold them right at the door, but would stop any that tried to enter the barn.  Remembering what caused Patsy’s problem Bud put a leash on Moss, helped him put the sheep in the barn, stopped for just a few seconds and said “Good boy” then sent him in to bring them back out.  All it took to make the correction was to let him know he was right to put the sheep in the barn…  Now, new project … we want you to bring them out of the barn.

People often think they want a really smart dog, but a dog that is a little slower is often a lot easier to handle.  If it takes 5 repetitions for a dog to “get it” chances you won’t make the same mistake 5 times in a row that is inadvertently teaching something you don’t want.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but I guess by now you can figure out how Bud would teach a dog to guard the gate.