Control

Posted August 1st, 2007 — Filed in Bud's Musings

Today, people are really into “control” with animals. Some control is necessary but how we get it and what kind of control we use is very important. There are several ways to control and sometimes we should use more than one way. Building more fences can be very helpful or just more expensive. Stronger and higher corrals can help or just add to the expense and should not be necessary. Using feed to move animals may help but there are times when it doesn’t work or times when it just makes things worse. Working our animals better can really help but it will take some time and effort from us to learn how and then we must do it. All of these things have good points and possible problems so your decision of which to use, and when, is important.

It is helpful to understand the situation and know what control will work best. I spent many years working with stockdogs. There is quite a difference of opinion about what or how much control is needed with a working dog. My dad always had a dog on the farm. He knew what his jobs were and he did them. In the morning when we got to the milking barn the dog had the cows there. As soon as we started moving around the dog knew it was time to go get the cows. At night, when we opened the gate to the sheep pasture he would bring in the sheep. They might be up to a mile away, in a brushy pasture but the dog would get every one. If a gate came open at night and animals got out, we would find the animals back in their pasture and the dog lying in the gate when we got up in the morning. It didn’t take any control; this was just business as usual for one of the “untrained” dogs of the past. He learned his jobs and loved doing them. Now, if this dog was taken to a trial to compete against trained dogs it would not understand someone telling it what to do. He didn’t need to be told how to get his jobs done. This dog had learned how so he didn’t need to be controlled.

Eunice and I went to work on a large ranch in rough, mountain country. Every cowboy had several dogs. These dogs would go stop cattle and hold them until the rider got there. Then, with a lot of yelling and the help of a pocket full of rocks, the dogs would be called off and the rider would start driving the cattle. If the cattle tried to get away, the dogs were sent again. These dogs were never used to drive cattle, only to stop them. If the dog was used to drive it might ruin them for going to the lead and stopping the cattle. This was all that the cowboys needed the dog to do. They could send the dog and call it off, that was all of the control that was needed. These dogs had to be fool-proof at going clear to the lead. The cattle might start running when they heard the riders a half-mile away. By the time the cowboy saw their tracks the cattle might be a mile or more away. The dog is sent. After a run of 2-miles it catches up with some of the cattle. The dog passes them, puts his nose to the ground and smells other cattle so he keeps on going until he knows that he has gotten to the lead of everything. For this job, very little control was needed. A dog that had been taught too much control would not be able to do this job very well, if at all. A good, wide outrun in the mountains with really rough canyons might keep the dog from even finding the cattle. The untrained dog just out-ran them and was on their track all the time so he had no trouble finding them. These were untrained dogs being used by people who were not dog trainers. Still, they were able to get a very difficult job done.

During this time there were some people who trained dogs and were very good at it. These dogs were used with a lot of control and did just what the trainer wanted. They were very seldom allowed to work on their own. After seeing these people and their dogs I decided that I wanted to be able to train my dogs to work better. As I demanded more and more from my dogs, I got less and less from them. After two or three years it was plain to me that too much control was not a good thing. So then I tried to get a balance between control and the dog learning what to do. It wasn’t long before I realized that allowing the dog to learn what to do was the most important. Then it was just using a little control and lots of learning what and how to do the job. We can use control in many ways. We can control what we teach the dog, or control the dog.

Eunice and I would drive 500 yearlings through the mountains for 15 or 20-miles. We would have two or three dogs along. I would leave one dog at the back, Eunice would take the lead and I would work the side. Sometimes the dog at the back wouldn’t see us for two or three hours. The dog knew its job and did it. There was no way to give it commands or to control it. I guess you could give the dog a list of what it should do, but the cattle might get away when he stopped to read it. We would often be hired to bring in ten or fifteen really wild cows that were running in rough mountain country. After we located the cows and sent the dogs, they would hold them up until we got there. We’d call the dogs off and head for home with the cows. In that country, a person on horseback can’t always keep up with wild cattle. When we came to a fork in the trail and we could see by the tracks that the cattle had gone the wrong way, we’d send the dogs to bring them back and head them down the right trail. It didn’t take long until the dogs would go with the cattle. When they came to a fork in the trail they would hold the cattle there until we could catch up and let them know which way they needed to go. These dogs were under control but not being controlled.

We should do the same thing with our animals and the Market. Use the right control or right combination of control. There is always a way to control the animals and get the best results. We can’t control the Market but we can use the things that we can control to do a better job of Marketing

Understanding “control” will allow us to Smile and Mean it!