Pup is Over-Working (more)

Posted November 6th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question: . . . . On the goat issue, I probably out thought myself and listened to one of my neighbors a bit to much. I was walking to get the calves to gather and bring back to the pen, I had let the dog out and he was just roaming around happy to be out. I went to put the calves back and forgot about him for the moment, he came into the area where the calves were and started chasing them, chased them all to me in about 60 seconds which I thought was good and I just kept my mouth shut. Two or three of the calves decided that they had had enough, and took out after Willy, the dog. They chased him out of the field we were in. So then I thought he seemed a little gun shy and one of the neighbors stopped by that trial works a lot of dogs, and is a big fan of Bud Williams stocksmanship. He mentioned that I should use goats or sheep to get him started. I have only let him work the goats three times. The first time he was a bit timid and afraid. Second time he was better and the third time they even tried to fight him a little and he was down right tough with them. I realize that I need to position myself better . . . .  and that he is not going to get it all right the first time. With that said, how should I start. 5 calves? One goat? What is the proper way to start a young pup?

Answer:   It is probably a mistake to listen to anything I say about how to work a dog as most of what I say will be the opposite of what the real dog trainers say to do.

How would I start a dog? I always started a dog where the dog would be working – with whatever number of animals that it would be working, from 20 to 500, and where the dog would be working them. Never did try to start the dog on 2 or 3 animals in a small pen, this doesn’t mean that is wrong, I just didn’t do it.

Try to understand this about working a dog on animals – you have to understand what the animals are doing, what the dog is doing and what you SHOULD be doing. When the pup brought the calves to you, if you had kept moving so the dog could keep bringing the calves or just stepped out and called the dog or pushed him around the calves the calves wouldn’t have chased him out of the field. Calves that aren’t dog broke will often chase a dog, that is why it is important that the calves keep moving or changing what is done so the calves don’t get a chance to THINK and realize the dog can be run off. The calves are bigger and stronger than the pup and given time they can soon learn to run off the pup.   It is possible to dog break calves without a dog and that will help keep the calves from chasing the dog when the dog is there. Sometimes we had to start a pup on 200 horned dog fighting cows in a pasture with 20,000 acres that only had a fence on one side. While this isn’t the best place to start a pup, that was what we had and had to have a working dog. I started my first sheep dog on several thousand acres with 800 head of sheep so wild they started running when they saw or even heard you. The dog had never seen a sheep and at that time I had never worked a dog on sheep and only a short time on cattle. When we first started using dogs we never had animals in small pastures close, had to start the pups on animals where they were and the number that was there. The reason for writing this is to say “use what you have and make it work.” The size of the area or number of animals is irrelevant it will always be what YOU DO THAT MATTERS.

One thing that made it easy for me was never talking to the neighbor or anyone else about what I was doing until it was possible to succeed and then they didn’t want to talk to me or if they did it was to ask me how it was possible to do these things.

Training a dog is about communication between you and the dog, it isn’t about how many or how few commands it is about what the dog understands about what you want or expect. This gets back to the fact that words or movement mean certain things and they must mean the same to the dog as to the person. What you want isn’t very important unless the dog wants the same thing.  The dog is facing the same thing with the animals they are working, the animals being worked must understand what the dog is saying. If the person, dog or animals being worked are confused there will be a problem. Just trying to make a dog do what you want will not work well unless you understand your job, the dog understands his job, and is able to have the animals understand.

Pup is Over-Working

Posted November 4th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs


Question: . . . . was playing with our pup last night, we have three goats to let him mess with, he really wants to go get them and bring them to us but gets over excited and I am sure that we are doing something wrong. He pushes them our way but then wants to cut in front of them and circle them. Unless he is up close to us, if he is close we can push him and he stays 12 o’clock of us, and seems to do what is right. He seems to get to close to the goats and pushes them harder and harder. We know this is hard explaining, but nine times out of ten when you and Bud tell us something a light bulb goes on and we can figure out what we are doing wrong.

Answer:     There are times to play with the pup and times to work they must be separate. With the working dog they have a job to do that is difficult.  They must be serious and realize it isn’t playing. With a young dog  I would have never let them “mess” with 3 goats.  If for some reason I was going to use 3 goats I would be sure the dog was serious and knew it was work.

Everything you say about what the pup is doing is about what the pup should do. What isn’t being said is what you are doing. Our job is to move around so that what the dog is doing is right with very little correction (use position not commands) from the person. Our job is to create the situation where the pup can and will succeed not just expect the pup to do what we want just because we want it. All the pup needs is to know what is right and what isn’t right.  This can be done if the person moves to stop what isn’t right and allows what is right. At first what isn’t right doesn’t have to be completely stopped the pup just must know that it isn’t right until it learns not to do the wrong thing.   A young dog that will be any good will probably over-work and push stock too fast,  That’s why I tell people to be where they can walk and push the dog around the stock until the dog learns to slow down.  This is more difficult to do with 3 animals. What you do or don’t do and how you act will usually be what causes the dog to over-work.

Learning how to have a good working dog is difficult, learning how to give commands is easy but that doesn’t mean there will be a good working dog just one that knows commands.

Questions About Stockdogs (more)

Posted October 16th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs

We often get questions or comments about working dogs. Most of the questions are not about dogs, but about some dogs doing things the person doesn’t like. What is strange about this is that the questions should really be about people as they are the problem or the solution. If someone saw a Dodge Pickup go through a red light, then a little bit later saw a different Dodge Pickup speeding through a school zone would that person then say they would never own a Dodge because it is always breaking the law? It is the person driving that is breaking the law not the Dodge. It is the same with dogs. When dogs are doing the wrong thing or doing things that a person doesn’t like – the person is at fault not the dog.

We’ve had many working dogs and seldom kept one for more than a year or so, yet these dogs did more work and less wrong than the people. The dog will do what you have taught it to do. Most people don’t realize that they teach the dog to do most of the things the dog does wrong. People spend so much time trying to teach a dog commands without realizing all the other things the dog is being taught by mistake. If people would spend less time trying to make a dog learn commands and more time understanding the dog and what it really needs to learn, there wouldn’t be all these dogs doing things people don’t want.

It is easy to let the dog do the good things and stop the dog from doing the bad things, if people would only learn how to let a dog do the good things. People spend so much time making dogs do things that most dogs learn to hate doing some of these things. I was watching some trained dogs recently and seldom did any dog stop when the dog was told to stop, yet I am sure many hours were spent on teaching the dogs to down or stop. In fact, most of the things that are written about training a stockdog will tell people to have a good down on the dog before ever going to stock. If a dog is worked properly it will know when to stop or the slightest indication from you will have the dog stop even if the dog has never been taught to down. Working dogs love to work and really like to please their owner unless they are trained to the point where the dog doesn’t like to work that much or will just do what it wants in spite of the owner. There are some dogs that like to be told every move to make, most dogs don’t really like one command right on top of the last command.

My working dogs wanted to get the job done and wanted to please me. The dog was happy to work, come, stop, down or just follow me, what ever was needed. Dogs that do all kinds of miserable things are not bad dogs they just don’t have the right owner.

Eunice’s 2-cents worth. . . . . Maybe I can help you with some of your dog questions. The only dog trainer I know of that I agree with is Cesar Millan. He has a program on the National Geographic Channel on television. He emphasizes the importance of letting a dog be a dog and teaches people to be the “pack leader.”

The leader of a dog or wolf pack is always in charge of the food. Subordinates must wait until the leader has finished so don’t feed the pup at the table or share food that you are eating, with him. Tug-of-war is also a No-No. There is no way that a pack leader will allow a subordinate to take anything away from him. Living with any kind of dog and ending up with a normal, happy, obedient animal is about your everyday interaction with him (“him” might be “her” I am not into political correctness), not the “training sessions.” It is very similar to raising children (or the way you should raise children).

You don’t, one day, decide to set down and teach your youngster his ABCs, or numbers. You take the opportunity to point out letters and number on the cereal box etc., all through the day. For instance make the pup sit quietly when you put his feed down, then say “OK.” When the pup runs up to you and wants to jump on you, bend over, set him down and pet him while he is setting quietly, talk calmly, then stand up, turn your back on him and walk away.

You don’t tell him to do something (or not to do something) unless you are in a position to make it happen.

You don’t confuse him when you play with him. For instance, the last time we were waiting in an airport a little toddler had wandered too far from her mother. The mother made a playful run at her saying “Stop, stop” then scooped the running baby up over her head and carried her back to her seat. If the mother had said “Run, run, I’m going to catch you” they would have still had the same pleasant interaction without encouraging the baby to ignore a command.

Be careful of anything the puppy does that makes you laugh. Many of the problems that Cesar Millan is called in to correct are things that escalated from such things as a dog biting at the water coming our of the hose, chasing a dot from a laser pointer etc. Many of the dogs featured on America’s Funniest Videos are doing just such things. While most people are laughing, Bud & I are feeling pity for the poor dog with a screwed-up mind. There is nothing wrong with throwing a ball or stick for your dog, but if you see that he is getting too excited it is time to stop and pet him quietly until he settles down.

Don’t worry about what other people do, it’s not necessary (though it would be good) that he feels that your wife or children are higher-up on the social scale for him to respect you as the leader. If you do your job right he will respect them as part of your pack.

People often ask questions such as “How can I break my dog from chasing cats, cars, etc.?” My answer is always “I just tell him not to.” I realize that that is pretty simplistic but if you have done the proper groundwork, that’s all that it takes. One mistake that people make when correcting a dog is that they are too late making the correction. The time to say “NO” is when the dog is thinking about the action. In other words the correction should be made when he first pricks up his ears at it, not when he is in full chase. We had a dog given to us because he killed chickens. The ranch where we were working at the time had LOTS of poultry running loose. I’m sure, that when we first got Scotty, Bud or I probably said “NO” to him when he pricked his ears at a chicken but I don’t remember it. A few months later I was changing the hay bedding in his dog house and found a nest full of eggs where a bantam hen had been going everyday to lay.

I used to work grooming dogs. One of my regulars was a male Shih Tzu that was a really miserable little dog who had his owner completely buffaloed. After bathing and grooming him you could count on him messing in his cage and rolling in it so that I would have to bathe him all over again. Instead of putting him back in his cage, I got to where I just put him on a chair. It only took a couple of times of putting him back when he jumped down for him to stay there until his owner came to pick him up. The ground-work of the several grooming sessions I’d had with him had convinced him that I was pack-leader and as soon as he understood what I wanted he was happy to do it. Maybe these examples will give you an idea of what Bud and I are talking about.

Questions About Stockdogs

Posted October 14th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question: . . . .so my first question. I am interested in getting a stock dog. A neighbor . . . . . who has taken your class before and holds you in high regard is helping me with the process a bit and has lent me your dog VHS cassette which I have not watched yet, but will soon. So If any of my questions are answered there please let me know that and I couldn’t find answers to the questions I am about to ask on your site. So I am looking for a stock dog, but also a companion. I am getting married next may and hope to have kids soon after. My question is:

Can I have a stock dog that is also a family dog?

My next set of questions are related to that.

From what I understand you do not want to teach your stock dog too much obedience as it could short out his instincts. That being said I don’t want a dog that is out of control or bites people, children, runs at cars, jumps on guests etc. Will I be able to keep the stock dog form doing these things or is a stock dog a stock dog and you don’t expect to walk in town with him without a leash if at all? How much obedience is it safe to teach him? My guess is I will have more specific questions about this as I get one. Sorry in advance.

Next. As I select for a young pup is there anything you look for specifically.   . . . . . says he waits until they are four months or so and watches them work sheep and picks based on their style during the instinct test. He looks for a strong header. However the man . . . . . I am looking to buy them from says he has many folks buy them as pups at 8 weeks old. So I don’t want to wait too long and miss out and get stuck with the left overs.

Any thoughts on pup selection and the best age to select at? Lastly….do you have a preferred gender?

Answer:    Actually I don’t answer question about working dogs.  A working dog now is more a personal thing than what was considered a working dog in the past.  All of the working dogs we had, learned how to work stock instead of being trained to work with commands. Today, people want to have control of the dog instead of the dog having control of the stock being worked.   The way I worked a dog will not be used anymore as the trial mentality has taken over the training of working dogs.

Now to your questions.

#1- “Can I have a stock dog that is also a family dog?”    Yes.  Most if not all of our working dogs were or could have been good family dogs and we’ve had lots of dogs over the years.

#-2- “You don’t want to teach a dog too much obedience as it could short out its instincts.”      You totally misunderstand what I want. What I will have is a dog that is probably more obedient, more disciplined than most people’s dogs are. What I do want is a dog that works because it knows how to work stock and isn’t just able to work because I have taught it a lot of commands.

#-3- “I don’t want a dog that that is out of control, bites people, children, runs at cars, jumps on guests etc.”  Why do you think that the dogs I had did all of these terrible things?  Because I don’t use a lot of commands when working stock people think I let a dog run wild. Anybody that has ever seen our dogs work always commented about how well they minded. The people that don’t understand how to have an excellent working dog without all the commands will trash what I do by saying that the dogs must run wild. Teach the dog all of the obedience you want and teach it all the command you want. When or if you get a dog it is about you and not about what I do or don’t do.  After reading your message and answering this question I realize you probably should NEVER get a dog.

#4- “Any thoughts on pup selection and the best age to select at? Lastly….do you have a preferred gender?”    You are getting information from too many people and trying to pick out what is best from all of this information. Probably no one knows what will be the best pup and many don’t even know after the dog is grown and ready to start working. Knowing how to guess what will be the best pup to buy would be like someone showing you how to buy the winning lottery ticket.

Now to finish this – you have asked these question from the worst possible person.  If you watch the video of our dogs working it is easy to see the dogs are not out of control, biting people, children, running at cars, jumping on people etc., why you thought our working dogs did these things is hard to understand.

Stockdog Journal

Posted April 26th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs

Bud will be writing some articles for The Stockdog Journal.  These will be reminisces of some of the dogs we have owned or worked over our lifetime.  You can find more information about this magazine on their website at  www.stockdogjournal.com.

On-going Dog Correspondence (more added 4/5/2012)

Posted April 5th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs, Stockmanship

To: Eunice@stockmanship.com Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 2:33 PM

Good morning Bud and Eunice & nbsp; &n bsp;  . . . . . I have been using the dvds that i have got from you to handle my cattle. It works so well that my cows walk every where they go now and will stay in the corral for hours with gate open chewing cud or laying down. I have worked with three different groups of cattle and they all handle the same. But i took me twenty to forty hours per group to get them this way. I am wondering if this is normal amount time to settle them for a first timer. Because i want to go to Alaska to gather cattle or maybe start a ranch there some day. I am working with the  . . . .   ranch . . . . to gather 150 head . They have not been handled in 25 years and the island is 33.000 acres. I heard you have done this before and if the handling was the same on wild cattle that had gone feral. I also started working my border collie pups on the cattle , once i could handle them to help keep them bunched. But now their getting bigger with more bite I want the dogs to work on their own but the cattle don’t like the amount of pressure they put on them. But i am trying to built confident in my pups to bite , only when they need to with out making a trial dog. I was wondering if going to . . . .  was getting in over my head or what i would need to do to make this happen to prepare my self and the dogs. & nbsp; &n bsp; &nb sp; &nbs p; & nbsp; &n bsp; I would be every grateful for any expertise that you would be willing to share. Thanks for time  *************************

Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 5:36 PM

The length of time it takes to work animals will be determined by the skill of the person doing it more than where the animals are at.   This worked with reindeer in Alaska where there were no fences and the area was 5 million acres or actually all of North West Alaska that the deer wanted to use.  It worked on the cattle on the eastern end of Umnak Island, Alaska  which had at least (more…)

Dogs are Leaving Cattle

Posted January 8th, 2012 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question: . . . We are having a open winter so far and are still grazing. I have been just turning the cows out every morning on about 600 acres of stubble and grass and having the dogs gather them up and pen them for night. You will soon sense this is a repeat question. That being that I’m having trouble getting the dogs to get around all the cattle. This is a bit more distance than most other times of the year but all the cows are in sight. Sometimes they will run a mile and almost be around them all then cut right in in front of five or ten cows that are right there and do a fine job of bringing the rest or sometimes its halfway or sometimes the first five cows they come to. I’ve been trying different things like just letting them bring what they get and then tell them how good they are then make them go again but in a short time I could see them getting consistent with just hooking the first few. I’ve tried calling them back if I see them start to cut in and send them again but I can tell that I am getting them more confused all the time. Sometimes trying to get after them when they are starting something wrong is very touchy cause soon they are too worried about me to think about their job. It has been great fun to gather the cows every evening even though I’ve been trying to understand what I ‘m doing wrong. The dogs have been a wonderful help, in fact I would half to build a lot of fence or do a lot of walking every night without them. The job is getting done but I can tell the dogs are getting confused just by some of the weird things they are starting to do. You told me once to stop doing whatever I was doing that was making them do this, and I know it would be best for me to figure it out but I guess I’m going to need a few hints. This also had to do with them dropping off cattle and working up through the herd . I know this is something I’m doing as it seems to show up with all my dogs. I need to learn because I’m planning on starting a new pup next summer.

Answer:     Working a dog is not gathering animals, getting them all, bringing some of them or all of them. Working a dog is working a dog.

The trouble starts when getting the animals – the way we want – is more important than working the dog.  People make lots of mistakes when working animals but they expect a dog to be (more…)

Sheepdog Trial Pens

Posted November 11th, 2011 — Filed in Stockdogs, Testimonials

I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciated your help adjusting my set out pen for my sheepdog trial. (I had sent you the drawing and you returned it with the gates and pens in the right places.) We couldn’t get it exactly but were able to set it up close enough to make the gates and pens work the way you suggested.

We are very fortunate in that the sheep arrive 2 days before the trial and can graze the field while we are busy setting up. They get their scent on the field and get used to all the commotion. Usually they sleep in the penning and shedding area, not normally an area associated with relaxation. Anyway, we were able to train the sheep through the set out pens two days before the trial, with no time deadline and no spectators. We then ran them through one more time the day before with the set out crew on their horses. We were able to train 3 new people to your methods and the response was fantastic (in both the helpers and the sheep!). Set-out during the trial went smooth as silk and this year our sheep were probably the best we’d ever run.

But the highlight of the weekend was when I was all by myself, clearing the sheep off the field to put them away for the night. No one was around, the sky was absolutely spectacular with clouds and the sun’s rays lighting up the sheep. I sent my dog (who isn’t a very good trial dog -she really doesn’t like it) and she did the most beautiful outrun around the whole field, started her sheep at the top and brought all 280 in a perfect line to me without saying a word, no whirling, no worrying, no nothing but a nice steady walk in. There is no better reward for all the work than to see your dog do a perfect job all by herself.

So, thank you for answering an email from a perfect stranger. I am sure it helped make the days a little less stressful for the sheep and the crew!

Working Dogs on Strange Cows

Posted June 19th, 2011 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question: We really enjoyed that posting where you wrote about people willing to make their play a challenge but not their work. How true. Never thought of it that way. You told me to let my dogs be around the cattle a lot just to let them be used to them. This has worked very well. The dogs meander around while I’m feeding and calving and don’t cause much fuss and now when I move even quite young pairs there is little or no fighting the dogs. What fun. Occasionally a neighbor will see how well my dogs work ( for me) and call when they have a problem, and wonder if I can bring a dog and help. This is almost always a disaster. If all my dogs ever do is work well and help me that would be fine but I’m wondering about that particular situation. The neighbor wants help but wants it his way. No patience or understanding that we need to take some time. What should be my thinking about this? Is it realistic to think that a dog should be capable of moving in on strange unbroken cows and take control? Maybe this is part of ( no limit to better) and this is down the road for me. Just kind of wondering how to think about this. As for now I just tell people my dogs don’t really work on strange cattle.

Answer: There is working animals, then there is working animals with a dog, and then there is working animals with other people. They are all the same yet quite different as YOU need to change – as the dog can change very little and the other people will change very little if at all.

This has got to be your choice as each one of these things requires YOU to be willing to make changes that are not easy to make sometimes.  Your thinking probably should be “Do I really want to do these things?”  If you do, then do it otherwise stay with what you like.

Certain dogs can handle strange or new unbroken cows with very little problems, some dogs never will be able to. What this is really about is” are you willing to try – even if you may fail?”  What would it hurt if you tried to use the dogs and they were not able to do the job, would that be the end of the world or just starting a new learning experience?

This is only about YOU, not the dogs or the other people.  Always remember that they are only an excuse – or a chance for a new learning experience, nothing else.

New Dog/Old Dog

Posted April 7th, 2011 — Filed in Stockdogs

Question: I have been working with cattle and working dogs for a major part of my life. However, I do not consider myself accomplished dog trainer. My last dog who just recently broke down (ie snapped archilles tendon) worked well for me and picked up all my commands with limited expertise. Unfortunately my young dog coming on (ie 16month old border collie kelpie X) is not picking up like my previous. He does show promise with great intent to work cattle and work the other side of the mob, but I cannot make him do it on command. Do you have any DVD with dog training skills or other tools that may help me better to train a cattle dog?

Answer: We don’t have any “dog training material” available, just the things on the website that Bud and I have written at various times. If you have read them you will see that we don’t work a dog like “trainers” do, they are just partners that help us get the job done.

We have found that every dog is different and we are willing to take the things that each dog is able to do and build on that to make the best “partner” that we can. Most people have a certain way that they train or work a dog. That way will work for some dogs but not for others. Most of our very best dogs were given to us by “trainers” who had given up on this particular dog. By working with them like I just said, they turned out to be excellent partners.  Sorry that I couldn’t be more help.

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