Question: We adopted a red heeler/border collie cross pup. She is now 6 months old. We’ve worked only on basic commands – come, sit, off. She has done very well. About a month ago she started chasing the horses. She is still somewhat scared of them, but is super excited when they turn and run. She seems to be very instinctive about coming from behind and turning them to us, but has also been testing her teeth with nips to their feet. Once she’s focused on a horse or a cow, she will not come when called. We have a very small herd of cattle – 38 cow/calf pairs and we don’t want to start her working them because we don’t want to ruin her. She’s much more instinctive than the heeler we previously had. I can’t seem to find any advice on getting her to stop pestering the horses though – aside from one guy who told us that a stock dog can never be loose unless it’s working. Is this true??
Answer: A pretty good way to ruin her is to scold her for not coming to you when she is chasing the cattle or horses. In her mind you are scolding her for working. If you are successful in teaching her not to harass the horses at her age, it’s a pretty good bet she won’t make much of a cow dog when she grows up.
Bud wrote a lot about starting a pup on our website. I know it is a lot to wade through, but if you are serious about making you pup a good stockdog I think it will be worth your time to read them.
The guy who told you “a stock dog can never be loose unless it’s working” is pretty close. We made pets of all of our stockdogs, but unless we were with them, they were either penned or tied. The last thing we wanted was for our dogs to “make a life” that didn’t include us. This is especially true of a young dog.