December 2006 Oklahoma—I’ve been reading your site and come up with a question or two. I trial my dogs as well as use them in the pasture. Trialing them is not a problem at all, but when I get in the pasture and have to count on them they just won’t stick to it. I try to encourage them all I can (praise, hoot and holler, yip, etc.), but they just won’t do their jobs. Can you give me any advice? I work them a lot in a trial course, and they do great on 3 to 5 head in a lot or in a pasture course if that makes any sense, but it’s working the herds of cows that my problem really shows with 2 or 3 dogs on 30 to 50 head of half broke cows. My dogs have a huge presence and all of them have a great mouth. They go to the head or heels, but when I send them to the cows they go then say, “see ya,” and turn around and come back. If you have any advice please e-mail me.
Some dogs will work well at trialing and in the pasture, most will not.
If it is important to you to have a good pasture dog, one that will work out of your sight, one that can control the animals without you controlling the dog, that dog must be allowed to learn how to get the job done alone – not be told how to get it done.
I like to start a young dog out in the pasture, not in a small pen. Let the dog learn to work. Not run wild, but let it work. If we use too much control, some dogs just quit. Even if you want to trial, the dog should learn the pasture first. After a dog learns to work and get a job done right, it is easy to put commands on it for a trial.
Too much control will hurt a pasture dog. With the dogs you have, send them then shut-up. Just move around and let them see that they can work without commands. Move around, even if you have to be in the center of the herd. Any place until the dogs realize you will let them do something. The less you say, the better. Saying nothing is best.
Remarks June, 2007:
. . . . I e-mailed you a while back and I had a question about getting my trial dogs to work in the pasture. Well I really appreciate the advice. My dogs are working great in the pasture. I send ‘em and shut up and hey it works. At first it was a little unnerving, and they were a little uneasy but they have come a long way. I think the hardest thing was to shut my mouth, but I have no arguments; IT WORKED. I recently took them and lotted 380 head without a hitch. I send ‘em and sit in the truck and shut up and here they come pushing ‘em right along no problem. I can’t put in words how great it has gotten mainly cause my jaw is still stuck to the ground. I’ve also realized that the trialing has gotten better. You really made me sit and think when you said shut up, and I’ve come to a conclusion that I’m over handling my dogs. The problem wasn’t my dogs it was me, and I realize that now. THANK YOU.