When you asked me to write some articles about working animals, it wasn’t my intention to write about training dogs, since I don’t train dogs. But after getting some questions I thought it would be all right (right or wrong) to say how I work a dog.
Bud and his partner taking a nap after a hard day herding reindeer.
When Xxx Xxxxxx stated that our dog Sis is only partially trained he was being very kind, or very diplomatic since she isn’t trained at all. None of the dogs I work are ever trained. They are just partners and friends that go along and help. My friends (dogs to most people) do almost anything that I could want them to do. I just Let them work right.
When I was young, almost every farm or ranch in our area had dogs. They would go get the milk cows when they saw someone head for the barn with the bucket. They would do this without being told and do it right. These dogs gathered cattle in rough mountain country, herded sheep, brought back escaped pigs or any other job that dogs were expected to do in those days. None of these dogs knew their right from their left, or most of the other things that well trained dogs of today know.
When Eunice and I first went to work on ranches we wanted to have well trained dogs. They were going to do all the things that were important like go right, go left, down. walk-up, etc., etc. In those days, to keep a ranch job you worked seven days a week and these were long days, too. Well, needless to say, we didn’t have the time, or the ability to do this. Also, we needed dogs to gather cattle in very rough country today, not two years from now. After one particularly discouraging day I decided that I would LET the dogs work, not MAKE them work. I have had good dogs ever since.
The reason I’m writing this, is while I think there is no prettier sight than a well trained dog working stock under the guidance of a good handler, not everyone can do this. I would like people to realize that it is possible to have a good ranch dog with only learning how to LET the dog work properly.
Also, Xxx, dogs that work with me could stop those cows headed for the dense forest and bring them back. Sis included, even if she doesn’t know how to drive.
(Published in August/September 1993 Ranch Dog Trainer)