Most people who work dogs would like to have one that could win a major trial. Some would be happy to win the local novice class, but most of us will never show a dog for many different reasons.
There are lots of very good dog trainers that show people how to train a trial dog. What I would like to write about is how to have a good ranch dog without needing to have such control over the dog. Most of us don’t have the ability, desire or maybe the time to teach a dog all of these things.
My way of working a dog is to position myself, in relation to the stock, in such a way that the dog and the stock will do what I want. It is much simpler for me to learn where to be than to force the dog to be where I think he should be. A good ranch dog, in my opinion, must be willing to work out of sight for long periods of time, and to be consistent. The dog should work stock with my help; not me work stock with his help.
I’ve watched lots of trial dogs work. Even judged a few. I find that most trial dogs are very inconsistent. Winning one trial and maybe losing the next badly. If, while driving 300 yearling steers though the mountains, my dog decided to hide under a pickup or quit entirely I would have a real problem on my hands. Our dogs have to enjoy their work. They need to know exactly what is expected of them and then be allowed to do it their way, not the way we think it should be done. When the dog understands this and that you will do your part and not take his job away from him just because you can, this dog will then have confidence to do a good job and be happy while doing it.
(Published in August/September 1993 Ranch Dog Trainer)