Had a quick question about a cow dog of mine. He is a little over a year old and likes to chase, but he likes to herd too particularly when we are trailing the cows. When a cow gets out of the herd and you tell him to get her back in, he will always go straight at the cow instead of going around her to get her in and usually will push her further out of the herd. I recently read your article about dogs wanting to bring everything to you but he hasn’t ever brought any thing to me. He will always chase a cow instead of herding her. I tried to let him go once and just see what he would do without me calling him off and he just kept pushing her further and further away. So, just wanted to hear you thoughts on this situation.
It’s pretty hard to give advice on a particular dog with no more to go on than that, but here are a few things you might consider. I’m not clear from your letter if you have a “herding dog” since you said he has never brought anything to you.
A “herding” dog’s instincts are telling him to go to the lead of moving stock. This is what they LOVE to do. This is what they get the most satisfaction out of doing. With a little input from you, you can teach the dog to stay on the other side of the stock and bring them to you. But remember, his greatest joy is going to stop the herd and turn it back. If you won’t allow him to do this occasionally, he can get very frustrated and is liable to do most anything.
There is nothing wrong with keeping a dog with you if you want to drive the stock yourself, but you should never encourage or allow a young “herding” dog to drive stock in front of you. Another place where people can mess up a young dog is to send them too soon to pick up animals that are along side of the herd. You should always wait until the herd has passed that animal before you let the dog go. In this way, he is bringing the animal to you and the herd, and it is very natural for him to pull off when he gets to you. Most people send the dog too soon. Sending a dog from this position is actually telling the dog to go to the lead and stop the herd, but instead, you make him stop (when he is in position to put the animal to the herd) just when his instincts are telling him to go on to the lead. If you think about it you can see where this could “short-circuit” a pup’s herding instincts.
I think you misunderstood what Bud meant when he tells people to “keep quiet.” He doesn’t mean to let the dog do whatever it wants. When a person is giving a lot of commands, a pup can get pretty confused. When you stop yelling, but instead you move around the herd until things start working, the pup can actually start to think and to learn.
About all I can suggest is that you re-read the material on our website about starting a young dog. Keep in mind that the biggest reward you can give a young herding dog is to let him go to the lead and bring the stock back to you. When the stock goes past and the dog comes even with you, you can send him to the lead again. This only takes a few minutes, and you are right back to going where you were. This is good for the stock and good for your dog. Even an old, well trained dog appreciates this now and then.