Question: . . . . . how do you stop the dogs from working so you can settle the cows where you want to? I can settle cattle without the dogs by going parallel or working in front of them until they spread out grazing in all directions. I don’t have much control on the dogs because I have always “let them work”. So what do I do to call off the dogs even if I still need to work a little bit to stop the cows? Do you have any suggestions on how to dog break cows now that I am using them. My replacement heifers are good for the dogs and I have a bunch of dry cows which work well for the dogs but I have some bad dog fighting mother cows. We have been using six dogs together and just letting the cows come out and fight and then most of the dogs try to fight back. We do this every time we make a pasture move which is around once a week or so. Should I wait until after we wean or just keep trying? They are getting a little better. . . .
Answer: When I say “let them work” I don’t mean to let them do any thing they want. My dogs probably minded as good as anybodies. “Let them work” meant not to keep calling them off. Let them learn how to do the job right, not just always be telling them what to do. If a dog goes out and slows down a group of cattle and then is just suppose to hold them there, the dog should just stand or lay down there until the job is done and he is called off. That is still “letting him work.” For some reason people think “let them work” means the dog has to keep stock moving, it is just let the dog learn how to do what we want done without a lot of commands.
You asked if there were any suggestions? One would be to not use that many dogs. Too many dogs get each other excited then they over-work and get the cows excited so the cows feel they have to protect their calves. When cows feel over pressured they will turn to fight. Then when that many dogs are keeping on the pressure it is very difficult for the cows to settle down. Learn how to move the cows with the dogs using less pressure, then the dogs have a chance to learn what is expected of them. Teach the dogs that as soon as the animal turns to go to the herd they are suppose to move on and work somewhere else or just follow along until there is work to be done not keep after the animal.
In your situation it would probably be better to wait until after you wean. This will give you a chance to have your dogs working a little better and the cows won’t be feeling so protective.