Question: . . . . I’ve got a dog that suddenly won’t push away very easily. He wants to come in to me, instead of go around the corner. I’ve tried escalating my discouragement some, but it doesn’t seem to work. If I’m close to a dense bunch of cattle, I’ve had some luck just walking into the herd to lose him. Any thoughts? I’ve thought about giving him a month off.
You talked on your website about getting your cattle master type dogs to pick up animals that stand still, can you elaborate?
If I head to a large herd (1,000 head) that is scattered out, I’ve got a male cattle master who acts like he has no idea what to do. He’ll head right into the middle of them, but not as if he’s going to the lead through the middle (which he also does – fantastic!!). Get these cattle a little bunched up, and he goes right to work and is fantastic. He has been able to move, turn and stop 1,000 pairs by himself. But at first, he acts like he’s confused and needs help deciding where to start. I’ve had good luck with other dogs working the way you do on your video tape where you walk into the herd in what looks like a long narrow pasture and let the dogs start pushing them forward, not necessarily to you, but to where you are going. Is this genetic or is there a way to support him at the beginning to help him get a little organized? . . . .
Answer: Answering dog questions is kind of interesting. The problems people have is because of what they want the dog to do now, is different from what they want it to do a few minutes later. This tends to confuse the dog and pretty soon it quits doing one or both of the things it is asked to do. When a dog is used to push animals away, this usually end up with what you have. Dogs that have a strong desire to go to the lead should not be used to work in front of you, between you and the cattle. If you want dogs that do that get a dog that likes to drive in front of you, it will not go around the corner but at least that will not ruin a good “go to the lead” dog. If a dog is used to push away it will have to be stopped from going around the corner and to the lead, as that is what it should do. After being stopped a few times it may give up and then only push away.
Getting dogs to pick up animals that stand still starts at the very first. When starting with a young dog people like to get them excited, thinking that will get the dog working sooner. They get stock to moving and the dog goes to stop the movement. This is fine except that may cause the dog to only work something that is moving. When a dog is working movement instead of working animals it will often leave or not go get animals that are standing still. That is why I say to push the dog to things. That way, if they only work movement you can get between the movement and the dog and push the dog to standing animals. This will teach the dog to see and know to work standing animals. Of course to do this, the dog should have been pushed to things or it will not know what you want. If it had learned to be pushed to things you wouldn’t be having this problem. In fact this answers your next question.
The reason the dog goes right at the middle of the cattle is that the dog must get something moving before it understands what to do. Animals that are standing mean nothing to the dog. The dog is only working movement and until he learns to work animals instead of just movement that is all it can do. After things get moving then the dog understands and everything is fine. A young dog should learn to work animals not movement. Let them have a little time and a chance to think and they will be fine. A dog that works animals will work standing, walking, or running animals. The dogs that works movement have a lot of trouble with animals that are just standing, they usually just leave them.