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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
We just got back from next door where my neighbor has two cattle. Both of them have never been worked by dogs, so they have to learn, and cattle don't like to be bullied like sheep do. But never the less, I needed to work them with the dogs.
Decker needed exposure to cattle if he is going to get placed in a working ranch. There is a local dog and horse sale coming up in a few weeks; and since I will be out of town at a sheepdog herding trial, I asked my neighbor, Babs, if she would take him to the sale.
Babs is a big "dog rescue" person. She lives what she says, and has rescued many dogs. She does not place them in other homes per se, but usually keeps them and gives them a good home with her. She was excited when I rescued Decker, and seemed truly glad that I had him. I have told her that I ultimately will find a home for him, once he is better. Yesterday, I told her my dilemma, and asked her if she would consider taking him to the sale for me. She said yes. Wow, that was really unexpected! But she will be a great person to walk him around at the sale to generate interest. She did ask me if I wanted him to go on that day, and I said no. I want to make sure that whoever wants him, is the right person for him, and he has the right home environment also.
What I needed to do today was get him familiar with cattle and working them. He was excited until it was his turn, then weary. These cattle needed to be somewhat trained for a dog to work them, especially a young dog used to sheep. Against my really wanting, I had to use the two Border Collies to "teach" the cattle how to respond properly to dogs. I don't work cattle. And there are several reasons for that. One primary reason is I don't want my dogs hurt. Cattle kick, and they can roll a dog also. I have seen accidents with cattle and dogs, and have chosen not to work that kind of stock. It would be different if I owned cattle or a cattle ranch, and needed the dogs in a real situation, but I don't, so I won't. On-the-other-hand, Decker might need to work cattle in the future, so the cattle needed to be trained.
It is hard doing two things at the same time. Training cattle with sheepdogs is one thing, and then trying to train a dog on reluctant cattle is another. I had to run around the cattle to protect the dog and at the same time, work the dog, so he starts to understand what I am asking him to do. Kate and Tam were easy enough to work, allowing me to concentrate on the cattle. So I would back-up the dog with my presence, so both the dog and the cattle thought the dog was moving the cattle. Cattle are not the brightest either. But after several attempts, I think they were getting the idea. I was able to move them up and down the fence with out too much trouble.
With Decker, he was anxious to work them, and then once he was out with them, he gave them space. Maybe too much space. These cattle needed the dog to be able to get into its space in order to make them move. Decker wasn't listening to me, taking opposite flanks that I asked him for; showing to me that he was stressed. I understand that. Your used to working and being next to animals that are just your size, then suddenly you are asked to work these huge things, towering over you. I was also stressed. None of that helped matters.
He also became afraid of the stick that I had. The first time I worked Decker on the cattle, I used the training stick and the whipflag together. It was good for teaching the cattle, but not so good for any of the dogs. It is too strong for them. When I use the flag with the dogs and the sheep, I have to use it very sparingly, or they can either become numb to it or shut down from being sensitive. I would be correcting the cattle, and the dogs would think that the correction was for them, and would be responding to it. Once I realized that the flag was causing more of a problem than it was helping, I dropped it, and just used the stick. But by this point, Decker was somewhat turned off. He was afraid of the stick. I will have to 'pet' him with the stick every day, several times a day, to help desensitize him to the stick. He is not your typical hardheaded Aussie, he is fairly sensitive and responsive.
Later this week, I will work the cattle again. I like to see what the dog has thought about during their absence from working the cattle. Many times with sheep, the next time you work the dog on them, the dogs have thought about the lesson, gained some confidence and work better the next time. I will see in a few days.
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