by CynDee Cooper
Whether you use a dog for ranch work or trials it becomes necessary at times to Cowboy drive stock with your dog. This technique can be taught to any breed of stockdog during the earliest stages of its training. Having a stop or check command on your dog helps but even if the younger dogs only respond to their name you can teach them how to work on the back side with you.
Blocking a dog’s movement is the main idea of most training on stock. The pressure you put out causes a dog to move the opposite way of the handler. This also stands true when you want the dog to work with you.
With a young dog just starting its training, you can begin its instruction by first working the stock into a corner. Face the stock and position yourself on one side of the herd while letting the dog hold the other side to keep the stock in the corner. Do not crowd too close to the bunch as this may cause the dog to fly in. With you and the dog a safe distance away from the stock, you need to step over in front of the dog. This will force him to go behind you and take the other side. Stop him from going around by giving him a stop command or calling his name. Then you need to step back in front of him again forcing him back behind you to his original position.
Remember to face your stock while you are doing this and keep yourself between the dog and the stock. Remain calm and your dog will also remain calm. If he tries to circle into the corner stop him. You do not need to command the dog to cover the open side of the stock, he should do so simply because of your movements. After you are comfortable doing this you can move the stock out into an open area.
As the stock are moving away from you, keep the dog with you, again by calling his name or stopping him. Walk behind the stock and have the dog walk along with you. Step over in front of the dog (make sure that you are facing the stock and if you need to stop the dog from going around call his name) and have him cover the position that you just left. Do not allow the dog to pass between you and the stock because you are working as a team in driving.
Many handlers of working stock dogs do not prefer to use too many commands. This type of driving can be accomplished without any commanding from the handler. Dogs tend to like this type of work because they are not left alone with the herd and gain confidence with the handler on their side. Obstinate stock can be approached by the handler and forced to move along with the herd.
Cowboy driving is an important tool often used while penning or loading stock. When your dog understands the work at hand, the person can move up to the herd and push or poke the stock with no fear of losing the herd. The dog has it covered. Working as a team while on foot, horseback or 4-wheeler is what stock working is all about.
this article was first published in The Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine February/March 1997