SORTING TIPS WITH DOGS
by Tom Blasdell
Here are some different ways to use your dog to help you sort. One thing the handler has to keep in mind is that sorting with a dog is going to be slower that using people. Better than having the wild helpers from town come and knock the fences down!
I like to sort on a horse best. Gather the cattle into a good fence corner, hold them there and just let them settle down for a couple minutes so they can figure out what it is you want. After they have settled down, ride into the herd just past a few head. Go slow and calm, and have your dog back away from the herd some so there’s not a lot of pressure put on the stock. When you ride in to the stock they’re going to go right and left. Just watch and see if they go out toward the dog’s area. If one does, have the dog walk up. As soon as the critter turns to come back to the herd, stop the dog, send him back out or take him back out. (You show them what you want a couple of times and they’ll usually catch on to it.)
OK, he’s backed off and you’re in the herd again, now go sideways to the dog but stay in the herd (a few head deep). If any critters try to leave the herd way up in front of you, flank the dog around to stop them and bring them back.You need to be thinking stop for yourself, this will help stop the stock from wanting to leave. This is when you need to read the stock. Watch for the stock to start stopping, and slow the dog down so the stock has time to turn around and start back toward the inside of the herd. If the stock is having a hard time coming back you, go toward the outside. This will take the pressure off the back of the ones going out. When they start coming back, go back in the bunch and let some go behind you. Stay calm and don’t try to hurry any cuts right here.
After they go back the other direction, send the dog over there so he’ll be there and the stock will learn that this is where they are to stay. When that happens it’s time to start sorting (playing).
Now let’s set up our first cut. Find two of what you are to be sorting off, after spotting them get them by the fence on the side where the stock is going to and maybe stand around for awhile. By working two out for your first cut they won’t think they’re getting left; also it will help to show the dog that this is going to be the job we’re doing.
Let’s say there’s five head and two are the ones we want. Push them down the fence just enough so there’s a little working space between the cut and herd; don’t go too far, `cause you’ll have too much space to cover and all the cut will go back. You may save one, but things will get going too fast to do a good job.
As soon as there is a space send the dog around toward the fence in front of the cut (let’s say this way is to the right). This will make the stock turn back toward you or toward the fence.Turn the horse’s head towards the dog so the ones you don’t want can come between you and the fence. When one of the ones you want starts coming, roll everybody back against themselves. The dog should be back a way and maybe laying down so most of the pressure is off to keep them moving slowly.
Keep your eyes on just the two you want out. As soon as they are standing there by themselves, call the dog to you or send it to the left, then call it to you. Now you’re both between the cut and the herd so the cut will walk or trot down the fence away from the bunch. If they get way out there AND you have a good stop on your dog send it around the cut to settle them out there (don’t mess with them too much they will kick your butt and come back to the herd).
Now that the cut is started, you can go back in and work on one head at a time. Use the dog for stock that is hard to get to leave the herd. Set up on the fence just like you did in the first cut. If more than one head comes out at a time and you’re trying to sort the extra ones back, don’t go too far out there and only cut ONE at a time so your dog can learn which critter you are working.
Dogs catch on pretty fast if you keep things slow. The stock will catch on pretty fast also. Remember it is mostly going to be placement of your horse and your dog. There will be some biting involved but EVERYBODY has to do some thinking. DON’T WEAKEN! HAVE FUN! It will go faster.
this article was first published inthe April/May 2002 issue of Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine