INTERVIEW WITH SHERRY BAKER, THIRD GENERATION STOCKDOG HANDLER
by Peggy Potter
Many of us have the fantasy of being born and raised on a ranch with horses to ride, cattle to work and a couple good stockdogs handy to help make chores easier. Not all of us can be as lucky as Sherry Baker. She comes from a long line of ranchers. Her mother, Audrey Klarer and Audrey’s twin sister, Muriel Hayes, were adventuresome horsewomen when they were in their late teens and early twenties. They made three trips across the State of California on horseback in the early 50’s. During their first trip they met a cowboy named Allie Clough of Los Molinos, California who introduced them to the Australian Shepherd stockdog.
Sherry and her family still have the original line of dogs (Twin Oaks is their kennel name) that they started back then, but they have made several outcrosses over the years to increase the genetic base for more crosses in the future. “I’ve lived on a ranch, first in Placerville, then in Galt, California all my life with my parents, and the past 13 years with my husband, Boyce, raising Thoroughbred race horses, dogs, cattle and sheep. I do all the horse wrangling, from ranch breaking two-year-olds for the track, some barrel racing, sales prepping yearlings, halter breaking colts, to handling the stallions. We currently have dispersed all the Thoroughbreds since the bottom went out of the market. I have a herd of about 130 head of Barbados Sheep and my parents have a small herd of Brahman and Braford cattle. I occasionally hire out to neighboring ranches with my dogs.
“In the course of time the dogs have become my priority as a full time business which I enjoy to the fullest. The Twin Oaks dogs from the 50’s to 1979 were your old type of ranch dog …no handle, no training, but intelligent; a selfthinker that had heart, grit and was tough and able to do a job on its own. I believe I have the same type of dog today, but with a handle and I have a better understanding of how a dog can work. I don’t put many limitations on what I’ll use a dog for now. If you have livestock, you have to maintain them. The more stock you have the more you are maintaining and the dogs make the work much easier.”
Sherry started hiring out with her dogs to help other ranchers in 1977. 1 asked her to tell me more about the type of work she does in these situations. “We (the dogs and I) mostly gather cattle to move them from one pasture to the next or to load them up and haul them out; or to doctor, vaccinate or brand calves. The terrain ranges from rolling, hilly grassland to flat and irrigated. The stock has usually never been dog-broke and the owners of the cattle (or on some occasions, sheep) are not used to the capabilities of a dog for working livestock. I’ve always taken a broke well-seasoned dog because they have the mileage on them to handle strange stock in strange situations and have handled undog-broke stock before. When working out, I need a dog to have a good handle as I have to bend to the owner’s way of working his stock in a particular situation rather than the way I might at home which would utilize a dog’s instincts more. I need a dog to work all points of the clock; drive, fetch and just plain know stock.
“Most of the time this type of work requires me to be on horseback with one or two dogs. We gather using a dog to work a flank and I’ll work the other flank letting the dog head the breakers back. Often we gather cow-calf pairs for vaccinating and branding the calves. At one particular ranch I took Kit and Bull and a horse and worked along with two other people on horseback. This ranch was set up on an irrigated pasture rotation system. They run anywhere from 200 to 500 head per 80 acre pasture and rotated every two to three days. They run about 7,000 head of first-calving heifers and steers and cow-calf pairs. We moved several groups from one pasture to the next, mostly pairs.
“At one point in the day, we gathered about 100 head of cows in the corner of the pasture by a gateway. Now, I wouldn’t have done it this way if it were my decision, but that was beside the point. One cowboy held the gate area, one the south side of the herd, and I was on the east side with my dogs spaced out for about 300 feet. The fence bordered the north side and the gate was in the northwest corner. The boss rode through the herd while sorting out cows that had calved and had left their calves back in the other pasture. The rest of the herd was being rotated to a new field with more feed. We all held the herd from splitting, and by having the two extra hands… the dogs, that is… there was no unnecessary harassment of the cattle. They were held pretty firmly. Each dog worked independently of me and each other, but were under voice command control.
“Another example of usefulness of a dog: there was a mob of steers, about 450 to 500 head in an 80 acre pasture. They needed to be rotated to more feed. The gateway was about 20 feet wide. I used Bull on my right and up the right flank working an irrigation ditch. I used Kit to my left and flanked him up to the head of the bunch. I took up the middle rear. We worked it on a drive, keeping the bunch funneled down at the top so as not to plow the gateway down. Other areas we have worked have been out in the open with no fences and the dogs were used to totally control the stock and fetch to me on horseback.
“The times when I’ve taken a young dog were when my husband and I would be doing chute work on someone’s cattle such as doctoring pink-eye. I let my young dog get in the swing while Boyce uses his dog in the chute area. Boyce and Remington can do all the doctoring and all the chute and squeeze work together, leaving me free to work with the young dog. A good dog can certainly make this job easy. Remington knows just when to punch them up when they are backing up and when the squeeze is open and needs another head in. Boyce just works the headgate.
“The great thing about it is you don’t have to pay that dog and most of the time (or at least the places I’ve been) you need a hot-shot (without a dog) to prod the cattle up into place. Half of the time the hot-shots aren’t working right or the batteries are dead. That dog sure doesn’t need batteries and can do more than just zap a cow and he’s there, always ready and useful when you need him. Just a little water will keep him clicking all day for you.
“I had an unusual experience not too long ago that will have to go down in my memoirs as the rarest. A gentleman I had bought some rams from called me up. I had used my dog to catch and load the rams and he remembered what I told him about the usefulness of a dog, and well, he wanted to rent a dog! This man has a ranch of exotic sheep which are pretty uncontrollable to bring up and do any kind of handling or caring for. He has to notify the neighbors a week ahead and get four to six of them to spend hours trying to get the sheep cornered enough so they will go into a smaller pen, then ricochet the sheep around to catch them. When I told him I’d charge him $25 an hour, I’m sure he figured it just wasn’t feasible when it took him three to six hours with all his helpers.
“It took Kit and me ten minutes!! All the man wanted was to be able to bring the sheep into a smaller pen with a shelter over it and catch them. He had several groups of 20 head in long, narrow fields and a flock of 80 to 100 head of wild Barbados in a ten acre field. The first pen I sent Kit in had about 20 head of Jacob rams. Have any of you had much experience with these? Well, I hadn’t until then. Kit went on down to the far end and started to lift them. All 20 rams turned front and center to challenge. I
hadn’t really paid much attention to what the sheep were carrying on their heads. Now these weren’t just four-horned rams. They all had about a three to four inch base on those horns and they were the length of a small man’s arm. The two big horns stick up and curl slightly forward, while the bottom two curl down. Kit sensed something different and was very wise in figuring them out before I got down there to check on what was going on. As soon as Kit would move in to put force on them, the leader would try to ram him. With their kind of horns falling forward, it would have immediately pinned a dog to the ground or up against a fence. Kit held his ground and was persistent so they never got to use the power of their horns. We were able to pen the rams in the man’s shelter in just over five minutes.
“Penning the flock of wild Barbados was actually an easy task for any ranch dog, but sure a lot of foot work for a human without a dog. We caught them all up in just a few minutes in a quiet, orderly manner. It was an entirely different matter dealing with the
Scottish Highlander cattle that were in the same field. That was a really difficult game to play. Talk about mean! To Kit, they smelled like cattle, but looked like some shaggy prehistoric beast that wanted to eat both dogs and humans.
“The man was utterly amazed, especially when I loaded 20 head of weaned lambs in a stock trailer with just me at the trailer gate as a wing and one dog working the lambs. He told me with a chuckle, `That was just about an all day affair for me and my neighbors.’ He owns a good dog now and is learning how to use him.
“I personally appreciate good dogs of all breeds. I was born into a family of Australian Shepherd breeders and I thank God that He blessed me with the talented working dogs that I have. If I had started out with a lesser type of Aussie, who knows, maybe I would have a whole different point of view! I find no reason to need a different type of working dog than my Australian Shepherds. They can do it all. Sure, there are times I could have used another breed’s working style for a specific job or moment, but I also see the shoe on the other foot when the other breed is lacking at a particular moment what my Aussies have.
“1 like a loose-eyed dog and like eye only to get a point across, then turn it off. I like a dog to work on his feet and to get a job done with the least amount of stress on my stock. I want my dogs to grip for power if needed, then back off and give the stock a chance to obey. No constant harassment. That just makes stock hard to control. I need a tough dog to work cattle and then that same dog to be able to back off and work sheep. I find the Aussie to be the best all-around dog for me and I’ve worked Kelpies, Border Collies, Queensland Heelers, McNab x’s, German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, Shelties, Tervuren and Bouviers.
“If I only had cattle to work, I would choose an Aussie. If I just had sheep, then I might choose a Kelpie or Border Collie, but in my situation, the Aussie suits me best. I like the Aussie’s all-around style and ability to put the appropriate amount of force on a given job or type of stock. I don’t think there is a better friend by your side, a friend that would give his life if need be, than the Australian Shepherd. My working dogs are my loyal companions. They function under praise, love and individual attention. This builds a bond between us so they will do their best for me; the stronger the bond, the stronger the desire to please.
“My dogs and the blood lines that I’m working with go way back to the early 50’s. I can tell you something about almost every dog we ever bred from up to the current dogs. I can tell you more on the current dogs because I have been able to determine type whereas before the dogs were just there when needed.”
The early dogs in the Twin Oaks line go back to a blue merle Australian Shepherd that was given to Allie Clough by Mrs. Parker of the Parker Ranch in Hawaii. Allie trained polo ponies for Mrs. Parker who gave him a male named Chico. Allie was 75 years old when Sherry’s mother and aunt first met him. He had quite a history of being a jockey and fine reinsman and when he was a young man had met Jessie James on the trail.
“Allie used his dogs mostly as bay dogs to catch wild Mexican cattle in the lava rock mountainsides in northern California. He also used his dogs to keep the cattle out of the brush while bringing them down the old Lassen Trail. His dogs were real tough and when they found cattle in the brush the cattle would always come a’bellering from the dogs. My mother and dad used the granddaughter of Allie’s Chico, Klarer’s Poco Lena, as a deer dog in the same area of California and would help Allie when he brought cattle down the Lassen Trail. Poco would drive and head trail breakers back to the herd. She was real keen with her nose, being able to track those brush-monkeys down and head them out of the brush and back to the trail.
“My mother’s parents also had experiences with Aussies back in the early 20’s when they homesteaded an alfalfa and sheep ranch in Nevada. They often mentioned the little blue dog that came with the sheep and helped gather and keep the big flocks of sheep together. This little blue dog lived with the sheep all the time, protecting the herds and keeping the strays gathered on her own.
“I have definite likes and dislikes in what I’m breeding for. I believe in each cross that I make, although proving a cross is a different matter. I have great expectations when I make a cross. I think the advantage I have is that I know almost all the ancestors and my dogs are linebred. Thanks to good recordkeeping, I have a great encyclopedia of knowledge on my dogs so I can get a good idea of what to expect. Don’t get me wrong, there are surprises both good and bad. I wouldn’t be correct if I didn’t say so. If I could figure out why genetically you can get a difference in working style; why one will work close, one works wide, one works heads, one works heads and heels, one likes heels more, works fast, works slow or any combination of these, and all be littermates or brothers and sisters, I could be a millionaire.
“I see this type of thing in other lines, too. There are so many variables — genes at play — not only for color, looks and temperament, but in working traits, too. Ranchers that we’ve sold dogs to in the past have done the most for us by telling us what type of dog was needed to be a good usable ranch dog. They come back for another dog from us because the one they got before was ‘great but getting a little old’. Word of mouth or by seeing somebody else’s Twin Oaks dog is also a frequent way we sell dogs.
“In making a cross, there are many factors involved. First of all not every dog is a perfect worker. Yes, some come real close, but there seems to always be that ..if he could …if he would …if he had. I make a cross to compliment each dog’s working style. This includes intelligence, self-thinking, athletic ability, heart, courage, guts, trainability, plus the ability to run fast.
“I don’t make sacrifices on a cross to a prettier brother or sister. I’ll make the cross to a better style or worker that compliments, but I won’t breed in a functional fault either. I simply find a different cross. What most breeders try to accomplish as a goal, I try to maintain–the characteristics of each dog that makes him special. My goal is to improve on what a dog has, or a blend of what another dog has that may improve it. It is the people (breeders) and how they choose to breed their dogs and the goals they have that makes the difference.
“The most important thing in a good ranch dog is breeding. A dog is only as good as the inherited qualities from his ancestors. Some inherit good qualities, some inherit negative qualities, and others are just like their parents or ancestors. A dog of my choice needs to be a good usable ranch dog. He needs to have all the good qualities I mentioned and, to make all those qualities useful to me, trainability. A good ranch dog is used to taking control of stock in different situations. He has learned that he is expected to control his stock whatever the situation.
“As far as structure is concerned, I like a bitch to be 19 and a-half to 21 inches high at the withers and weigh 35 to 48 pounds. Males 20 to 22 and a-half inches and 45 to 58 pounds. I don’t like an overly leggy dog, but prefer it to a short-legged dog in appearance. I like a square built dog, maybe a hair longer than tall but with good distance off the ground. I demand a tight, well muscled dog …no slab-sided dogs. A good solid front end (not narrow) and a low head/neck attachment. A medium coat and bone combined with perfect teeth and bite, hips and eyes clear of unsoundness, make up my ideal dog. I like an outgoing, confident disposition, a leader of the pack who likes people.
“I think one of the best crosses I’ve made, and one I’ve done well with was WTCH The Bear of Twin Oaks, CD, and my mother’s dog, Twin Oaks Poky Cody, STDs, OTDcd (ASCA HOF Dam). This cross produced two dogs that I currently train and exhibit all across the nation, WTCH The Bull of Twin Oaks, CD, RDX (1989 ASCA Champion Cattle Dog and 1991 ASCA Supreme Champion Stockdog) owned by Cee Hambo, and WTCH Twin Oaks Kit Carson RDX (1989 & 1990 ASCA Champion Sheep Dog and 1990 ASCA Champion Duck Dog). There is also a litter brother, The Whipmaker of Twin Oaks, OTDdsc, RDX. These dogs are best at ranch work and are hard to out-do for a day’s work.”
PART TWO continued from last issue. . .
“Even being littermates, they have different styles of working. For instance, Bull grips heads, heels and front feet, is a closer worker and gets a good job done on stubborn stock or loading trailers and chutes. Kit loves to kick out and be wide and handles wilder stock well. He grips heads but not heels and is best in big, open spaces and with large numbers of stock.
“If a person wishes to compete badly enough, wants to be a top trialer, or has the need for a dog that possesses the stock savvy necessary to make a top usable dog whether a ranch dog or trial dog, they’ll have to get one from a reliable source, a dog that is bred to do just that — work. If it’s livestock and something has to be done with it — sorting, gathering, moving, doctoring, worming, vaccinating, loading the chute, etc. — I use a dog. I’m never without one. This goes back to a good ranch dog being usable in almost all areas, but he may have a forté that he excels in. I’ll sometimes use my more broke dogs on the difficult jobs and bring out a young dog to do some of the easier jobs. Easy jobs for a beginning dog to do are things like holding sheep to me at a gate or corner so I can worm, vaccinate or sort them. A small gather to move stock to another field, or penning them are things that don’t require any more than a gather and fetch with stock that’s not too difficult.
“A ranch dog with a good handle should be well enough equipped for a trial arena with a tune-up on some minor points, of course. I find the dogs I use in ranch working situations are allowed to make a lot of their own decisions. My commands are simplified. I feel that to make a top trial dog, a dog has to be some type of a ranch worker and he must have the attitude of thinking for himself. Not all great ranch dogs excel as top trial dogs because the dog himself can’t handle the pressure of the trial ring, working in a simulated situation, or working in the presence of a crowd. Kit and Bull love the challenge of a trial and each are a bit of a show-off. I would certainly not travel so many miles down the road if they didn’t get the same thrill that I do. Triallng all the time can definitely fry a dog’s mind. Just like a race horse, you have to lay them up then bring them back.
“The biggest mistake I see is when the handler chokes his dog down by mechanical commands. He never lets him make a move on his own or never trusts the dog to be in control, so the handler keeps every move under his thumb. Even a good dog with this kind of handling will either die out in time or look just like a wind-up dog. In my own experience, I find what keeps my top trial dog fresh is letting that dog think for himself. Gather with him, sort and doctor stock. Use him and don’t always be training on him. As a dog handler, one also has to be sensitive to dog psychology. Learn to read your dog and when he may not be going as well as he can, figure out where the problem may be coming from and fix it if possible.
“There are those dogs that have to rely on the handler’s guidance because they lack stock savvy but they get pleasure by pleasing their handlers and obeying every wish. They possess the trait of being trainable. These dogs are functional, but when really tough or cagey stock are at hand, usually the handler will be just behind the timing needed to put together a really polished run or piece of work.
“I love to trial and I’m very competitive having been raised in a competitive family. My great uncle was a long distance runner, winning such races as the Boston Marathon and the 1908 Olympic Marathon. My mother did many horse races plus we have raced our own horses and participated in rodeo competition. I feel that just as the cowboys and ranchers developed the rodeo, we need a trial program that is competitive for the ranch dog. Human nature, being what it is, has a need to see who is best. You have a talented animal and you want to show him off to the other guys.
“The ASCA trial program gives people an opportunity to work their dogs, which in ordinary situations they might not be able to do, and has done a lot to stimulate interest and competition for all the working breeds in the stockdog world. This is a way of helping to preserve the working instincts in the dogs that were bred to handle livestock many years ago. It is also a good way to evaluate different breeds or a dog you wish to breed to or want a pup out of. You can determine style, power, weakness, strengths, and training. The courses have been refined down to a fair enough simulation of what a dog can do with stock in a trial situation. However, I feel that only in the last few years has the level of handling and the dogs’ skills reached a point that there needs to be an added course such as a Ranch Trial and a course for the Advanced level dogs to compete in open fields. This can only increase triallng variety and the quality of dogs and handlers.”
Sherry has an outstanding record as a trial competitor. Since she has started triallng her Aussies in 1983 until this article was completed in April 1992, Sherry has won 27 High in Trial, 22 High Combined Scores (cattle, sheep and ducks with the same dog), 26 High Score Cattle, 15 High Score Sheep, 20 High Score Ducks and 41 silver buckles. Sherry feels her ultimate wins have been at the ASCA Finals against the top competitors in the nation on an equal basis. She and her dogs earned the titles 1989 ASCA Finals Champion Sheep and Cattle Dogs. 1990 found her handling the winners of the ASCA Champion Duck and Sheep Dog honors. She topped her own record in 1991 by earning the titles ASCA Champion Duck, Sheep and Cattle Dogs as well as the ASCA 1991 Supreme Champion Stockdog. This record is based on practical ranch work and a sound beginning for her dogs, all of which she trained herself. I asked Sherry to let us in on some of her training techniques.
“Depending on the type of dog I’m starting, there are various styles a dog may possess and what I might do with one I won’t do with another. I may need another approach for a particular dog to accomplish what I set out to teach. There are some exceptions, but from the age of four months to a year, he is exposed to stock. Let him do what he wants with stock for short sessions. Do chores such as go with the gang while feeding. The dog is also taught to come, down and heel at my side during this time so as to put control on him while not on stock.
“When he is old enough to be started in a training program, preferably at one year of age, I’ll start in a round pen with five to 15 head of easy moving, dog broke sheep and develop the dog’s balance in relation to me and his control of the sheep. It’s best not to start on wild and flighty stock or stock that will fight the dog such as older ewes, rams, ewes with small lambs or cows with calves. The lessons usually last 10 to 20 minutes at a time. The mind of a young dog needs to be conditioned to be able to take longer work sessions. Just like a person who starts doing pull-ups. At first you may be able to only do five or so, but gradually, as you exercise, you can do more and more. Mentally, dogs are no different.
“Let’s say I’m starting a very turned-on, hot, heading type of pup. I’ll use a 10-foot bamboo stick to keep him off while he’s circling the stock in the round pen. I don’t need a down on him at this time. I’ll take him in hand and walk him around the stock till the sheep come off the fence. Then I’ll send him through and around the sheep — like rolling a bowling ball through. At this point, one must get right into the swing of things providing you are starting a hot, turned-on dog.
“I use the stick to keep him off the stock and to direct him to balance by blocking or driving him around with the stick. Using a `back out’ command and the stick by tapping on the ground in the direction of the dog’s elbow to girth, I keep the dog from crashing in on the sheep. Some dogs require contact on their withers. At the same time, I encourage him to ‘Get Around’ to the head sheep that is leading the flow. When he reaches the head, without crashing in on the sheep, I’ll block him with the stick and tell him `There’ then let him circle the other way. In this way, the dog is learning to control the stock to me, stay off the stock, and learning that `There’ is to balance `There’ and bring the stock to me.
“At first, I’ll just tell him `there’ when reaching the head sheep in the group which he’s circling and send him back the other way. I want to make sure his turns are square and he stays off the stock on top of the clock (the side away from the handler). If I were to let him balance `there’ and bring the stock to me at this point, most likely he would tailgate them right on past me and probably have a piece or two off the sheep, plus he would also be missing the fundamentals of square ends or corners. The exception to this might be a dog with some eye or natural `rate’.
“In the next step, I’ll work myself to a corner or such and let him hold the stock to me while I’m in the corner. This is the fundamental step to being able to use him to sort through a gate or doctor sheep, and the beginning of a `Steady’ or `Slow Down’ command to follow later. I want him to`Stay’ on his feet and I start by using `Stay’ when he is in balance to me in the corner. If one sheep breaks, I’ll let him `Back out’ and `Get Around’ to the head of the splitter and bring it back to the group. Then he is to `Stay’ and hold. This exercise teaches him that there is a distance he must keep between himself and his stock or else he will lose one because he is too close or too far out of contact. The stick is used to keep him off till he relaxes and will `Stay’.
“I’ll step out of the corner and swing him into the corner and roll the sheep out, keeping him in balance with me. I’ll have him `Back Out’ to `There’ and then hold them again on a ‘Stay’ with me in the corner again. This releases the pressure put on him and also rewards him for staying and holding the stock. At first they are just short, little stays, but you can gradually build up the length of time to a real working situation. The `Steady’ can be taught almost in the same way, not in the corner, but at the point of balance with `There’ and repeating `Steady’ using your stick to block the wear with the command `There’ while he’s fetching to you and `Steady’ till you get a rate change. The `There’ becomes a walk-the-line approach, not just simply going the other way.
“At this point, I’ll usually take the dog out to a one or two acre field with about 10 to 20 head of dog-broke sheep. He still doesn’t really need a down on the stock, but I do use a down-stay which has been taught to him off the stock. I’ll take him in hand and walk to the sheep. I get as close as I can without the flock taking off. Leaving the dog behind me on a `Down’, I’ll set myself between him and the sheep. Facing the dog, I’ll send him around the sheep, telling him to `Get Around’ but to stay `Back Out’. I send him squared off to kick out to the left or right and around, not straight at me, and then around the sheep. I’ll work on the same skills as we did in the round pen having him control his stock to me on his feet, but off the stock, increasing his distance and confidence as he is learning commands for these natural working skills. When I want to quit, I’ll simply work myself to a corner and have him hold the stock to me on the `Stay’ and I’ll come through the flock and catch him up and say `That’ll Do’ and walk off with the dog.
“When teaching the `Down’ on stock, I’ll go back to the round pen. When he has gathered up his stock, and is at the point of balance, I’ll tell him `There, Down’. I immediately head towards him to jerk him to the ground or pet him if he did `Down’. I insist that he `Down’ on the first command. Pretty soon he will be downing immediately. You may only have to make a few steps towards him once he knows he can’t out-do you, which is the idea of teaching it in the round pen. He can’t get away and out of reach. If he never learns that he can cheat you, you can usually keep him honest at the `Down’. You can always go back to this lesson and tune him up on the `Down’ at any time.
“Once I have a good, solid `Down’, I’ll go back to the field and work on short outruns and begin to increase distance on him. He can be used for small jobs in between these training sessions, putting him in situations that aren’t too
difficult where he has to think things out and work a little more independently with his basic training. You can do a lot of ranch work with just basic commands, such as `Get Around’, `Back Out’, `There’, `Down’, and `Get Behind’. When a dog knows these very, very well and is solid at controlling stock, I’ll start labeling his flanking commands: `Go Bye’, `Way to Me’, or `Gee’ and `Haw’. As his training progresses, I’ll introduce him to less dog-broke stock, lighter working stock, larger and smaller numbers to let him exercise his ability to think for himself and make quicker decisions.
“When training a dog, there are many, many variables including style and disposition which you must approach on a give and take basis. I’ve used a typical example, but again, one must be sensitive to the psychology of the dog’s way of learning and thinking how he may react in a working situation. If you want to increase your abilities to work and handle dogs, don’t get stuck on just one dog. The more dogs that you work with and train, the more it exercises your ability to train each dog individually. Each dog is unique and what applies to one may not apply to another. One may give you more knowledge through his abilities, likes, dislikes, or style, than you can normally learn from three or four others. Each is an individual and you must learn how to handle each dog’s individual abilities. It is a learning process for both you and your dog. Always keep your ears open for everybody else’s ideas or methods. You may not agree with his or her method, but some little thing may `turn on the light’ for you on a particular problem you have or area of training you need help with.
“Most of all, the better-bred dog you get, the more he is going to teach you. I know that of all the dogs I’ve trained, the dog that I’ve learned the most from was Bear. He taught me things that not just any ordinary dog could because he was such a good dog. Bear used deliberate eye when needed and he taught me the difference between deliberate eye and sticky, lack-of-power eye. He also taught me how gutsy and courageous a dog could be and still have cow-sense. He certainly made me learn my directions. He knew them well and when I was wrong, he let me know about it! But age seems to catch up with a dog long before a handler can catch up with the dog. Thank you, Bear!
“I know that I’ve done my share of winning. It wasn’t always that way. I graciously thank the Lord for choosing to put me in the winner’s circle. There is nothing more discouraging than to always be beaten. I know! I believe everybody has to `pay his dues’, but be dedicated and don’t give up. Keep your mind open and it will all pay off in the end.”
this article was first published in The Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine October/November 1992 (part one), and December 1992/January 1993 (part two)