by Bud Williams
How do you teach your dog to continue moving stock in the same direction? This ability is especially useful if you need to leave your dog moving one group of stock toward the corral while you go out to bring in a second group. Following is an explanation of what I do. You may need to adjust the procedure a bit as each dog is different, but the principle will be the same with any dog.
After your dog is doing a good job of bringing stock to you, watch closely and keep him from coming too far around the side of the herd. When the dog has come far enough, I will say “Hey!” You can use any word you like, just so the dog understands it should turn back. During this time, do not let the stock go past you. As the dog is bringing the stock, keep telling the dog to turn back sooner and sooner until he is not coming around the corner of the herd at all, just going across the back. When he is doing this correctly, move toward the back of the animals, pushing the dog to the front to stop them, then work them in the opposite direction, repeating the procedure to encourage the dog to stay in back of the herd.
I’m going to digress for a moment and try to impress on you how important I feel it is to “push” your dog to the correct place instead of calling him to you and then sending him. As many of you know, I want my dogs to be “on the stock” at all times. When he is doing something I don’t like, such as overworking, I will ride (or walk) towards him and push him around the stock until he settles down or is doing the right thing. Don’t say anything. Just walk toward him until he is forced to move on. Always push your dog around stock when necessary. If you push your dog around the stock, he will still go out and stop stock when you need him to. If you call your dog back to you, and re-send him, he may quit going out to stop stock when you need him to do so. Use your command (“hey” or “get back”, for example) to stop the dog flanking too far around the herd and turn him back again. The dog will soon learn to work the herd from within the area you’ve indicated to him until you tell him differently.
Now, back to the subject at hand . . . don’t overdo the exercise described above the first time or two. But soon you can move stock farther distances each time until the dog will stay right behind without corrections from you. That is, the dog will keep the stock moving in the same direction unless you tell him otherwise. You can be anywhere in relation to the herd — in front, along the side, or at the back — and the dog will continue moving the stock in the desired direction.
You must learn what you can take care of when working stock and not have to keep calling your dog to come and help. If you keep calling the dog from his position, he eventually won’t trust you and will leave the back of the herd to see if you need him.
If you do these things, your dog will continue to drive stock in the direction you want while you go to gather other animals. You also can send the dog to gather a second group which is out of sight while you drive one part of the herd toward the corral and know he’ll bring the stock straight toward you.
It seems like the subject of stock dogs always comes up at some time during the schools and seminars I conduct around the country. People are proud of their dogs and like to tell about the wonderful things they can do. But sometime during these discussions, someone will say, “My dog doesn’t know how to do any of the things you are talking about, but he is still a big help to me.” Sometimes we get so hung up with perfection that we forget that men and dogs are individuals. Not everyone is interested in, or capable of, having that perfect dog or being a perfect handler. It’s great if your dog will stop stock and bring them back to you, but even if he will only stop them and hold them until you get there it is a big help. Maybe he just wants to stay with you but he will help you drive the stock and you enjoy his company. No matter what your neighbor says, if you think you have a good dog, then you have a good dog.
Working a dog should be pleasant for you and your dog. Know what your dog is capable of doing. Don’t ask him to do things that he can’t do. No matter how you try to hide it, he will know you are disappointed and both you and he will be unhappy.
this article was originally published in the February/March 1994 issue of Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine
editor’s note: for more Bud Williams, look up his own website, Bud Williams Stockmanship School