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So you are ready to start working livestock

I have a lot of clients that approach me about wanting to start their dogs on cattle. I typically ask the usual questions about goals and the type of livestock that they want to work. However, I have found a lot of issues that stem with working livestock is an unrealistic expectation that the dog will naturally know how to handle the livestock and usually it just progresses into a bite, harass, and/or chase. Sometimes you get a really attentive confident dog that will pick up on cues from you and will just take to it naturally but 99% of the time the dog HAS to have some type of training in order to learn basic movement commands.

When I start official training on a pup/dog I normally use a long line in order to direct the dogs on a set path to take when I tell them a command. Otherwise a dog sensitive to pressure will choose the path that makes them the most comfortable. Sometimes in order to progress in training the dog must learn to handle pressure it is not comfortable with.

I like to do a lot of teaching basic commands on sheep so that I can focus on the dog and not have to worry about dog getting kicked by calves. I do not want to teach a dog to turn from the pressure of calves so that is another reason I like to teach the commands on sheep instead of on calves.

Commands I use:

  • "Get Around"- go around the livestock and bring them to me.

  • Flank: "Come Bye" or "Go Bye"- it means for the dog to move to the left around livestock. The dogs left (Not the handlers left)

  • Flank: "Away to me"- it means for the dog to move to the right around livestock. The dogs right (Not the handlers right)

  • "Stop"- it means for the dog to stop moving its feet. I don't like a lie down when I stop the dog as it puts the dog in a vulnerable position around cattle and they perceive this as being weak. Dogs that are not as strong on cattle will have power taken away.

  • "Lie down"- it means that the dog is not going to be moving for a while and that they need to just relax and settle their mind.

  • "Right there"- it means for the dog to face the stock, it usually is a break in the flank commands.

  • "Walkup"- it means for the dog to walk up into stock to make them move.

  • "Get out"- it means for the the dog to swint out wider as they are coming in to close.

  • "Look back"- It means for the dog to pause and look behind them to see what they missed and to go back and get the stragglers.


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