Can I teac herding cows myself? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Can I teac herding cows myself?

There are no trainers in the area and I would like to give Axel a job. We have only 5 head, a mix of small bulls and cows. I put axel in there with them and he seems to have the idea, he will chase stragglers back to the herd and then let off the chase as soon as they get there...but when they are all grouped up he antagonizes them to the point he ends up scattering them again. He also sometimes cuts off a cow from returning to the group.

What are some good resources to learn how to teach this properly? My girlfriends uncle has several border collie cow dogs, but refuses to teach me anything because in his eye a GSD isn't a herding dog and shouldn't be taught to do it...some kinda proud border collie thing I guess.

Axel DOB 7-24-08

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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 02:17 PM
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Re: Can I teac herding cows myself?

I wish I could help you and give you advice but I don't know anything about herding but I just wanted to say good luck!
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 02:36 PM
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Re: Can I teac herding cows myself?

Sure you can. Start with simple things, and your first command--'that'll do'. A lot of dogs get carried away when they herd. It's so much fun they don't want to quit. They need to learn the lesson of just doing enough, and no more. Teach your dog hand signals and word commands for left and right. Then give him a place to take the cows, say to the barn, or to water, or a home corral. Then start him to gathering them. He appears to have that idea already. Encouage him to gather them, discourage him ('that'll do') from chasing behaviors. Second lesson group, moving them. Leave gates for last. There are a number of books out there on teaching dogs to herd sheep but none that I know of on herding cattle. Can't hurt to read 'em. Just remember that cattle aren't sheep, and you won't be handling them the same way. I always worked cattle from horseback with the dogs. I'm sure you can do it from on foot, but I don't know if you could work the cattle between you and the dog the same way we worked the cattle between a dog and a person on horseback. I know some people use an atv and that once the cattle get accustomed to it they can do it without getting the stock too excited. I don't find an atv as manuverable as a good horse but there are people who actually prefer it. Work on a hard and fast recall and a hard and fast down with a good 'that'll do'. Use lots of praise and pats and keep the training exercises short, not just for the dog but for the stock as well. Cattle and sheep are trained to respond to the dog to some extent just as the dog is trained to handle them. Good Luck, khawk

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 02:42 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Thank you for the advice.

Any tips on the actual teaching of the commands like left, right, and "that'll do"?

Axel DOB 7-24-08

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 03:39 PM
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

For teaching that'll do, start with a play session of some sort, like playing with a ball. At the end of the session, say, that'll do, pick up the ball and stop play. Sit down and shift focus, say, to petting and praising, as long as it's quiet pets. Use it at the end of any vigorous activity, like, jogging, say, before a period of rest.

For left and right, you can use the word command while you're walking on leash with the dog, then go gradually to the right or left. Remember, though, that you are teaching the dog what his own right is and his own left is, so that when you add hand gestures, and the dog is facing you, his right will be your left and your left will be his right. Sheep people use away and come bye instead of left and right but from what I have seen, sheep are worked in a much tighter pack than cattle would be, for a wide variety of reasons, size, speed, etc. They are also worked much closer to the shepherd than cattle could or would safely be worked, (cattle can knock you over so much more easily than sheep can and they can step on you a lot harder, never mind kick with a lot more power, and we're not even talking horns) so your style with cattle will need to be different. Cattle are worked more slowly, just to begin, and the style is more pragmatic. You don't have to look pretty, you just need to get the job done.

Also, just for giggles, you might get the pbs special where a rescue bloodhound is taught to track and a rescue bearded collie is taught to work sheep. It'll give you ideas. I don't like the concept of putting the dog in a pen for the night and leaving him and just working him during the day, with no relationship beyond the working one, but I know a lot of old timers felt that way. I don't think that will get you anywhere you want to go with a German Shepherd, but you can enjoy the poor lady's struggles with Herbie.
Good luck, khawk

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Okay, I'll work on that, thanks. Any special introductions I should do with new cattle? The first time I put Axel in the Pen I walked him around the cattle on a leash for 10 minutes for them to get used to each other...but a bull still kicked him right in the head the first time I let him lose...although that has never happened again...as Axel is much quicker to anticipate it now.

Can a dog be taught to herd both sheep and cows (separately of course) using the proper techniques which each?

Axel DOB 7-24-08

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 04:30 PM
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Oooh, that's a queston I can't answer. I never worked sheep. I know they take pressure differently, and that might be a problem, but I'm sure that there are people out there doing it. Certainly the old Swabian Shepherd dogs worked mixed groups of livestock, many of which contained goats as well, which must have taken an enormous degree of flexibility in the dog. There are so few people out there still working dogs on stock in the real world left, as opposed to the herding competition people, that I don't know who you could find with answers. Good Luck, khawk

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 04:39 PM
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Oops, got so caught up in your second question I forgot the first. Work your dog farther off new cattle, and try to make his motions more smooth and quiet. Cattle can cripple a dog, or hurt him so badly he wants to quit, so try to keep him out of trouble as much as you can. Also try to get rid of the chasing type behaviors that may trigger trouble. If he starts to get wound up and go into chasing mode break him off and give him a time out or quit entirely until he learns that chasing will not get him what he wants--the privilege of working the cattle. And do work at keeping it a privilege, with up tones of voice and lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement. I really hope you're able to stick with it. A good cow dog can be enormously valuable. They can save you serious injuries and make any job with cattle quicker and easier, not just for you, but for the stock as well, when they're used right. Good luck, khawk

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Well, like I said there are only 5 head...so it's more to just give him a job to do and expend some energy for me. Also it is partly to show my GF uncle that more than just border collies can herd..

Axel DOB 7-24-08

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-30-2009, 07:28 PM
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Re: Can I teach herding cows myself?

Cattle and sheep are worked differently. We have never really worked cattle...but tried to once (with our instructor) and had a harder time getting the cattle to move because my DH was blocking them. We will probably work them again at some point, but are concentrating on large flock sheep for now.

We taught left/right by using a crook to help direct the dog around the sheep and as they circled right, put a command to it (and as they circled to the left, put a command to it).

And yes, dogs can herd both cattle and sheep. I was at a sheep/cattle/duck trial recently and several dogs were entered in several trials with the different animals.

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