Training the Ranch Dog – Early Handling
Training can start as early as six weeks of age. This is an ideal time to start teaching a pup. At that time a pup’s mind is open and ready to learn. It is amazing what you can teach a young dog in a few minutes with a tidbit of food.
There are three basic commands you’ll need to communicate with your dog. The first and most important command that needs to be taught is the “Come here.” Next, your dog needs to learn to stop on command – either a “Lie down” (an absolute stop) or a “Stand” – to bring your dog to a standstill (like the whoa on your horse). Once your dog has learned to stop when asked, it’s helpful to be able to instruct him to remain at a standstill with “Stay there.”
Using a Natural Training System
Whether working with horses or stockdogs, pressure-and-release (also known as a conditioned response) is a training system – a natural method of teaching where the animal is taught to yield or move away from pressure when asked. The animal is rewarded with the immediate release of pressure. Correct timing is extremely important because it also communicates to the animal – the exact moment in time – he or she is performing appropriately.
One of the easiest ways to start practicing pressure-and-release is with the command, “Back out.” It simply teaches a pup to yield or move away from pressure when asked. Not only will this principal come in handy when a dog starts working stock it can also be taught at a very young age. As you step towards the pup and the pup moves back away a step our two, give the behavior – backing away – a name, “Back out.” It really is that simple.
The key to success is the handler’s ability to be sensitive enough to be able to read the dog correctly and willing to be flexible enough to adjust the techniques to elicit the best response from the dog.
Working With a Dog’s Natural Instinct
When you add cows to the equation there is no need for food treats. Working cows and your vocal approval becomes the dog’s incentive and reward.
Environment, socialization, and handling will either enhance or hinder a dog’s natural instincts. Some trainers prefer to be able to micromanage their dog like a remote-controlled car, but good cowdogs like good cow horses are bred for the job and are going to be much more successful in their ability to out think cows than you are.
Copyright © 2011 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor.
All Rights Reserved.
See Starting a Dog on Cows – Part I:
See also Working Cowdogs – Help or Hindrance?
See also Cowology: