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Dog broke Cattle


Bullet87
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A method that I have seen used by a couple of clinicians is to put the cattle along a fenceline. Place yourself and your dog at the head end of the group of calves/youngstock, with yourself between the cattle and the dog. Send the dog on an "outrun" to the other end of the cattle. When the dog gets "in balance" behind the cattle, let him/her walk up just until he/she influences the cattle and they turn and begin to move, with you standing off the group in a position that you are putting light pressure on them to turn towards the fence and not drift away from the fence, and down the dog. Let the cattle move off down the fenceline in a relaxed manner. Let them drift until they stop, and give them a few moments to relax before you repeat the exercise in the other direction.

 

Using the fenceline, you are working your dog where you can readily always see him/her (unlike with sheep, it's harder to see where your dog is and what he/she is doing on the other side of a group of cattle).

 

You are "rewarding" the cattle for moving off the pressure of the dog by allowing them to drift and come to a stop, and then relax there for a few moments before you repeat the exercise in the other direction. This teaches them that moving off the dog is the "right" thing to do and results in a release of pressure.

 

A lot of what we do here on our farm, especially with cow/calf pairs, is not "making" the cattle move but rather making the cow (or cattle) feel that the direction you want them to move in is the direction they "want" to move in.

 

I sure hope someone will contribute something more worthwhile than this to answer your question. You might even want to post under "Ask an Expert" as I am sure Bob will have something good to say. Maybe Anna (stockdogranch) will see your query and give a good answer. I think that the clue is to "reward" the calves/cattle with releasing the pressure when they move appropriately off the dog.

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PS - Bottle-fed youngsters do not necessarily make the best training stock. With bottle-fed lambs in particular, they do not respond to your body pressure like "natural" lambs would. The same happens with bottle-fed calves although I have found an advantage to this in that the dog would be able to bring them right to me, unlike mother-raised calves that would not be comfortable coming closer to me. But, either way, bottle-raised youngstock (and adults) do not tend to work the same as naturally-raised ones do, and working/training a young or inexperienced dog on them could be less productive than you'd like.

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I'll echo Sue's reservations about bottle-fed anything. They can tend to come *to* people and disregard dogs entirely. The worst cattle we've ever tried to move weren't wild cows at all: they were dairy heifers who had all been raised by people and machines. They barely moved off pressure at all, and in fact were more apt to turn around to stare at whatever that thing behind them (dog or human) was. :P

 

So, if bottle-feds are what you have, maybe try to minimize your contact with them, if at all possible. Once they start thinking you're the lunch wagon, it might be hard to get them to respond like normal cows. Just my tuppence, of course, and wiser heads may have otherwise to say. :)

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

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I'll also agree on the bottle-feds...not like any kind of "real" stock. While it is good in the beginning to have calves that won't overly challenge a dog, in other words, ones that know enough to bend off the dog, I think a big part of any dog learning to work any stock is to provide the dog with stock of varying "attitude." So I would not want to use calves that are as people-friendly as bottle fed ones for more than a session or two with the dog. I would want to as quickly as is feasible, given the dog's power/presence, get the dog onto "real" calves--fresh ones--ones that have never seen a dog before. In other words, I'll "artificially" make it so that the stock move readily for the dog at the very first, but then soon the dog needs to step up and deal with "real" stock and be able to move them, since working and responding appropriately to whatever stock the dog is presented with in its lifetime is my goal. And since cattle have more attitude than most sheep, and are generally not as willing to move readily, it is important for a cowdog to learn to be able to move stock easily (and calmly, but that's another topic entirely).

 

I dog break calves regularly--I keep a small group here at home just for training the dogs, and when I am at a friend's ranch, we dog break big groups all the time. At home, I get a group of weaned calves at about 550, keep them for 8 weeks, then trade them back in to the guy I lease them from, and bring home a new group. When I get new ones in, I generally just send one of the dogs to gather them (not a super green dog, but one that at least has a sense of self on stock already--maybe just sheep, but a variety of sheep, including nasty mommas and little lambs, if possible). When the dog gets to the top, the calves will almost always turn to look at the dog, and put their heads down for a closer look. The dog needs to walk in confidently, and use a little hit on the nose if needed (which is often the case). Then I just let the dog bring them to me, slowing down or lying down the dog if necessary to keep the stock from moving at a dead run. After a few little gathers, I might drive for just a moment or two. Maybe 10 minutes of work at most. Then I leave the calves alone until the next day. At this point, they are super trotty, but they are moving off the dog and bending when the dog flanks. I find by the next day they move really nicely off the dog, and I am able to drive them all over or do outruns or little walkabouts with a young dog. They may still be a bit trotty, but they are already dog broke.

 

A

 

ETA: I'll agree with Sue on not "making" the home herd move for the dog; however, in order to properly train the dog, I believe the dog needs to know how to "make" stock move when the stock are not so inclined.

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So right, Anna!

 

Since I have a pretty weak dog who lacks confidence and a grip (Celt), I find that he gets certain things done very well by "persuasion". With a cow/calf pair, he places himself on the edge of the bubble and lies down. The cow looks at him, looks at her calf, looks at him, and decides to move somewhere else as she no longer "likes" where she and her baby are. I think of it as the cow thinking, "Well, there goes the neighborhood." A very gentle, low stress way of accomplishing something by a weaker dog that really reads his stock.

 

Celt can put on the pressure in some circumstances, and does very well. But, he has nothing (grip) to back it up so he has to play more of a mind game oftentimes. He can do what I call his "flurry" which is a threat to grip (gets in the cow's face and does a cutting horse kind of dance with a threatening face) and that is more than enough most of the time.

 

If a cow is too much, he may have to retreat and regroup but, when he reapproaches her, she's usually ready to give it up and get moving. And he's not real good on calves although he's improved over the years - those youngsters are challenging as they don't always "act like they should" until they learn that they need to (and without any grip, it's hard to teach them that it's in their best interest to "obey the dog").

 

Not the best dog on cattle, but a dog doing his best on cattle - and he gets it done. Of course, we have pretty easy cattle and all are dog-broke at this point.

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We use bottle fed calves for dogs, while raising the calves we take extra care to teach them to not hunt us for milk, each calf is fed in an individual pen. When the calves are on buckets Jake holds them back away from the front until I place the bucket. In order for this to work they have to have been previously trained to honor the dog. I do that at bottle time, if the calf tries to reach over the pen begging/demanding for milk Jake taps them on the nose, this also teaches them to not jump the pens (3 foot tall). I would not be able to be successful without a calm good dog that rates his bite based on need. They have to be treated fairly.

 

Each day at feeding time, once the calves get stable (about 2 weeks old) I use Jake to load the pens, I feed and then I use Jake to unload the pens and move the calves outside. Basically I do not do any handling myself except to administer medications.

 

As the calves get used to the routine I will use a younger dog so long as the dog behaves himself and handles the calves properly, no unneeded biting or harrassing, I have found that some of the calves do not handle stress well right after being fed so any training beyond basic handling is done a few hours after feeding or we wait until the calves get older.

 

We wean at about 6 weeks, at about 4-5 weeks I use Jake and now Ricky to take the calves out to the pasture and start moving the calves around together, they will split and run like quail, a dog taking chase will run them into a fence so you need a dog that will work patiently to hold them together and operate with a good mind. In some cases it is tougher then handling sheep. Once the calves get through that period they will be super to work and use for training.

 

We have found that early castration makes the calves mellower and less challenging, the calves we left as bull calves were more confrontational and tolerated a annoying dog less.

 

The calves ahead of the sheep in my signature photo were all raised on a bottle.

 

Deb

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I wouldn't want to buy calves, lambs or goats that someone else bottle fed, too used to people and have been allowed to climb into pockets.

 

We picked up a set of three nanny goats at the sale barn a few weeks back, when we approached their pen they moved to the other side. When we went to the other side they countered, nice set of non-pet goats, kinda unusual to find around here. They have provided the dogs with some really nice challenges getting them dog broke.

 

Deb

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I will echo others..Ive found that bottlefed calves dont work well for either dogs OR horses..my husband tried to use a heifer calf I raised on a bottle to work a horse one time..the darn thing actually went up and licked the horse's nose..

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