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L i v e s t o A Guide to the c k - w o r k i n g D o g B . H e n n y


W elcome to the fascinating world of the livestock- working dog. This publication contains four sections:

  • Selecting the working dog, including review of the common working breeds

  • Basic training methods and tips

  • The International Sheep Dog Rules with course pattern

  • A list of resources including breed associations It’s intended as a reference

guide, not a training manual.

“Training a working dog is not child’s play. It is serious business, requiring patience, perseverance, and knowledge of what you want your dog to learn. You must not expect the dog to learn it all in a week or month or any set time. It is a constant learning process.”

This excerpt from Pope Robertson’s excellent training manual, Anybody Can Do It, illustrates the realities for 4-H members, or anyone else, considering the challenge of training a working dog. Experienced handlers, highly recommended by their peers, wrote all the resource materials listed in this publication. Each author has his or her own method, each with its own merit.

Selecting Your Employee

If you select and train your working dog as carefully as you would hire and train a manager for your farm, you can have a very valuable four- legged employee that does the work of four people and becomes your best and most faithful friend. Whether you select and train the dog yourself, or instruct a 4-H member, we can’t overemphasize the importance of studying all aspects of training before you begin.

The first thing to consider is choosing the working breed most suited to your personality and situation. Each working breed has common personality traits and a primary purpose for which it was bred. You should select an adapt- able breed. Prime examples of improper selection include the dairy farmer who works anextremely aggressive dog that aggravates the dairy cows, which results in a decrease of their milk supply, or the beef rancher who works a meek and mild dog that lacks the power to move cattle, causing inefficiency and loss of valuable time. These situations occur often.

When examining your personality, be objective and

honest. List your traits, such as temper, patience, and the type of discipline you use. Don’t be afraid or too vain to ask your spouse, parents, or leader if the list accurately reflects your personality. Then study the breeds and make a selection that suits you. The following is a review of the most common working breeds and some helpful hints on the “non- instinct” dog.

Border Collie

Border Collies and their sleek working style were described as early as the 1500s; however, it was not until October 8, 1973, in Bala, North Wales, that the first documented sheepdog trial was

Bonnie Henny, Brooks, Oregon; with assistance from Alan Snide , former Extension specialist, 4-H youth development, Oregon State University; and the 4-H Development Committee for the Dog Program. Illustrations by Nancy Lorain, Brooks, Oregon

4-H 123L Reprinted August 2003

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