Anyone can train their dog themselves to a certainly level of working proficiency. Training your cowdog requires some knowledge, lots of practice, and above all patience.
The best trained dog starts with mutual respect between owner and animal. This works best when you start with a dog you like and want to be with and work with.
For a cowdog to develop the skills they need to work cattle in all kinds of real field situations, they need the right inherent behavior, key instincts about other animals (specifically cattle and horses), and a progressive program learning specific commands and actions. Successful training always starts with basic obedience. It’s the foundation for everything else your dog will learn to be a working dog. Your dog must:
- Stop what it is doing when you tell it to;
- Come to you when you call it;
- Lay, sit, and/or stand when you ask it; and,
- Stay when you ask it to.
And remember, training is an on-going process that never really stops. Your dog will continue to develop skills and behaviors as long as you continue to work and train together.
Important notes before buying a dog: Even before you pick out your dog think carefully about what kind of work your dog would do for your operation. For instance if you are raising pairs for show cattle I will be the first to admit my dogs may NOT be a good choice. My dogs are bred to be aggressive toward cattle and will rip ears and noses to get cattle turned. I don't know how many show cattle wing the ring with only one ear but something to consider. Every dog can be trained as long as you are willing to spend the time but my dogs will be instinctively highly aggressive which is not necessarily the perfect addition to everyone's working ranch. Once you have found the correct bred of dog for your operation the next thing to consider is male or female. I have found that female dogs listen better to male voices, while male dogs tend to listen better to female voices. Once you have chosen your pup the last thing to decide upon before training is the name. "There" is a popular command with trainers however if you named a dog "Bear" that command would be confusing for your dog. With that said the most important piece of advise I can give you is to love, cherish and above all respect your dog.
There are as many different commands as there are dog owners. Below is a list of commands that I use. Look at the list and decide what commands are important to you.
Come-bye - go to the left of the stock, or clockwise around them.
Away to me - go to the right of the stock, or counterclockwise around them.
Hunt ‘em up - search for stock.
Down - stop.
Bring them - gather the stock and bring them to handler.
Back - behind the stock.
Walk up - move in closer to the stock.
Steady - slow down.
That'll do - stop working and return to handler.
Behind - behind the handler.