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Handling Pairs with Dogs

Gathering and handling cows with calves on them can be done very effectively if done right.

I get a lot of phone calls that go about like this, ďI was wondering what you have in the way of a started dog. I donít need a dog that has a lot of fancy training. I just have a few cows,Ē they will say adding that they have anywhere from 25 to 100 or more and they are not too wild. ďI just need a dog to go in the brush and get them out and help me pen them so I can doctor them or wean calves.

This sounds simple enough but it usually isnít.

Cows with calves on them are going to fight the dogs and if the calves are very young they will be even more protective.

The ideal situation is to dog break the cows when they are dry, they will basically handle like yearlings at this time, and later on have more respect for the dogs. If you keep and raise your replacement heifers, it is very good to dog break them at an early age, then as time goes by gather and work them a lot with your dogs. This will make them very gentle and you can gather them anytime you want very easily. After a few years you will have your whole cowherd broke and easy to handle.

This cannot always be done though so you have to get a handle on them while they have the calves on them.

Let me say right here that this is not a job for sheep dogs. It takes dogs with a lot of grit and courage to stand up to fighting cows plus they need to have enough brains to get out of the way and protect themselves. Also this is not a job for pups. Just about the most foolish thing I have seen is when someone gets a pup and gets it started working calves good then they canít wait to go whip their old spoiled cows and what happens is they get their pup whipped. When this happens it can ruin a young dogís confidence for life. Donít let this happen.

It is best when handling pairs to use two or more dogs depending on how many pairs you are gathering. No matter how tough a dog is he can be over powered when two or three old fighting cows try to run him down. In this situation a pair of dogs can spar with them and handle them. Once pairs have been handled with dogs and handled right one dog can get a lot done.

One other thing I would like to point out is to handle pairs right, as with all aspects of handling cattle with dogs your dogs must mind you, when you tell your dog or dogs to stop they must do it instantly.

You can teach pairs to follow you while having your dogs retrieve but it takes a lot of work but if you do it enough it can be done.

If you are going to teach cows with calves on them to retrieve, it depends on how many pairs you are dealing with as to how many dogs to use. If you have 20 to 30 pairs, 2 strong dogs probably can handle them. Any more than this you should probably have 3 dogs or on large bunches, of a 100 or more probably 4 or 5 dogs.

When you start working with your pairs to begin with allow plenty of time and get an early start if it is the warmer time of the year.

Get the pairs kicked together the best you can and then send your dogs around behind the pairs and have them hold them up. At first the cows are going to fight the dogs bad. That is why you need a set of dogs. One dog wonít stand a chance no matter how tough he is. Let the dogs work, stay way back from the cows on your side and give them plenty of room. This is slow going so give them a lot of time. After a while the cows will start to move toward you so keep moving back and giving plenty of room to them. If your dogs are working correctly you wonít see much of them because they are on the other side of the herd. After a while when the cows start to move toward you try downing the dogs and see if the cows will leave the dogs alone. If not let the dogs work on them.

The first chance you get when the cows are showing the dogs some respect stop the dogs and let them rest. If you can, and it is handy, take your dogs to water, do not let your dogs quit and go to water on there own.

If the cows are not trying to get away at this point, stop and rest your dogs until they are not breathing hard and are not hot. This is hard, hazardous work for the dogs so help them all you can.

After a while do it all over again. It should get better. If you have the time and stay with this, in a few days you can use less dogs and send them and they will retrieve the pairs behind you very nicely.

If you donít have them to this point it is usually easier to drive them. To drive pairs ride toward the cows with your dog or dogs with you. Walk the dogs toward the cows. If the pairs move away stop your dog or dogs and let the pairs move along. If any of the cows come toward the dogs wanting to fight sic the dogs on the cows and let them fight. Just as soon as the cows turn away, and they will if you have strong enough dogs, drop the dogs down instantly. Let the cows move away. If the dogs stay after the cows they will turn around and fight again so it is very important to stop the dogs when the cows turn away. Then if the pairs are moving away from your dogs keep the dogs off the cattle and give them plenty of room. If your dogs are too close the cows will feel that their babies are being threatened. If one or more cows come back wanting to fight the dogs again, sic the dogs on them and let them have at them again but just as soon as the cows turn away from the dogs down the dogs instantly and let the cows return to the herd. After a few times of this the cows will fight less and less but it is very important to keep the dogs off the cattle. There will usually be two or three cows that donít want to give up and will keep coming back fighting but they will in time.

If the lead end tries to run off tell the dogs to get ahead and stop them then call the dogs back to you and continue on.

If the herd tries to turn the wrong direction send the dogs Ďcome byí which is clock wise or to the left if you are driving or send them Ďaway to meí which is counter clock wise or to the right. Just as soon as the herd starts to straighten out, stop the dogs and let the herd continue on. Donít let your dogs go so far that they stop and turn back the herd. Just try to keep the herd moving and flowing the direction you want to go.

As I said before, your dogs must mind you, if they donít you wonít have much success.

Another thing to keep in mind as with all dog work it should be a team effort, at times if I can ride in and help my dogs and not get in their way I will do it.

When done right cows with calves can be penned very effectively, even the old spoiled cows that usually get away.

As with all aspects of handling cattle in a low stress manner the more you work with and train your cattle the easier they will be to handle. It should be a very simple thing to go gather your cattle, regardless of what type they are any time you want without any problems.

Good luck, Charlie Trayer

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