Driving Cattle and Poodles

Yesterday Bandit and I got to work cattle for the second time. We found a beef cattle farm within 15 minutes of our house. Gene has Aussies (Australian Shepherds) and runs ranch trials occasionally. He was recommended to me by some Aussie people. We started out by sorting out cattle from the herd so that we could work with smaller groups in small pens. I helped with Bandit on leash while Gene and his dog Joe did the sorting. First we worked with Bandit on leash in a small paddock area with 3 cattle. We worked him on moving the cattle in a circle, both clockwise (“Go by” the way of the clock) and counterclockwise (“Away” to me). I’m fairly new to cattle and need to learn how to read them better. Bandit was born with the instinct to work cattle and it was really fun to watch him work. In this small space, he had to nip at their heels sometimes to keep them moving, but we had to be very careful not to get too close. If a cow were to kick, there wasn’t much room to get out of the way. Gene almost got kicked once and it was a close call. The cows are big and can kick very quickly. I had to be careful not to get Bandit in trouble since I had a leash on him. I needed to make sure he had an escape route if needed. Mostly it went very well. Bandit wasn’t afraid to get them moving, but wasn’t being a yahoo and aggravating them either. I was very impressed with him—all the behavior that is overkill when working sheep is needed for what this cattle dog was bred to do. I kind of understood that before, but now seeing him in action with the cattle, I was in awe of him! I understand better how frustrated he might get trying to work sheep!

After working in the small area for a while, we moved to a larger paddock with 3 different cattle and again worked on flanks (“Go bys” and “Aways”). Now I had a longer lead on Bandit and was giving him more freedom in the larger area. He was working well, taking his flanks and moving the cattle without pushing on them too hard. Gene got a phone call and had to leave the paddock for a few minutes. We were able to carry on well without him. Bandit was able to keep the cattle out of the corners and moving along. Next, with the help of Joe and Gene, we gathered the two groups of 3 cattle and put them back with the herd, about 40-50 total. Then we took the herd out to a huge pasture. Bandit was still on leash with me and Gene showed us how to wear back and forth behind the herd, keeping them all moving forward, and giving Bandit a signal to change direction when needed. It was easier to work with the larger herd in the more open space. I always knew that Bandit prefers plenty of space and this helped me understand why. Next Gene decided that it was time to take the lead off, so he let Bandit run free. Bandit did a nice job of continuing to move the cattle. He was kind of worn out by then (probably part of Gene’s plan), and mostly walked with us, but continued to wear from side to side behind the herd. At one point he veered off to the right to push a cow back toward the herd. What he didn’t notice was another cow coming up fast behind him. Suddenly, he looked back and saw it and tucked his tail and skedaddled out of there. I’m glad he had the good sense to get out of the way. I called him to me (had to call three times before he stopped being distracted). He came to me after what seemed liked a while, but was only a short time. It was a lot of fun to work the herd out in the wide open pasture like that. This is what the boy was really bred to do and it was awesome to see him work. All the time we’ve put in working on sheep is paying off. Bandit knows and takes his flanks and has a pretty good stop on him now. This will help a lot as we practice herding cattle. 

Gene is a great teacher. I think he was trying all those things with us to see what Bandit can do and what level he is at. It was fun to work cattle in the different situations. We’re going back next Saturday! 

This evening I drove two small 8 year old poodles from Eau Claire, WI to Woodbury, MN. They were running out of time when they were rescued from death row at an animal control in Indiana and were coming to Homeward Bound Rescue in Minnesota. Deb O in IL, who I’m connected to from my 2006 Noah’s Wish Training, sent me the initial info about them. I forwarded it to Katie of Homeward Bound and she agreed to take them into foster homes. They came from an alcoholic owner and had been neglected. I don’t know if they were taken from him or surrendered by him, but he wasn’t able to take good care of them any more. They both need a bath and some good grooming, and one of them seemed very underweight. Poor little guys! 

I’m usually mainly involved with Australian Cattle Dog and ACD-X rescue, but Homeward Bound is maxed out on that kind of dog for now. Funny thing, I had checked on the HB website recently to find out if they had any poodles for adoption because a friend of mine at work was thinking about adopting one. They didn’t have any poodles on their site, but shortly after I received this message from Deb, and Katie of HB agreed to take these guys in. Larry drove them all the way up from the Chicago area, I picked them up in Eau Claire, WI and Chris took them from me in Woodbury, MN and transported them on to HB. I hope they’re moving on to a better life where they will be loved and well cared for.

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