A Good Working Cow Dog Can Take the place of a Cowboy

BY Jody Dahl | Mon 31 Jan, 2011

A herding dog, also known as a stock dog or working dog, is a type of pastoral dog that either has been trained in herding or belongs to breeds developed for herding. Their ability to be trained to act on the sound of a whistle or word of command is renowned throughout the world.

Their enthusiasm and personality shines each time they're "on an animal"! And, it's beyond enjoyable to be apart of.

Tucker, a working cow dog at Runamuk Ranch, stares down a yearling before he pushes it back to the herd. He's famous for his "bring it on" stare down!

working cow dog

Tucker, tormented by OCD, even chases cattle in his sleep. When he's not working, he dreams of gathering cattle and moving them to new pastures.


cow dog with herd

Lim steps in to help Tucker get this yearling back with the herd.


cow dog with cows

"Come on, Lim, let's get this job done."


cow dog walking

Back in with the herd and moving nicely along now! She doesn't try him out again this day; she moves nicely and stays with the herd.


cow dog sleeping

Ah, finally, back to the barn. A little time for R&R...

A little piece of Cow Dog Education!

All herding behavior is modified predatory behavior. Through selective breeding, man has been able to minimize the dog's natural inclination to treat cattle and sheep as prey while simultaneously maintaining the dog's hunting skills, thereby creating an effective herding dog.

Dogs can work other animals in a variety of ways. Some breeds, such as the Australian Cattle Dog, typically nip at the heels of animals (for this reason they are called heelers) and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi were historically used in a similar fashion in the cattle droves that moved cattle from Wales to the Smithfield Market in London but are rarely used for herding today.

Other breeds, notably the Border Collie, get in front of the animals and use what is called strong eye to stare down the animals; they are known as headers. The headers or fetching dogs keep livestock in a group. They consistently go to the front or head of the animals to turn or stop the animal's movement. The heelers or driving dogs keep pushing the animals forward. Typically, they stay behind the herd. The Australian Kelpie and Australian Koolie use both these methods and also run along the backs of sheep so are said to head, heel, and back. Other types such as the Australian Shepherd, English Shepherd and Welsh Sheepdog are moderate to loose eyed, working more independently. The New Zealand Huntaway uses its loud, deep bark to muster mobs of sheep.

Make sure to check out Top50 Ranches working ranches! And ask all about whether or not they have working cow dogs. It will certainly be an added bonus to your authentic ranch vacation stay.

TAGS: herding dog

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