Working Stock Dogs
By: Rebecca Christman
Growing up on a farm meant that we always had a lot of animals around. If you visited our house today you would find cattle, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, cats, and dogs. Out of all these animals, one of my favorites would have to be the dogs. My dad raises purebred Border Collies, and this meant that at least once a year we would have cute fluffy puppies around to play with.
These dogs weren’t just our pets. They played an important part on our farm and like everything else they had a job to do. Border Collies have a natural herding instinct and when they are properly trained, they can be a huge help around the farm. Instead of needing two or three people to move a cow or corral a steer that snuck out of his pen, my dad can enlist the help of a couple dogs and the job is done in no time.
Last weekend my dad held a dog trial in our hometown of Platte. People came from across South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and even Canada to compete to see who had the best working stock dog. Handlers and their dogs worked sheep and cattle through a course in an arena. It was almost like an obstacle course, the dogs had to work the livestock in pre-determined pattern through sets of gates and pens.
Most of the participants are farmers and ranchers. They keep their dog by their side while working every day. All of the dogs are excellent herders, but at the end of the day a winner was chosen. A lot of times it’s luck that picks the winner. Sometimes a handler will get a group of livestock that only want to fight with the dog or go back to their home pen. Win or lose, it’s the love of livestock and working stock dogs that drives people to travel hundreds of miles for these competitions.
Listen to this week's radio segment here FARMERS_DAUGHTER-DEC_8TH.mp3
A diagram of the trial. The obstacles are set up to simulate situations that could happen when working livestock on a farm.