This Manner of Using Stock Dogs

This morning was calm and considerably warmer. I knew I had at least one round bale to spread by pitchfork this morning because the ewes had it partially eaten so it wasn’t going to unroll for me. Having a dog along to keep ewes off and give me some elbow room to work would help.

With our cold winters and knowing how long I may be outside for in the mornings, I don’t often take a stock dog along during the morning routine unless it’s a nice day or I know I could really use a dog. This morning it happened to be both and Cajun was my pick.

When we arrive I don’t release Cajun for a gather which is what he is anticipating. Instead I just tell him to “hold’em”. He sets himself nearby and watches. He’s free to move as he chooses.

Cajun watching while Lady checks him out
I never set out to teach him this, but just started using him this way, showing him what I wanted and helping him figure it out by moving sheep away myself. We also only do this type of job the odd time during winter feeding. He still caught on to the job pretty quick.

Cajun moves over to push a sneaky ewe away
I don’t need the dog to send the ewes to the next county, and I don’t need the dog to gather sheep and bring them to me. I just need the ewes kept away from the feed until I’m done forking it around. It takes me a while to fork out one round bale (1200 plus pounds of hay). What is marvellous about using Cajun for this job is that I don’t have to continually remind him what he’s doing or calling him back from attempting to gather. I can work without constantly checking where the dog is. He gets that the job is to simply be there and thus keep sheep away. Not all my dogs grasp the concept of jobs like this and I find it rather remarkable that Cajun does. He is an ultimate ranch dog in that way.

I wish I could brag us up and say this is the way it always is with my stock dogs, but you’d see right through that. It isn’t always like this, but the days that it’s a gong show make days like this all the more sweet.  I also wish I could give you a sense of the peaceful accomplishment of the morning. Some days, as much as anything else, it’s a dogs presence, his company as I feed sheep on a winter prairie hillside, that matter to me.  I know stock dog trials are all the rage these days but this manner of using a stock dog is IT to me.

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