Man’s best friend, and how that is so true when you find the right dog for you. I first saw an Australian Cattle Dog when I was about 12 watching the movie Mad Max Road Warrior, I’m not big on TV but that movie is a classic and makes you think where the world is heading, the plot of the movie is people are killing each other over fuel and water. In the iconic seen Max played by Mel Gibson is a decoy driving an old “Cab over” tractor trailer across the desert to distract the evil enemies while his friends get away, Max is down on ammo and has been down on luck since the movie began but he looks over to his shot gun rider and sees is ever loyal buddy; an Australian Cattle Dog.
The importance of a dog on a farm is endless and I’m going to skip the sentimental stuff on this post. I will come back to that some other day.
Here on the Four Corners Farm we have an Australian Cattle Dog named Rodney. He is a total clown and can most always be found chasing a cat or chewing on giant stick that fell from a sugar maple tree but he is priceless as a farm asset.
If you have a farm you will contend with animals, wild ones that do not care that you are trying to help the land. At the end of the day deer need to eat and your beat greens look pretty tasty, coyotes and foxes need to feed their pups and your ducks are easier to catch than a roughed grouse or grey squirrel.
A common trait amount cattle dogs is their alertness, Rodney likes to just sit and watch the field, when he was younger I had no idea what he was doing but as he grew to full size and mental maturity it is evident his desire to protect the farm is strong. He first proved his metal after a thunder storm this past July, it was extremely humid and I had just gone in the hose to eat dinner with a friend that had stopped by the farm after work, suddenly he started yelling, “fox, Fox and Rodney is right on him” I thought that he meant Rodney was close to him and didn’t den realize but as I got to the window I realized Rodney was on the chase, he had transformed into something I never thought he had in him, in the blink of an eye he had chased the fox out of the field, and he was not trying to chase him down to play, when I called Rodney back in my faithful little warrior immediately spun around and came home. When he got back to the house his adrenalin was through the roof and paced around like a boxer into he ring and a proud look in his eye. Similar situations occurred over and over this past summer, some times Rodney would charge out at an entire pack of coyotes, this made me nervous and I would often be following behind in the dark sparsely dressed with a a rifle and a flashlight calling for my brave buddy to come back in he always did.
How to train:
As a pup Rodney wanted to chase everything, can’t blame him its in his blood. He was shockingly easy to train on what was ok to chase and what was meant to be protected, it just takes time. I simply did not allow him to chase chickens (pigs he still is not sure what to do with, but from my reading most dogs don’t know what to do with a 250 pound animal that is as clever as a cat). Any time he chased the chickens I was always near by to immediately scowled him with a sharp “no”. The key to this was to be around him when he was around the chickens, and start the dog young. Rodney was less than six months when he was around chickens for the first time so most of his life he has understood that chickens were not chew toys. When your dog barks don’t instantly correct him, its their job! Dogs have been used as an early warning since ancient times and a quick bark at a strange noise is ok. Praise your dog when with a dog bone, a belly rub or what ever your dog likes after they bark at take chase (and come back when called) after a predator. I do not let Rodney chase deer, ever. Deer do come into the garden and a quick bark is enough for them to disappear in the night so why have your dog stress out an animal for no reason.
What ever bread you pick do your home work and be prepared to give your dog more time then you give your self and they will give back to you every thing their giant hearts have.