Cattle dog training day with Taz

by Liz Beavis

We are not exactly sure when Taz was born, but when we bought her in the first weekend of January 2014, she was 11 weeks old, so counting backwards, that puts her birthday in the second week of October, which means Taz is now one year old, give or take a few days. Happy Birthday Taz!


Taz meets Cheryl

Taz is still a collector

Taz was my first ever puppy and I was really dreading having a puppy. I don’t know if its good luck or good parenting, but Taz’ puppy months have passed quickly and she’s calmed down and stopped chewing things (although she does still collect gloves).
When we bought Taz, shortly after Chime died, we had been debating whether to buy a trained working dog. Trained working dogs are very expensive and we don’t have a lot of work for a dog, just the occasional day when it would be nice to have a good dog around. We have friends who got a dog from the pound that turned out to be a good working dog, so it is possible to get a free or cheap dog that has some ability. We decided to take the risk on a cheap dog and if she wasn’t able to work, she would just be a pet. Taz was $100 from the local market. We were told that both her parents were working dogs, so we thought we had a good chance that she might work for us one day.
Taz and Cheryl playing nicely

Over the next few months Pete and I read books and watched DVDs and generally tried to educate ourselves about how to train a working dog. It seemed that we should teach her basic obedience, bond with her, keep her confined during the day so that she didn’t get up to mischief (and to give Cheryl a break), and start her working cattle when she seemed ready. From early on Taz has showed an interest in herding things, particularly cattle, but also the neighbours’ dogs and our chickens. We have been successful in teaching her not to chase the chickens, but she still herds them into groups at times. 
Sometimes Taz is in such a hurry she forgets to swallow when she drinks
So when we recently took Taz to a cattle dog training day, we did have reason to believe that she would do ok. Maybe it was the fact that she hadn’t seen sheep before, maybe it was all the other dogs there that she wanted to play with, but Taz refused to herd anything all day! We were a bit disappointed, particularly when the trainer told us that we had made her too much of a pet. He said that working dogs had to live outside, and they don’t have coats or blankets, and that we should never have played “ball” with her and teaching her not to chase the chickens was terrible. He said we “took the dog out of the dog”. He did try to be nice about it, but we felt a bit stupid. He also said we should buy one of his $1500 kelpies and treat it mean, so it would always work for us. 
Taz loves to play fetch with toys, sticks, balls, anything!
Also helps to collect larger sticks

I just couldn’t see how we could keep a dog like that. And I couldn’t see how we could have a dog in the house (Cheryl) and make another dog stay outside. At one stage, later in the afternoon, after Taz had tried to climb out of the sheep pen when she was supposed to be chasing them, I crouched down to pat her head and she climbed up into my lap for a cuddle. I was just pleased that she is a loving and obedient pet, even if she doesn’t want to work cattle. (And I should mention that there were also cattle at the training day, which Taz ignored, so it wasn’t just the sheep!).

Taz has a bed next to Pete, and wears a coat when its cold

The next day when we were out in the paddock Taz rounded up our three small cattle into a group, circled them a few times and then went off to find a stick to play with. As if to say, “see, I can work cattle if I feel like it, but I didn’t want to do it in front of that mean trainer”. So at one year old, we don’t know what Taz’ future holds. Maybe she is just a pet now, or maybe she will be a working cattle dog, but I do hope she will always be a cuddle dog.
Taz prefers to ride in the front of the ute (pickup)
But she can jump on the back if she has to
You did expect a post full of Taz photos, didn't you?  Any dog-training tips?  Anyone ever trained a working dog?  Or bought one?  Did we make Taz too much of a pet?

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