The first months of growing up to be a
Hangin' Tree Cowdog.
Very often I get asked what should be done in the months that a Hangin' Tree Cowdog pup is growing up before it is old enough to start on cattle.
To me what always comes to mind is the fact that is accepted all over the world that one people year is equal to seven dog years. With this in mind how many people expect a seven year old kid to do adult work.
This has been a problem for me for a lot of years. Someone will buy a pup and get it started working at a young age, 5 or 6 months, and have the pup doing great. The new owner gets so caught up on this that before long he is asking too much from the pup. Then he calls me and says he does not know what has happened to the pup but it doesn't want to work like it did. What has happened is he has overdone the pup to the point it is not fun for it anymore. It is like taking a young boy out to work hard, the first day it may be fun for him but it doesn't take long it is not fun anymore.
Probably the most important thing to me is to just let them be pups. I think it is a big mistake to do too much training too soon.
I like to spend as much time as possible with young Hangin Tree Cowdog pups socializing them. From weaning age I like to take them for walks and start teaching them basic manners. At this age I won't be too critical towards them but in time I will.
At all of these tasks you teach, you cannot over do the praise.
- They need to learn to not jump on you, use a rolled up newspaper and tap them on the head while doing this, at the same time give the command 'no' in a gruff tone, then give them praise when they stay off. Do not say 'down' or 'get down' because this is a different command you will teach later on.
- I also like to do this when I let them out of their kennel, I give the command 'there' then open the gate and make them wait while tapping them with the rolled up newspaper. After a short time tell them 'that'll do' and let them out.
- At this time I start teaching them to come when called. Some pups do this naturally and some don't. If one doesn't I let it drag a cord while playing and when it is distracted get a hold of the cord and call it to me. I use the commands 'come' and 'here', alternating them. Both commands at this time mean the same thing but in time I will use them differently. Also I will pat my leg, this is a visual cue and will help. If the pup does not come I will give it a tug and call it again. Do not drag the pup in. Give it small tugs and give the pup a lot of praise when it comes.
Keep in mind from now on anytime you give a command be in a position to enforce it. For instance if you call your pup and he does not respond, do not keep calling him. If you keep calling him and he does not respond all you will be teaching him is he does not have to obey. Wait tell you get a chance to catch him, then put a long cord on him so you can enforce your command.
You can also teach your pup down if you want but don't over do trying to teach too much too soon.
Keep training sessions short, keep it fun for the pup.
I also discourage excessive barking in the kennel. I dislike dogs barking excessively for no reason.
I usually keep a few head of goats around and like to introduce the pups to them at about 10 or 11 weeks of age. A couple of times a week I let them chase them around the pen for a very short time, remember, keep it short and keep it fun for the pups. All I try to teach at this time is to stay back and work around them. I feel this is very good for the pups and gets them interested in working stock at an age when it is not safe to start them on cattle.
I was told a short time ago that an individual was saying that it was starting 6 to 8 week old pups on cows with calves on them. If this is true, and I doubt if it is, this would be a very stupid thing to do.
Through the years another problem I have had with selling pups, and one of the most foolish things I have seen, is someone will get a pup started and doing well on calves then go and try to whip their old spoiled cows. All they end up doing is getting their pup whipped. When this happens, it can ruin a young dogs confidence for life. Don't be foolish enough to let this happen to your good pup.
Good luck with your pup and spend as much time as you can with it.
If you have any questions regarding the Hangin' Tree Cowdog, or training, breeding, raising, or using cowdogs in a working enviroment, email to trayer[at]windstream.net