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Happy Birthday Puppy Taz!

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 as I wrote in the last update, 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 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?


  1. We have just taken on a retired working dog, she is 8 years old, she worked as an assistant dog and came from Dogs for the disabled, she is a very loving dog a pet and worker very eager to please, they told us to keep treats in our pockets whick are part of her food and taken from her daily allowance, she gets rewarded every time she responds to a command, we have a list of her basic commands, but she is keen to please and is learn new commands, I do think it is possible to have a pet that works, they only want to please you as you are the pack leader.
    Loved reading about Taz she seems a smashing dog.

    1. That sounds lovely Dawn, so nice of you to adopt an older dog :)

  2. I haven't had much experience with cattle dogs, but a relative of mine was a security guard at one stage, and learned to professionally train his security dog. As far as I understand, the playing is completely okay, in fact its normal in a dog pack, to play. Its a bonding experience and an exercise of trust.

    The security training however, was a separate thing and there were certain things not to be duplicated, ie: play. You don't want to confuse a security dog to think a person's leg is the same thing as a piece of rope. So different words and body language were used. Just as Taz has come to associate your words and gestures as commands for "play", you need to develop a new repertoire for livestock.

    The trainer you were exposed to, had learned outcomes a particular way. But it can also create mistrust and an aggressive dog. This relative took his security dog home to share the yard with his human family, so he wasn't going to beat it senseless, as some trainers had recommended he do. They came across a good trainer who actually had to deprogram "dangerous" security dogs. These were the dogs beaten into submission. A dog treated this way, only has two reactions. Give in or fight back. They may give in 99.9% of the time, but it only has to be that 0.01% they turn. Why spend so much time training a dog, only to have to put them down?

    Taz trusts you, that's the first step. The second is to get her accustomed to you issuing herding instructions. Dogs actually want to obey. It's in their nature to follow the lead of the alpha, because they're a pack animal. We only did basic level training with our dog, and she was extremely dependable, once we took the time to repeat the same instructions and issue praise after they were followed. It shows in their eyes, ear position and posture, when they've heard your instructions and waiting for the next.

    The trick is patience and routine. Taz has gotten used to the times she has to go into her pen, and the commands for play, because they are routine. So decide on words you want to issue, for her to follow your lead for livestock, and practice these commands EVERY day. Did you hear any specific words at the recent training day? Perhaps use some of those.

    Food is always the reward of choice too. Get them to follow a basic instruction and then reward them. Also, I hear it helps not to look them in the eye, but to use your body language to communicate. When you don't look them in the eye, they are not acknowledged and they will attempt to do things which will capture your attention. The trick is to only acknowledge them, when they follow the instructions you issue.

    I learned a lot from my dog training relative. They taught me we cannot train dogs by treating them like humans. We have to learn to speak "dog". That means pack mentality. It was from this relative I learned to get my dog to sit as I placed down their bowl of food, then issue a command before they could eat. It established my position as alpha, and actually gave our dog security, because I mimicked a routine they would naturally follow in nature. The alpha controls the food and the alpha tells you when its okay to eat. Had I not done that, our dogs position in the pack, could have been viewed as one of equal rivalry.

    A dog which growls around its food whenever someone approaches, is claiming to be alpha. Now when you're the one issuing the food, that should never be the case. To a human, it may seem "controlling" to issue commands before a dog can eat, but to a dog pack, its their natural hierarchy. When you learn to speak dog in your body language, and select instructions, then obedience is ensured. No aggressiveness necessary.

    By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TAZ!!

    1. Great advice Chris, lots to think about, thanks!

  3. I too have a dog which could probably be trained as a working dog as she is a working breed and certainly shows those tendencies. We have also taught her not to chase the chickens and geese which if you think about it shows how smart they are and willing to please because her natural programming is to chase. I would much rather have a pet I can trust and love than a well trained cattle dog. It would be nice to have a cattle dog on occassions but as this is a small farm we found it easier to train the cattle. They come when they are called and follow a bucket. It makes life easier.

    1. That is a very good point, I guess it depends if you can keep a stable herd of cattle, or buying and selling frequently. Our house cattle are very tame, and that its definitely easier!

  4. Happy Birthday Taz. I am not sure you have done anything wrong at all. Taz is a smart dog and I am sure she can learn when is play time and when is working time. Maybe this man is not the right trainer for you or maybe you need to give it more time. Would love to take Jessie to something like that but I think we would be better focusing on her training at home.

    1. Thanks Fee, I think we need to think about everything we have read and seen and learnt and put it all together with Taz.

  5. How awesome Taz is no longer chasing the chickens! You are a great trainer already!

    1. Thanks! Yeah I was really impressed with her, she had never really chased them, she grew up with them running around the yard, she mainly just chews her bed and steals gloves :)


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