By Lillian Bowe
PNT staff writer
Twister, a 1-year-old border collie, with the help of his owner, Kyle Dillard of Milnesand, herded six sheep into a pen at the Idsinga Pavilion on Wednesday at the New Mexico Ag Expo.
Dillard breeds, raises and trains border collies for herding cattle and other livestock. Dillard presented how he trains his dogs to herd cattle.
He presented many different dogs at different levels of training. Dillard’s first dog was a female that has not been trained fully. The dog, though not trained completely, would herd the sheep to him wherever he would go.
“She is an example of her breed having the instinct to herd the animals even before she has been completely trained,” Dillard said.
Dillard brought out Twister next, who was excited to herd the sheep and would sometimes go and bite the sheep without a command.
“It is really hard to get mad at him because he is just so excited to do his job, even if he is not following my commands,” Dillard said.
Dillard commands his dogs through verbal commands, whistles, hand motions and a sound of a whip. If the whip is cracked, dogs know to back up from the sheep.
Dillard also showed Bow, a 12- to 13-year-old red border collie who has herded cattle for all his life. Dillard stood on the opposite end of the arena telling Bow what to do while the dog guided the sheep through gates and then brought back the herd to Dillard.
One ranch owner asked how Dillard picks the puppies he is going to train.
“It is really hard to pick which dog from a litter will be a good stock dog. My daughter is better at picking than I am, so if she picks a puppy she likes I take her advice,” Dillard said with a laugh.
Dillard begins the dog’s training at a year old as they are more mature and will respond to commands better. He recommended training the dog in herding and driving cattle for 90 days.
“Every dog is different,” Dillard said. “Some you can train for two weeks and they act like you have trained them for three months. Then you have dogs you have trained for three months and they act like you have only trained them for two weeks.”
Dillard said working with dogs on cattle saves money and manpower as two to three dogs can herd cattle into where they need to go.
“You do not need to be hesitant or nervous about training your dog as even the little amount of training a dog has still can do a lot for you,” Dillard said.