Bring your wannabe cattledogs!

Heather Hamilton-Maude
for Tri-State Livestock News
“We’re prepared to work with dogs of all levels and expose them to new things, all with a strong emphasis on real-world ranch scenarios. That can include things like sorting cattle down an alley, or working them through gates – things that showcase the dogs use in an actual ranching situation.” – National Cattledog Association President Tim Gifford. Photo by Heather Hamilton-Maude

The National Cattledog Association (NCA) will host an open-invitation clinic and trial at the Conger/Petty Ranch near Buffalo Gap, S.D., on May 31 and June 1 starting at 8 a.m. each morning. The two-day benefit event is open to anyone and aimed at helping livestock producers improve their cattledog handling skills.

“The idea of this clinic is to show people how to use their dogs on their operations and what can actually be accomplished with a well-trained dog. This is geared toward the ranching community, and we invite everyone to attend and bring their dog along if they have one,” began NCA Vice President and event clinician Tim Gifford.

NCA President Juan Reyes will be the second clinician at the event, and stated he looks forward to both demonstrating what accomplished cattledogs can do for a producer as well as working one-on-one with attendees.

“What we try to do at clinics is demonstrate to ranchers, farmers and stockmen the values of a cattledog, which are Border Collies in my case, and what those dogs can actually do and accomplish for that person. Labor is not getting easier to find, and one good cowboy with a good horse and dog can get a lot of work done,” noted Reyes.

Demonstrations typically include using 1-3 broke, cattledog trial champion dogs to work cattle through a portable corral setup, as well as showcasing the basic skills that comprise the foundation of a solid working dog.

“We typically follow the demonstration with helping those people with puppies or very young dogs though some obedience training. The two biggest aspects of that are teaching them to lie down and ‘that’ll do,’ which means ‘stop and come here,’” explained Reyes.

Following puppies, the next aspect is typically taking dogs with little to no training and working with them to balance, which means getting them to put the livestock between themselves and their handler. From that point on, the clinicians will work with attendees in whatever ways they wish, providing ample one-on-one assistance with owners and dogs of any experience level.

“We’re prepared to work with dogs of all levels and expose them to new things, all with a strong emphasis on real-world ranch scenarios. That can include things like sorting cattle down an alley, or working them through gates – things that showcase the dogs use in an actual ranching situation,” noted Gifford.

Day two of the event will be the Conger/Petty Ranch Cattledog Trial. Clinic participants are welcome and encouraged to participate at whatever level they are comfortable with. Beginner clinic participants will be allowed to compete in the Novice class, either on their own or with a “coach’s” assistance. Coached participants will not be eligible for prize money, but will also not be required to pay an entry fee.

“There is a fee for everyone who attends the clinic of $100 for participants wanting individual instruction with their dogs, and $25 for spectators. All proceeds go toward the NCA, and those paying the $100 will also receive a one-year NCA membership,” explained Gifford.

The NCA is a relatively young organization at only two years old, and the first working dog association strictly dedicated to working cattle dogs. Their mission is to encourage and promote the efficient, low stress and humane handling of cattle by promoting the use and demonstrating the value of well trained cattledogs.

“We currently have about 250 members across the United States, and host a series of trials each year. Participants earn points based on how they place at each trial, and those points go toward qualifying for the NCA National Finals, which will be held in Steamboat Springs June 18-22,” noted Gifford.

Each trial includes a variety of classes, and winners at the National Finals earn cash prizes. In addition to the more traditional classes where the handler is on foot, this year’s National Finals will also host classes with the handler horseback in an effort to continue encouraging real world simulation of dog use as much as possible.

“An NCA membership also includes receiving our newsletter with information on upcoming events and articles specific working cattle with dogs. Another big aspects is that it opens the door to numerous human resources who can help folks with their training questions and concerns,” noted Reyes.

For those wondering what can be done ahead of time to prepare a dog for a clinic, trial or ranchwork, Gifford said the key is starting with the right individual and not “turning him off.”

“If you’re looking for a dog, go watch the parents work and do a little research to make sure you purchase one that comes from good working lines. Then, secondly, lots of people will turn a dog off through discouraging them when they’re young. The worst thing you can do is mismanage that puppy through letting him go then discouraging him for wanting to work something. You can take the desire to work right out of them doing that,” noted Gifford.

Once a person has the right dog started, the work isn’t over. Getting a dog trained to the point he is an invaluable asset takes time and patience. The NCA’s goal is be a source of knowledge, assistance and opportunity to people throughout that lifelong training process.

“I feel like we so often only use 10 percent of a dog’s brain. What we try to do at our clinics and trials is get folks to understand and work with their dogs in a way that uses so much more of their brainpower in a way that benefits both dog and handler,” concluded Reyes of what clinic attendees can expect from their involvement.

Please visit or call Tim Gifford at 308-331-1568 for more information.