Headin’ and Heelin’ in Sturgis | TSLN.com

Headin’ and Heelin’ in Sturgis

Hangin Tree cowdogs and their owners converged in Sturgis, South Dakota for the Hangin Tree Cowdog Association Annual Meeting on Sept. 5-6. Clinics, trials, socializing and permanent registration obtainment were among the activities enjoyed by canines and humans alike.

"The Hangin Tree breed was started by Gary Ericcson more than 30 years ago. His goal was to develop the ultimate cowdog breed that would be aggressive, courageous, intelligent and fairly easy to train. They also need to have solid structure and bone, must be short or slick haired to withstand and shed burrs and mud, plus be willing to work all kinds of livestock," began Hangin Tree Cowdog Association Inc. president Guy Maberry, of Montana, of the history of the breed.

The result of Ericcson's efforts was a four-wary cross consisting of three-eighths Border Collie, one-eighth Catahoula, one-quarter Kelpie and one-quarter Australian Shepherd.

"The Border Collie is for herding instinct and intelligence. The Catahoula adds a really slick hair coat and that hounddog type nose that helps find cattle in thick brush. The Kelpie's attributes include endurance, herding instinct and a short hair coat, and the Australian Shepherd adds agility, courage and more herding instinct to the mix, explained Maberry.

With more than 100 active association members in the United States and Canada, the association's annual meeting is held at a new location each year to make it easier for people in different parts of the country to attend.

"A strong percentage of the membership is from down south, but there are some of us up in the north country, and they wanted to have this year's meeting farther north. They asked me to put it on, and we picked Sturgis, which proved an excellent location," explained western South Dakota rancher and association member Bucky Deflinger of how the event came to his area of South Dakota.

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On Sept. 5, the meeting kicked off with an all-day clinic hosted by association Executive Director Charlie Trayer, who provided information on how he starts dogs in addition to hands-on training exercises using Derflinger's cattle.

"It takes more than just having a good dog – a guy needs to learn how to handle them too. Charlie does a really good job of putting necessary training techniques into laymen cowboy terms. People understand him, and he can also set up and show where to put your dog in a given situation to generate the most success. People brought roughly 30 dogs to that event, and quite a few more showed up just to watch, listen and learn that way," Derflinger noted.

South Dakota livestock owner Kyle Edoff brought his two Hangin Tree dogs specifically for the opportunity to work with Trayer during the clinic portion of the event.

"Charlie puts on clinics all over the country and is very well respected. This was the first time I heard of him coming this far north, and saw it as an opportunity to learn from him and find out if my training methods were on the right track," explained Edoff.

Edoff continued, stating he found the experience very informative and helpful to his future training efforts.

"I found out the strong and weak points of my dogs, and that as a whole I was on the right track with them, which was a big help. It was also educational to see how other people worked their dogs and how their methods compared to mine. I really liked that aspect as well," Edoff noted.

Saturday morning provided owners the opportunity to get their dogs permanently registered, a process unique to the Hangin Tree breed.

"We are the only breed that requires a demonstration to work and move cattle in order to be registered. A dog must show his or her ability to bite both heads and heels while working livestock, and that can be done live or through a video sent to the association. The association executive director, or a board member has to make the decision of whether a dog warrants permanent registration or not. Several people took advantage of the opportunity to do that live on the morning of September 6," Maberry explained.

He further noted that a dog's parents must also be registered for that individual to be considered for permanent registration. The reason for such strict guidelines is to increase the consistency and quality of the breed as livestock working dogs.

Two dog trials were also held on Sept. 6, one for those dogs under two years of age and a second for mature dogs, as well as the necessary meetings to discuss current business and future goals within the organization.

"We discussed updating our webpage, and putting pedigrees on the webpage to be made available for the public. The idea is that enables them to study pedigrees and better choose which Hangin Tree individual or line they would like to breed to, as well as providing more information on how the dogs work. Personally, I think that would be a great deal," Maberry stated.

He added that next year's event is tentatively scheduled to be held in Oklahoma or Texas, depending on the progress made to implement a futurity for 2015.

"I think this annual meeting is a huge asset to folks like me. We're busy most of the year and sometimes we get to thinking of totally different things. Right now I'm pretty pumped about my dogs again and the things I learned at the event," Derflinger commented on why attending the meeting and investing time in properly training dogs is valuable to him.

Edoff echoed his sentiments, stating the connections made and assistance from Trayer and others at the event have increased his confidence going forward with training his own dogs.

"The biggest thing I like about Hangin Tree dogs is they don't get tired. They can handle the heat better than anything I've had by a long ways. I have Border Collies too and will continue to have Border Collies because they're also great dogs, but they can't go as hard and as long as my Hangin Tree dogs. Plus, the Hangin Tree and Border Collie work a lot alike, which is something I appreciate about both of them," said Derflinger of what he appreciates most about the breed.

Maberry agreed that it isn't a dislike of other breeds that lead him to Hangin Tree dogs, but rather an appreciation for what they offer.

"I like them because I've found there is more consistency in the pups for the desire to work livestock. I really like their short hair and docked tails because they stay so clean, but they can still handle our cold Montana winters, and I like them for their toughness," he said.

Maberry added that he also loves his involvement with the breed for the opportunities it provides to meet and help people who want to use dogs on livestock, stating that is a universal theme within the association.

"This was my first time participating in something like this, and I'm just grateful for the chance to attend such an event so close to home. The biggest things I learned were to not get discouraged and have patience. Sometimes it takes a bit for it to work. Also, don't be afraid to go after someone to ask for advice when it comes to training your dog. I met a lot of guys I can go to with questions in the future," concluded Edoff of the biggest take home message he learned.

For more information on the Hangin Tree breed or future events, please contact Guy Maberry at 406-350-1167 or at mgmaberry@gmail.com F