National Cattledog Finals: Tim Gifford & Juan Reyes prepare through everyday ranch work
The 2011 National Cattledog Finals will be held May 26-29, in Redding, IA, showcasing the top 50 Border Collie dogs from the U.S. and Canada. Among the competitors are Tim Gifford of Harrisburg, NE, and Juan Reyes of Wheatland, WY, who have both experienced past success at the National Finals, and who both use their dogs daily on their livestock operations.
“My dogs are ranch dogs first, and competing in Cattledog Trials with them has expanded what I can accomplish at home,” said Gifford, who has three dogs qualified for this year’s Finals, and who exhibited the 2009 Reserve National Champion dog.
“I’ve had people tell me they don’t want a trial dog, and I don’t want just a trial dog either. But, when I am able to do the things asked of a dog in a trial, and put those dogs where I need them to be in a competition, things at home become very easy.
“Nine years ago the best dog I ever saw was one that stayed on the porch and didn’t get in the road, because he wasn’t causing me extra work. Today I’ve eliminated a hired man with my dogs, and they have become a part of my operation I couldn’t function without,” explained Gifford of why he feels learning to work with dogs is an invaluable experience.
Last year’s National Open Class Champion and National Nursery Class Reserve Champion dogs were both handled by Juan Reyes. Reyes raises and uses his dogs on his ranching and farming operation, and attested his dogs are work dogs first, trial dogs second.
“I don’t train my dogs for trials, I work them. I am blessed that I have a lot of work for them here. We use them on pairs, yearlings and in the feedlot, in everything from big, open country to A-pens. In the fall we pull sick cattle, and they’ll sort those cattle and take them to the chute – it’s just amazing the things they will do. Things that used to be quite a challenge on my operation are now pretty easy tasks because of my dogs,” noted Reyes.
Both Gifford and Reyes were heavily-involved in starting a Wyoming Cattledog series approximately a decade ago, and both have been competing at the national level for at least five years. They agree that Cattledog Trials are continually evolving, and striving to become more practical in nature.
“We are moving in the direction we’ve always wanted to go, and as we make this progress we are doing it primarily for the rancher, so he can see the value in these dogs and what they can do for him at home,” explained Reyes. “There are more obstacles in the course today, and people will see more pen work, trailering and sorting this year also.”
“I think we grow every year. The first National Cattledog Finals were held in 2001, and we’ve evolved a little every year, and asked a little more of the dogs every year. This year a segment of the National Finals will be televised on RFD-TV in September, which is also new,” added Gifford.
To be eligible for the National Finals, handlers must accumulate points at U.S. Border Collie Handler’s Association (USBCHA) sanctioned trials throughout the year. Gifford commented that his dog, “Tip,” is going into the Finals ranked second in the nation.
“Juan beat me out in points with his dog ‘Zak’ at our last trial,” he commented with a chuckle.
“Zak was the youngest dog to ever win the Open National Finals Championship last year, and he will be competing in both the Nursery and Open divisions again this year,” explained Reyes of what he says is a fun dog to work with.
Zak’s half-brother, “Mac,” will also be competing in the Nursery Division, and both dog’s father, “Red,” is qualified in the Open Division again this year.
“It will be a busy three days,” said Reyes with a smile as he thinks of his 2011 National Finals bid.
“The only limitation these dogs have are us. They can do remarkable things, and we just have to be smart enough to teach them. They can be a lot of help on a ranch or a farm. They’re very intelligent and they adapt to whatever kind of work you want to do with them, and these trials help showcase some of their abilities,” he added.
“In my mind, these trials are the best kept secret in the world,” said Gifford. “My biggest thing is to encourage people to go and look at the dogs, and see what they can really do. I learn a lot every time I go to a trial, and it raises the bar for me and my dogs each time we compete.”
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