Rudy Starke showcases his stock dog training abilities during the 2012 Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic
It has taken awhile for Rudy Starke to train most of the litter of Border Collie puppies from his prize-winning stock dogs, but the results of the time he has put in doing something he loves has paid off big for the Alliance, NE, trainer. Starke showed three of the four dogs in the 2012 Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic Working Dog Show. When the trials were complete, judges Curtis Dukes of Lenox, IA, and John Hollman of Clay Center, NE, named Tyke as the Supreme Working Dog. He later sold during the Classic Stock Dog Sale to Andy Albrecht of Thurston, NE, for $1,900.
Starke was very pleased with how his three dogs performed at the Classic. Black came in second, and Fats was fourth. Fats was also the high selling dog in the sale bringing $2,100. He sold to William Stone of North Platte, NE.
“I took three dogs to Cattlemen’s Classic this year, and they were all out of the same litter, but Tyke came out on top that day,” Starke said. “It was special to me because I lost their sire about a year ago. I liked him a lot because he never backed down from anything.”
Starke first started training dogs about eight or nine years ago, although he dreamed about it much longer.
“I’ve always admired stock dog trainers,” he said. “I’ve seen them at trials, and enjoyed watching what they do. When I retired and bought this place, I told my wife when I bought some cattle, I wanted to buy a dog. So I bought a dog and a book to learn how to train him. Three of the dogs I have trained since then are in the top 15 in the nation in the Border Collie Handlers Association. All of them are full brothers to Tyke. They are dogs I’ve trained and sold to other people,” he added.
When Starke started training Border Collies, he attended a Jack Knox clinic, but mostly learned from a book and different people. “Pete Carmichael passed away last fall, and I learned a lot from him,” Starke said. “He was my mentor. I bought Tyke’s mom from him, and she was one of the first dogs I ever trained,” he said.
Border Collies can be easy to train if they have the natural instinct to become a stock dog. Starke encourages people to look for a puppy that will go to stock and want to work with them. “The problem is, you usually can’t tell if they want to work stock until they are seven to eight months old,” he explained. “The more you train dogs, the easier it gets,” he said. “Training dogs is something I really enjoy – I just wish I had started a little younger. It is very rewarding to train a dog, have it do good at a trial, and then sell it to someone and have it do well for them,” Starke said.
A Border Collie can be trained in two-three months, but the learning process will continue until they are at least four-years-old. “The longer you train them, the better they will get. The three dogs I took to Kearney, NE, are only two-years-old, and at that age they are still a lot of puppy. They are too fast, and just need more experience to learn how to slow down,” he said.
Starke said he likes to wait until the puppies are at least eight to nine months old before he starts them. “If they are too young, there is too much pressure, and it may scare the dog off before its ready. When I start a dog, I like to spend about 10 minutes each day with it, and build up from there,” he explained. “I start most of the pups on sheep. It is easier for the puppies to learn the commands, and I can protect them until they are big enough to move to cattle,” he added.
When one of the dogs he has trained goes to a new home, Starke said he encourages the new owner to keep it away from stock for at least a week. “I encourage them to just spend time with the dog making friends with it,” he said. “Then, I recommend they work stock in a smaller area until they get used to one another. I give them a list of commands I use, and encourage them to keep an even temper, and have lots of patience. Once the dog is friends with you, it will work a lot better,” he explained. “But, until the dog gets acquainted with you, they may not understand what you want them to do. The commands are the same, but the tone of voice will be different. So, they may not understand what you want. Sometimes, I use a whistle because it keeps tone more consistent. Especially at trials, because then my nerves don’t show,” he said.