How to stop a dog attacking cattle.
QUESTION: My dog works cattle quite well, but dives in and grips their legs for no apparent reason. How can I calm him down and stop him attacking and gripping cattle when they’re moving OK?
ANSWER: The first thing is to try giving just enough well-timed correction so that the dog doesn’t go in too hard – and try to avoid rapidly repeated, and high-pitched commands. They excite the dog still further.
Watch the dog closely. You will know the situations when he’s most likely to grip, and you should also have noticed how his body language changes a moment before he launches his attack on the cattle.
These are your signals to (a) be ready to correct him, and (b) give a SINGLE sharp correction JUST BEFORE he bites the cattle. (If you possibly can). With practice you should be able to tell the precise moment when your command is most effective.
Praise the dog, as well as correcting it
Don’t forget to praise the dog when he’s behaving well though. Praise him in a soft, happy voice, but be prepared for him to take it as a signal to dive-in again. Dogs which are overly aggressive with cattle or sheep tend to have a very light “trigger” when it comes to gripping. Stop him doing that, and continue to praise him whenever he’s working properly and not attacking the cattle. Dogs love being praised, so it’s a useful training aid.
It’s all about CALM – and it begins with the handler.
Avoid sounding excited or angry – an excited handler excites the dog. A dog attacking cattle for no apparent reason is nervous. You need to relax him, so don’t overdo the correction. Try to be calm at all times – or at least give the dog the impression that you’re calm, even when you’re not. (I didn’t say it was easy)!
Dogs need good leadership. Getting excited is not what good leaders do. They remain calm, and apparently in control, at all times. They give clear commands – strong when required, but not screeching or rapidly repeated.