David Hart Stock and Dog Handling principles

The method of working stock and training dogs I use is based on the principles of Bud Williams, who developed “low stress stock handling” and has had one of the most profound effects upon stockmanship worldwide.

The method requires:

  • a learning mindset,
  • the right attitude,
  • an ability to read livestock,
  • a willingness to work with livestock and teach them basic skills,
  • and finally, preparing livestock for future events.

Training and working your dogs is not independent of working livestock.

Where the “roundyard and rake” method of dog training teaches your dogs specific skills that can be applied when working livestock, it does little to consider the livestock and the overall consequences of the dog’s actions on the stock. It also does little to make you a better stock handler.

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Conversely, David Hart Stock and Dog Handling is about creating a team—you, your dogs and the livestock—working together for the best outcome.

It’s about working with the stock, understanding why and how they move, and you and your dogs being in the right place at the right time.

It’s also about building a relationship with your dog so that they respect and want to work with you and for you. And it’s about understanding, as Bud Williams says, how you can help your dog to learn how to work, rather than you training it how to work.

During the first day of the school, you will learn how to work the livestock without your dog. This not only teaches you how stock move and about being in the right position, it will be educating the stock and building their trust.

You will also do some exercises with your dog to help it focus on you.

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On the second and third days you will include the dog. You will apply the same principles as the first day, but now with the dog assisting. The livestock will gain further education.

When you go home you can do similar exercises to educate your own stock and to give you and your dog practice.

Because this is a group school—not private tuition—there will be times when you are working the stock, with or without your dog and times when others are taking a turn.

Don’t consider the waiting a waste of time. Instead, use it to study the other handlers and their dogs and to learn from what others are doing. Seeing a variety of people and their dogs working is invaluable as they will have different styles, strengths and weaknesses, from which you can learn.

I encourage you to take photos and videos during the school for us to share and review later.

Some of the points you will learn:

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  • Livestock like to turn and face what is pressuring them
  • Livestock tend to like to go back the way they came
  • If you pressure stock too much they are likely to come back past you
  • Get stock to move away from a corner by pressuring them into that corner, rather than trying to get in behind them to push them out
  • Use dogs like a temporary fence (a furry panel) while you pressure the stock
  • Techniques to gain the respect of your dog by being the pack leader
  • How to get a good recall of your dog off stock