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National Cattledog Association holds clinic, show in Cheyenne for local handlers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Cheyenne – The National Cattledog Association (NCA) hosted a clinic in Cheyenne at the Laramie County Community College (LCCC) Ag Arena on Jan. 11. 

Instructors were NCA President Juan Reyes of Wheatland, NCA Vice President Tim Gifford of Harrisburg, Neb. and NCA Secretary/Treasurer Bob Wagner of Nunn, Colo.

Two dozen handlers were on hand with their dogs to improve their dogs’ skills with livestock. 

Larry Ashenhurst of Wheatland brought his young border collie Wendy. 

He said, “Today was Wendy’s first introduction to stock. She’s only watched her mother work at home. I’ve really enjoyed being able to introduce her and to observe during this clinic. It really points out the importance of balance in working with the dogs.”

Learning experience

From a birds-eye view in the balcony area above the LCCC indoor arena, the action below looked like a choreographed dance. 

The stock, including both sheep and cattle, were always the focal point. The instructor and handler constantly moved, watching the dog, positioning the stock between them and allowing the dog to balance accordingly.

Each instructor chatted briefly with handlers to determine his or her goals. Every dog was put on stock, while the instructor observed its strengths and areas needing attention. The day was devoted to teaching handlers to place themselves in the proper position with the stock, so the dog would find its balance point opposite the handler and move the stock to the handler. The instructors’ finished dogs were used to mentor, stimulate, and encourage the novice handlers.


Every handler and dog showed progress in the afternoon sessions. “Sticky” dogs, or dogs with too much eye, were moving the stock more smoothly. Fearful dogs exhibited more confidence. Excited dogs calmed down and paid attention to their stock.

Dottie Packard from Hawk Springs was pleased with the progress of her two-year-old border collie Snap. 

She said, “In the first session, Snap showed Juan every problem we’ve been having. I didn’t have to tell him a thing.”

Packard is a member of the NCA and likes to trial her dogs. 

She said, “When you see good dogs working, I can just get lost in watching them.”

As Reyes watched  a one-year-old dog do many things “wrong,” he stated, “I don’t want to protect this dog by correcting him before he makes a mistake. I want to let him make the mistake and then correct him, so that he knows what he did wrong. When I start a dog, I don’t give voice commands. I simply growl at the dog to let him know he is not doing something right.”

“I want this dog to think,” Reyes continues. “Most often the dog will figure out how to correct himself by, bringing the stock to the handler. I will encourage this dog to stay on his feet if he has a tendency to be sticky. I will move constantly and place myself to give the dog the opportunity to use its natural instincts to balance and bring the stock to me.” 

Back to basics

Reyes shared basics before and during the clinic sessions. 

He said, “My border collies are not trial dogs. I work ranch cattle that have never been introduced to dogs. I have 5,000 to 7,000 head of calves in the feedlot. My dogs have to have the proper amount of eye and a lot of stamina. A rancher whose cattle are familiar with dogs has different requirements than I do.”

“A finished dog needs to be able to gather, lift and drive livestock,” Reyes explained. “The border collie’s instinct is to fetch or bring the stock to the handler. Not until the dog has a solid gather should he be taught to drive. When a dog gathers stock, he needs a good, pear-shaped outrun that is neither too wide nor too tight.”

Reyes works to teach dogs to understand their handler’s needs.

“One way I teach the gather is to not let the dog have the stock until he has a proper outrun,” he said. “Keeping the dog separated from the stock is a strong correction for the dog. The dog wants to work the stock, and being able to have the stock is his best reward.”

Achieving balance

In working stock dogs, Reyes says the balance point is critical, helping the handler to work with their dogs prior to being introduced to livestock.

“In the lift, the dog gets to the balance point on the stock and begins to move them to me,” Reyes commented. “He balances on me. It’s the most important aspect of working with these dogs. The dog must have solid balance and a solid gather before he is introduced to the drive.”

Every clinic attendee had the opportunity to both witness and to practice achieving balance with his or her dog. 

Jordan Cattin, brought his one-year-old border collie Wesley. 

He said, “I’ve worked a little with dogs, but when Wesley fell into my life, I wanted to be able to use him. He was an older pup with no training. I’m glad to have this opportunity to work with these experienced handlers.” 

The National Cattledog Association will continue to hosts trials throughout the region.

Upcoming local area trials will be Jan. 24 at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo. and Feb.16 in Gillette. Spring trials in Wyoming will be announced. More information is available on the website.

Virginia Wakefield is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

National Cattledog Association

The National Cattledog Association (NCA) is a nonprofit corporation that was incorporated in December 2011 and began operations in January 2012. Its members, who are from 31 states and Canada, are primarily ranchers, cattledog handlers and cattledog breeders. 

The NCA was founded with four goals. 

First, the organization hopes to educate ranchers as to the value of well-trained cattledogs for humane, low-stress cattle handling through demonstrations, clinics and public cattledog competitions or trials.

They also strive to assist ranchers in obtaining well-trained cattledogs and in learning to use them for efficient, humane and low-stress cattle handling while fostering amateur athletic competition by sanctioning cattledog trials and hosting and managing a National Cattledog Association National Finals.

Finally, NCA assists members and other breeders in marketing cattledogs by providing venues for demonstrating the abilities of their dogs.


The Three Amigos Cattledog Trial on Jan. 11 saw some impressive wins. 

In the open class, Dorrace Elkamp and Scott took first place, Joni Tietjen and Gus took second, and Juan Reyes and Red took third.

Bart Bond and Journey won the Intermediate category, with Mike Minor and Liz placing second and Dottie Packard and Snap placing third. 

In the Nursery division, Dorrance Elkamp and Scott placed first, Elkamp and her dog Dan placed second, and Juan Reyes and Pass took the third slot.

Finally, in the Novice division, Rusty Patrick and Sis took first, Patricia Morgan and Ash took second, and Jordan Cattin and Wesley took third.


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