The Cattle Dogs with no Jobs

Clearly, I love my dogs dearly. I mean it when I say they are my family. I utilize training to make their world as big as possible, and give them every opportunity to enjoy their lives to the fullest. All that aside, I often wonder if I did the right thing by giving working breed dogs a pet lifestyle. Sure, my dogs compete in sports, run, hike, and have tons of unique experiences. But is this enough for a dog that was bred to work a demanding, outdoor job from dawn to dusk? The cattle dog of today is a mix of herding breeds, dalmatian, and dingoes, all of which contribute to their work ethic, energy level, and herding instincts. It was incredible to see both Chief and Chickie come home at 8 weeks old already herding anything that moved with great agility and ease.

Chickie on her best behavior in puppy class

I chose to bring cattle dogs into my life because I truly see a lot of their traits in myself. I have a hard time sitting still, I love being active outdoors, and typically enjoy a challenge. Chief has proven all of these standard breed traits to be accurate and is truly the perfect fit for me. On the flip side (also similar to myself…) cattle dogs can be reactive as they try to control movement in any given environment. They are protective and loyal sometimes to a fault. If not provided with a proper outlet and ample training, these behaviors can be expressed in inappropriate ways. At just nine weeks old, Chickie didn’t realize our feet were an extension of our whole self and would bite us as we walked. This was funny in the moment, but wouldn’t be if she was doing it to a stranger, especially a child or someone afraid of dogs.

Chief getting his Canine Good Citizen title (CGC)

Chief is the first dog I participated in dog sports with. Every sport we try is brand new to both of us. The unknown is always a scary place to be in, and we have put ourselves there plenty of times over the last two years. Every time I worry about trying something new with Chief, I remember that he thrives on new challenges and any opportunity to be physically active. I show up for him whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is my way of giving him a working life, even though I am fully aware that the “jobs” he has are not real jobs.

Chief interacting with livestock at a farm training clinic

In final reflection, I do feel that based on my level of effort and dedication to my dogs that they are in the right home. It is hard to see cattle dogs that are unfulfilled now that I know their potential. Often I see owners complaining about their cattle dogs’ incessant reactivity, trouble making, or other negative traits that are likely coming to light due to lack of fulfillment and proper exercise. Shelters are becoming overrun with cattle dogs that families found out are far different than Bluey and Bingo. One of my purposes as a cattle dog owner is to advocate for the breed and show the reality of having these incredible dogs in your life. If you fulfill your heeler, they will give you the world. I hope Chief and Chickie feel properly compensated for how much of a positive impact they have had on my life. It may not be full of livestock and true hard work, but I think they are sufficiently happy with what I have to offer for them.

Chickie learning how to settle

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