Back on the Farm

Back as a kid on the farm in the 1940’s and 1950’s, dad always had at least one English shepherd to help him with the stock.  I don’t remember exactly where we got those dogs, but I seem to recall somewhere down around Mufreesboro.  Those dogs we had were black, with a tan spot above each eye, and a tan bar across the chest.  After I grew up and got my own place, I found a three-year old black and tan English shepherd rescue.  Either somebody had trained him, or he just had natural ability. But that was the best stock dog I have ever owned.  I could tell him to go get the cows, and he’d bring them in.  I could point at a gate, and he would hold it.

I don’t put the kind of training on my dog that those folks who compete in the shows do. I teach my dogs the basic commands to help me do the work. Dad showed me that the best place to teach a dog to work is in the hog house.  In that closed, confined space the dog and pigs are right there and they have nowhere to go but where you want them to.  We’d start a dog in the hog house when he was about 3 months old.  We would keep things easy at first, using 30-40 lbs. pigs and some of the older, easier-to-live-with sows.  Even today when someone asks me to help them start a stock dog, I begin in the hog house.  

I have a cousin who is legally blind, but he still works a little farm.  His dog recently died, so he asked me to help him find another farm dog.  I immediately thought to myself that an English shepherd would be the right dog for him.  I started looking for a black and tan English shepherd like the ones we used to have.  But, those dogs are lot harder to find than they used to be.