Dogs With Jobs was a mixed bag for local dog handlers but inspired them to renew their sport.
Last weekend, local stock dog handlers Peter Wells and Shelley Minato headed to Barriere to compete in one of the first cattle dog competitions in years. Both said the weekend was exciting and nostalgic.
“Many years ago, there were a lot more competitions and it all died out. It was very exciting to be back at it again,” Wells said.
When the competition began Wells, who has been training dogs for 30 years, was first up with his dog Cowdog Rowdy Yates. Before the event, he said the organizers had trouble finding cattle for the event. Rather than cows that are used to stock dogs, Wells said they were only able to find a herd of unruly animals that were “mean to everybody.”
Their temperament combined with the poor design of the initial course meant Rowdy took a few battle wounds. Wells said the course was too narrow and forced his dog to get much closer to the cows than he usually would.
“They’re very brave dogs and get right in there heeling the cattle. He took a couple of kicks to the head, that was quite scary,” Wells said. “I didn’t have to take him out and he’s fine now but they stopped the event at that time and redesigned the course. It took everybody there to come together and agree to keep the show going, I was really pleased with that.”
After the redesign, Wells said the rest of the event went well, even though he came in fourth place in all the categories he competed in. He said even those who missed out on prize money went home with premium dog food thanks to a $5,000 donation on behalf of 100 Mile Ranch and Feed Supply and Canadian Naturals.
“They had 80 to 90 bags of premium dog food that retailed for $70 a bag. One of the wonderful things about this sponsorship is that even people who came dead last got to go home with $200 worth of dog food.”
Minato said she gave four presentations during the weekend where she showed how she’d trained her border collies, Cinch and Tack, to pull a kicksled. She said border collies are working dogs with excellent work ethics and high intelligence.
“To keep these dogs happy, they must be active, fit and intellectually stimulated. Using my dogs year-round is great for them and me: the team has a purpose, and it is far better to work with them than to use my wheelbarrow or quad,” Minato said. “The audience interest was keen and the response was very positive.”
Wells said Minato’s demonstration was a “huge hit” and he was amazed at how well it went.
Now that he’s warmed up, Wells said he intends to host his own mounted cow dog competition in 2023. He plans to hold it on his property out in Buffalo Creek and said it will involve handlers competing on horseback alongside their dogs.
“It will be a mounted trial right here in Buffalo Creek,” Wells said. “We sold my home of 62 years out in the mountains so now we have a lot more time and wheelbarrow loads of money. I’m in a position now to indulge myself a little bit and put one of these events on. I’m really keen to do this.”