by Butch Larson
The purpose of working corners is to build confidence and to teach your dog the correct way to approach livestock in a tight spot. So many times have I seen a dog run in at the pen or at an arena trial because the dog felt the pressure from the fence and the livestock. If a dog runs in when one is working cattle, he could possibly get his head kicked off. Placing yourself in the correct spot can avoid such instances. Thus, working corners is very helpful when training a young dog. Whenever a dog begins to get rough, the owner can get into a position in which the dog can be cut off from the livestock. Also, when working in a large pen, the dog can temporarily get away from the owner.
I like the dog to go between the livestock and the fence. As the livestock run out, the dog should open up. If the dog does not open up, he should have pressure put on him so that he will. When the livestock leave the corner and your dog opens up, you can stop him at any position and walk him up and the stock moves back to the corner. The dog has now learned to move the livestock from the fence and put it back to the corner without a grip. Perhaps if a dog heels with cattle, this gives him the opportunity to heel and then go to the head and stop the cattle.
Working corners is not something you do in a hurry. I see many handlers work their dogs too fast. Slow down! Learning this in the training pen will help you on the trial field. Most trainers and novice handlers work circles and do not use the corner much. However, it would be good if the dog were knowledgeable when loading and unloading stock trailers. In the case of working with large bunches of sheep in pens, the dog must be able to go down the fence to the corner and move the livestock away without much force. The dog has now learned it is easier to go slow into a corner than run in and bust them up.
As you work these corners you must say, “How is my dog turning?” When you tell the dog to go left or right, he should turn at the exact spot and move to the fence, then, come down the fence. If he should cut the corner at the top and at the bottom, you’re standing still and not moving. You need to move almost every time your dog does, until he is trained.
Remember that your dog should be 10 to 15 feet from you when you ask him to turn. If you are too close, the dog will cheat you on the top and bottom side. If he does it here, he will do it on his outrun as well.
this article was first published in Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine October/November 1996