Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new

— Albert Einstein

I happened to be reading a website written by another person who teaches and advocates for low-stress stockmanship. In the article, the author described the “Bud Williams method” by saying he approaches the animals as a predator would, circling and putting just enough stress on the animals to cause “anxiety” so they will move away.

I don’t offer criticism of what other people might write or believe or do. That’s up to them. However, if they say the Bud Williams method (which is what we also teach) does or means one thing when it means a totally different thing, then I do have to speak up.

One of the cornerstones of the Bud Williams method of stockmanship is NOT behaving as a predator! One of the main rules of approaching and working animals is NOT circle them in any way. All movement of the handler should be in totally straight lines back and forth so you do not represent yourself as a predator! You are not trying to make the animals anxious so they move off. You are pressuring the animals and teaching them that, as you pressure in a certain way and they move off in a certain way, the pressure is relieved. After consistent use of this, they learn how to move as you pressure, there is absolutely NO anxiety of any sort by either the animals or the handler, and everyone feels the fun of the day rather than runs from the anxiety.

Anxious animals is exactly what we want to avoid. How could you take the stress off newly weaned stocker calves by invoking anxiety?

I was visiting with a fella the other day and he asked about using stock dogs, and didn’t they behave as predators so defeating the anti-predator state? I explained that a good dog doesn’t behave toward the livestock as a predator. Even if the dog nips at the heels of a cow, he’s simply applying pressure and release. The cow wasn’t moving like he’s asked her, he pressures into her (bites), she moves forward, and he stops biting and moves on.

I watched an episode of “The Dog Whisperer” where Cesar Milan was helping a couple with a Bouvier des Flandres. Way back in the history of this breed, they were a livestock herding dog. As with many “city dogs,” they wind up with way too much energy and no way to release it. Cesar took the dog to a place in LA with a flock of sheep where city folks can bring their herding dogs to work sheep (honest, I’m not fooling you on this one!) and turned the dog out with the herd. At first he just chased the sheep, and then after he released some energy and got to remembering the little bits of instinct way back in his brain, he settled into a nice gather. Cesar told the owners to notice the difference, and he specifically said that, first the dog was behaving as a predator, but then he settled down into the herding attitude!

If this fru-fru city dog could pull up the right attitude to herd sheep rather than predate on them, can’t we?

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