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Working Insight: Larry Painter

I’m Larry Painter.  My wife, Marilyn and I are Kuawarri Stockdogs.  I enjoy raising, trailing and using my dogs on our own place.  I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have dogs with a lot of natural talent.  These dogs have enabled me to pursue a life of doing clinics - training people and dogs to work livestock.  They have opened the doors up for me to do clinics all over the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.  I have judged AKC and AHBA trials.  I compete AKC, ASCA, AHBA, USBCHA and NCA trials when I can.  All those venues are a little different but I enjoy all of them.  I raise St Croix and crossbred sheep, Santa Gertrudis cattle and Hancock-bred Quarter horses.  I also enjoy hunting and collecting firearms.

1) Where did you get your first registered working acds?

I’ve had Australian Cattle Dogs since the 70’s.  My first registered ACD was registered with Animal Research Foundation(ARF).  She came from a working ranch in northern Arkansas.  In the early 90’s, I got my first ACD that was registered with AKC.

A) What drew you to the breed?

When I was dabbling in roping, several of the cowboys had heelers.  They were using the dogs to move cattle, drive them up the return alleys and loading chutes.  I enjoyed watching them and began my search for a cattledog.

B) Who were your mentors?

Bob Vest, Ben Means & Nyle Sealine.  There was an Australian Kelpie group that brought clinicians over from Australia every year.  I tried to attend their clinics.

2) What do you feel are the minimum standard working traits that a working acd needs to have naturally (not trained)

The natural ability to cast around, work the head and control livestock.  I want them to work the livestock as a group and not single one out.  They need to work both ends of the livestock but focus more on the head than the heel.  They need to be able to stand up to pressure from the livestock.  If they get kicked or butted, they need to get back up and go right back to work and not pout about it.

3) What do you think is the most important trait and why?

Looking for the head and controlling livestock.  If the dog cannot control the heads of livestock, he cannot steer them and put them where you want them to go.  If he’s on the heels all the time, he is probably chasing or just pushing – but not controlling.

4) Who was the best dog you owned and why?

I’ve been fortunate to have several really good dogs.  George and Rewuri Blue Bogong(Syd) were among my favorites.  Both of them had different working styles.  Syd was a little more patient in his work than George was but both had the ability to head and heel like I wanted.

5) Who was the best dog you didn’t own and what did you like about that dog?

Steve & Julie Waltenburg’s, Kate.  Kate had the natural qualities that I look for and breed for in a dog.

6) If you no longer work Acds or have added another breed, what were the factors that lead you to that decision?

I still own, work and breed ACDs.  But I also have Australian Kelpies.

After doing research on the breed, I found that Kelpies were bred to do huge outruns, as well as working close.  This opened up anther venue for me.  Huge outruns would allow the Kelpie to compete in big field trials which I don’t believe a cattledog was originally bred for.  Both good breeds but bred for different purposes.  I would hate to have to choose one over the other.

7) What do you look for when picking a puppy?

I want the puppy to want to get to the front of livestock.  If the livestock turn and look at him or stomp at him – I’d like to see the puppy move on in and even take a nip.  I want a bold pup with a bit of prey drive.

8) If applicable, what is your breeding philosophy?

If they aren’t good herding dogs, they don’t raise pups.

A) Do you think linebreeding or breeding to a dog with known work is more important for retaining working behaviors?

I think line breeding is best.

B) How often do you outcross and how do you choose a dog to breed to?

I very seldom outcross.  When I do an outcross, I look for a dog that has the likeness and traits (work ethic, body type, etc.) that I look for in my own dogs.

9) How do you bring up a puppy?

I don’t let my puppies play with other dogs and I don’t like other dogs to correct my pups.  Usually I don’t let other people pet my pups.  When I have the pups out, I want them to think about me and not think about other people or dogs.

A) At what age do you start them on stock (sheep? Cattle?)

When I can, I like to expose them on sheep at six weeks.  As they’re growing up, I expose them to sheep from time to time.  It depends on each pup when I start formal training.  Most pups it seems like it’s around 10 months.  A few have been as early as seven months.  When starting on cattle, it’s on an individual basis as to their maturity.  I’ve had pups on cattle as young as seven months, but usually about 10 months.  The cattle that I start my pups on are VERY broke.

B) What training do you do before stockwork?

I guess I’m lazy, I don’t do a lot.  I do want them to walk on a lead and not pull.  Many dogs have a good stop and recall away from stock.  Once they get in the pen with livestock, the stop and recall leaves.  It works for me to get my stop and recall when the dog is in the pen with livestock.

10) What can breeders do to preserve working ability in the breed?

I think breeders need to concentrate more on the herding ability of dogs than they do; use the dogs for what they were bred for.  So much emphasis is put on health testing and looks of the dog.  Herding ability is rarely mentioned in the necessity of the breed.  THAT should be the number one priority.  I would rather have a really good dog with a lot of natural instinct that could only work for 5 or 6 yrs or so, than a dog with minimal or no instinct that would last for 10 or more years.  Health testing is very important for these dogs but herding ability is just as important or maybe more so.  Herding instinct and ability is my number one priority in breeding.

11) Please share any other thoughts you care to about working dogs and working ACDs.

I would like to see more people that have cattledogs work them on cattle.  There is nothing wrong with a cattledog working sheep or ducks – it just shows how versatile they are.  When the dog gets kicked or run over by cattle, will he get back up and keep working or leave?  If the dog stops working, maybe he’s not a true cattledog.

This is what has worked for me over the years.

Happy Herding!

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