How to Train a Useless Ranch Dog

puppy sitting on a patio chair looking out at the blizzardAlmost two years ago, we adopted a puppy from an unexpected litter produced by our neighbor’s dog. When we went over to pick ours, one was aggressive and growly, compared to a bunch of other sweet, mellow fuzz balls.

I saw that attitude and had visions of a useful, cattle-herding dog and fierce protector for our sons as they wandered through the trees and mudholes around the ranch.

Reality: Neither of the above.

The lack of development into ‘useful cattle dog is not a surprise. Hubby and I have ZERO dog training skills and the idea that puppy would accidentally figure out how to herd cattle was probably a bad plan from the beginning. She is, however; quite adept at herding cats (useful skill for Superbowl commercials). This should have been our first clue at her identity crisis. Spoiler alert: She thinks she is a really big cat.

Fierce protector. The word ‘fierce’ is a bit strong. She is definitely ‘enthusiastic’. She bowls over visitors in her eagerness to be sure they notice her. (Sorry, UPS delivery guy!). She also barks at imaginary squirrels…OFTEN.

Somehow, we gave her the impression that barking and chasing critters was a good thing. Our praise has caused her to run and bark every time we walk outside or drive onto the yard. Her act extends into the wee hours of the morning….standing under our bedroom window at 3 a.m. *sigh*. Of course, the non-imaginary critters that actually killed chickens went unnoticed…

Puppy spends most of her time hanging around the yard with several lazy cats. These same furballs have been her constant companions since she arrived at our place two years ago. She has developed a surprisingly close relationship with them; to the point of convincing me that she thinks she is a big cat. Despite her tendency, as a puppy, to use the cats as chew toys (we also once rescued a very soggy chicken from her grip), she seems to really like her furry buddies. Consider the following:several cats napping on a good natured dog

  • Whenever the cats fight (for play or for real) she gets angry and breaks it up.
  • She likes to sit up on high perches as much as possible. She sits on chairs, benches, and even the picnic table.
  • Nap time must include a pile of fellow furballs.

There you have it. All of the ingredients needed for your very own useless ranch dog. If you have suggestions to add, comment below!


About jheem

I grew up on a diversified dairy farm in southeast South Dakota where I learned how to throw a hay bale, pull a calf, deal with death, and "name" the cows. I was in 4H and FFA, and was privileged to serve as a state FFA officer. In college, I studied animal science, focusing on beef cows, mostly because I figured they were less work than dairy cows....I ended up with a Masters Degree in ruminant nutrition and went to work for the University of Nebraska, first as a research tech coordinating data collection for a swine unit and beef feedlot on a research farm and then as an extension educator. In my current job, I focus on environmental issues related to animal agriculture (which is a nice way of saying I talk about manure alot). My husband and I live and work on a seedstock cattle operation in northeast Nebraska. You can learn more about our cattle operation by visiting my husband's blog at
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10 Responses to How to Train a Useless Ranch Dog

  1. Dogs bring so much joy! We have 3-and they do odd things, also! 😛

  2. I had a useless cattle dog…then when we began fostering kids, he started rocking the chairs, bouncing their seats, and now he herds them to the room for changing or the kitchen for meals! He’s my new nanny!

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