Man’s work in competing, training dogs started with livestock | TheFencePost.com

Man’s work in competing, training dogs started with livestock

Peggy Sanders

Dorrance Eikamp grew up in Bentley, N.D. When he was 35 he heard a Scotchman named Jack Knox was coming to Buffalo, S.D., to put on a dog training. Eikamp attended, learned and before long was working with his dogs on the ranch. Once he thought they were ready, they went to his first dog trial in Red Wing, Minn., for competition. He later helped organize dog trials near Flasher, N.D.

"When I first started there were hardly any women in the trials, now there are more women than men and they are very good because they have the patience," Eikamp said. "A old cowboy thinks he can just demand obedience and the dog will comply, but the dog has to be taught and with love, not power or meanness."

But Eikamp's work as a trainer and competator started when he worked with livestock, with the assistance of man's best friend.

In 1992 Eikamp moved from North Dakota to a place south of Gillette that ran 1,000 head of sheep. He helped them and worked with the dogs. Eikamp is now retired and spends his time training outside dogs for others and working with new dogs he may sell or use himself in trial competitions along with putting on training clinics He has done his share of judging too but he said he prefers to compete.

“When you train a dog, the whole thing is about obedience. Border collies are smart, and have herding instinct; they just need to know what you want them to do and they will do it. Your job is to teach them.”

"Anybody can train Border collies and I teach them how to do it right. I've seen 14-year old girls and 80-year old men, and in fact, I have been beaten in competition by both," Eikamp said. "Dogs will herd anything if they are well trained. We herded turkeys for a guy at Sturgis, S.D., once and brought them right where he wanted them by his house."

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Eikamp was at the ranch of Tom and Lesta Conger, Buffalo Gap, S.D., for a recent two-day training clinic for a dozen attendees from places such as Massing, Iowa, Casper, Wyo., Rapid City, Edgemont and Oral, S.D., with their dogs.

Eikamp instructs others to use a 30-foot rope attached to the dog's collar. He showed techniques for handlers to teach their dogs understand commands by managing the rope. As the dog progresses, the rope can be dropped on the ground, but it is still attached to the collar. That gives the dog more freedom, but the handler can step in and grab the rope to take command if necessary.

"Imprinting or bonding with a pup is the best way to start out if you have newborns. That is having hands-on time with the pups after they are a day or two old so they get used to your touch and having you pick them up," Eikamp said. "I start messing with pups when they are first born, and by the time their eyes were open, they are already understanding. Not listening real well, but they are understanding."

It is best to work with pups for about three months when first starting with no one else and no livestock around — just the handler and the dog. Sessions of ten minutes duration are long enough to teach and keep the pup's attention.

The tone of voice is more important than the words, but if you may want to sell a dog, it's wise to use standard dog training words such as, "Come by away to me," "stand," or "steady."

Just like Eikamp did, many ranchers use their dogs as hired help. Whether a handler is afoot or horseback, and is working to gather sheep, cattle or turkeys, stock dogs can be valuable assets around the ranch. Dog trials give handlers and dogs a chance to learn and test themselves against the competition. The bonds between dog and handler as well as dog owner to other members of these groups are added benefits of camaraderie.

"When you train a dog, the whole thing is about obedience," Eikamp said. "Border collies are smart, and have herding instinct; they just need to know what you want them to do and they will do it. Your job is to teach them." ❖

“Doggie Boot Camp”

Dorrance Eikamp’s book, “Doggie Boot Camp” goes over training basics. It’s available on Amazon. To inquire about the book or clinics, email him at dorrancedogmaster@yahoo.com.

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