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Stockdog Savvy



Written by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor & Ty Taylor


This is the most complete guide to stockdogs and stockdog training ever written. Covers all herding breeds, all venues, all levels and all types of livestock. Over 300 pages illustrated with diagrams and how-to photographs galore!


Contents Include: 

Foreword – by Ernie Hartnagle
1 – Herding Dogs
2 – What To Look For In A Herding Dog
3 – Preparing Your Puppy
4 – Laying The Foundation
5 – Getting Started
6 – Introducing A Dog To Stock
7 – Making The Most Of Your Dog’s Talent
8 – Developing A Useful Dog
9 – The Outrun
10 – Driving Skills
11 – Balance And Penning
12 – Working With The Advanced Dog
13 – Boundary Training For Tending Dogs
14 – Basic Stockmanship
15 – Working Large Flocks And Herds
16 – The Ranch Dog
17– Training Animals
18 – Poultry
19 – Sheep
20 – Goats
21 – Cattle
22 – Keeping Livestock
23 – The Trial Dog
24 – Trial Programs
25 – What Judges Look For
26 – Other Elements Of Working Stockdogs
Appendix – 80 Breed Profiles


Here is what readers are saying about Stockdog Savvy:


Dogs in Canada, March 2011:

Comprehensive and fascinating - "Everything you ever wanted to know about training, working or trialing a stock dog of any breed" says the jacket, but even if you live in the city and don't plan to work stock, this comprehensive volume is fascinating. From selection, through basic to advanced training, the authors cover all aspects of working dogs for a hobby, on the ranch, or for trial competition. Chapters on basic stockmanship cover selection and care of poultry, goats, sheep and cattle. Problem-solving and training tips throughout, first aid for the working dog, and an appendix profiling more than 60 herding breeds top off this invaluable book.


Stockdog Journal, May/June 2010:

The book Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications, 2010) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and her husband, cowboy-singer Ty Taylor shows the writing savvy and the herding knowledge of this team. Like good stockdogs, Jeanne and Ty round up the best information available and corral it between the covers into 300 pages of information that will appeal to both seasoned trainers and novices.

The authors both “walk the talk” with lives so immersed in the working dog culture that this stuff is second nature to them. Because they know their material this well, they are able to eliminate the jargon and speak to the reader in simple language that bridges the gap between the seasoned handler and enthusiastic beginner.

Previously, one would need to stack up at least five whole books on a table to cover the material covered in this one book – from the roots to the future of herding, a description of herding breeds, stockdog training methods, livestock care and management and a look at herding trials. The information is current, comprehensive and useful – just as herding dogs are useful to have on the farm or ranch.

The chapters covering livestock alone make this book a worthwhile addition to the herding library. Stockmanship is often the least accessible aspect of herding to the newly emerging ‘urban herder.’ Those who wish to understand livestock used for herding trials will find the information enlightening. Those who take the next step and acquire livestock need to know what to get, where to get it and how to keep it.

Those who wish to understand livestock used for herding trials will find the information enlightening. Those who take the next step and acquire livestock need to know what to get, where to get it and how to keep it.

Finally, the breed profiles build on the work of Vergil Holland in his book Herding Dogs, describing the known herding breeds in detail. There are the usual suspects – Aussies, Border Collies, German Shepherds; rare and old breeds that are becoming known in North America, such as the Barbet and the Ovelheiro Gaucho; and then there are the breeds one rarely sees in trials or working on farms, such as the Poodle and the Airedale, along with a description of their working style.

It’s a lot of stuff packed into one book, rightfully touted as the most complete guide to date. And kudos to Jeanne Joy for making this book an experience in keeping with today’s integrated technologies. There is the book, the blog, the DVDs on herding training and links to the Las Rocosa’s educational website. The blog, found at http://stockdogsavvy.wordpress.com/ is worth a visit to get a taste of everything the book offers.

This is a savvy approach to sharing the information with a vast audience, and it works both ways as Jeanne has worked tirelessly (hmmm, like one of her own working dogs...) to request information, input and feedback from people around the world to ensure the most current information is offered to herding enthusiasts.

People will delight in the photos of people we all recognize - some friends, some well-known trainers and competitors - along with photos and mentions of well-known, well-loved dogs. Jeanne and Ty succeed in making the big world of herding seem a little smaller by including the people who share their passion within these pages. In my own herding circles I have encouraged friends to contact Jeanne and know people who Jeanne has interviewed for this book. This alone makes the book feel intensely personal and even more enjoyable.

My experience is with Border Collies, German Shepherds and Rough Collies. This book appeals to both sides of my nature. I love that the image of Jeanne’s own Border Collie Reanna graces the pages of this book. It is a lovely personal touch. When Jeanne describes how Reanna taught her to step BACK to widen her outrun, I am drawn right in, with memories of my own dogs – my teachers.

We all gravitate to dogs that mirror our personalities and behaviors. Based on this, I have come up with an equation to describe the new herding book Stockdog Savvy: Herding dogs need to herd…and Hartnagles need to write about herding dogs! And we are the beneficiaries of this equation. – Donna Brinkworth


Stockdog Savvy is a compendium of information about livestock dogs and their training and service to farmers, ranchers and hobby trainers as well. Having known Jeanne Joy and her dedication to working dogs and their activities readers will receive a rich reward for her talents in his book. A must read book for stock dog trainers. – E. B. Raley (Texas)


Aussie Times, July/August 2010:

Stockdog Savvy by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor is packed full of helpful information from the first page to the last. A quick glance at the table of contents will give readers an overview of the quantity of information contained. As readers move from page to page they will soon be impressed with the quality of the information too. The range gives the beginner or experienced trainer ample opportunity to learn plus food for thought.

Training procedures, from puppyhood to the dog learning to drive and shed, are excellent; the methods and techniques described are tried and true. They will guide new stockdog owners as well as more experienced dog owners through a logical progression, one skill building on the next. The training techniques and methods will produce a dog that is a good working partner, and together dog and handler will be able to move and control livestock on the farm, ranch or in stockdog trials.

A feature, of this book that will prove extremely valuable to each trainer, is sections called “Problem Solving.” A method of approaching a particular training technique is explained, and then the many things that will or might happen are addressed under the heading “Problem Solving.” This feature makes Stockdog Savvy incredibly helpful to the trainer, for no dog follows training exactly like another. Dogs are individuals and training must be tailored to help them progress and grow in methods that work for them. Jeanne and Ty do an excellent job of presenting ways to vary a technique to cover many situations that may arise as the dog progresses.

Of equal importance, the authors move on to cover livestock. First, they point out that all livestock are living animals, not training tools and go on to point out they must be treated accordingly, which struck a positive note with me. There is a great section giving important insight into how livestock see and perceive things happening around them. This includes essential knowledge about flight zones and how they can differ under various conditions. This information is indispensable to the trainer in helping the dog learn to be in the correct position to move stock effectively. Jeanne and Ty go on to help readers understand the uniqueness of each type of livestock; sheep, goats, poultry, and cattle. And, within the livestock types, they point to the breed characteristics to give readers a better understanding of the nature of various breeds.

“The Appendix: Breed profiles” is absolutely fantastic. It covers the herding dogs you see all the time. More than that it covers dogs we often don’t see in the US. It is an education all in itself, and just this section makes the cost of the book worthwhile.

This is a must read for all herding enthusiasts’ and a must have for all herding enthusiasts’ libraries. It is the book I will recommend to all my students. Every reader regardless of their skill level will find something valuable in this book. – Elsie Rhodes


Border Collie Museum, June 2010:

I was pleasantly surprised to read Stockdog Savvy (co-authored by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle's husband, Ty Taylor) and find that not only can Jeanne Joy Hartnagle do great things with stockdogs, but she can write as well. Jeanne Joy is an American stockdog handler and trainer, and an instructor who has worked with cattle ranchers, the US Dept. of Agriculture, and the US Dept. of the Interior, managing cattle in yards and on the open range. She has titled dogs in all areas of competition and is a national and international judge of Australian Shepherds.

Stockdog Savvy takes the reader from the characteristics of herding dogs all the way through to training an effective trialing dog. Jeanne Joy has an approach that would be successful for all herding breeds. The book is packed with black and white photographs illustrating the moves she is describing. I like the fact that Jeanne Joy uses photos of a variety of people, including children, not just of herself and her own family. I also enjoyed the profiles she has scattered throughout the book (for example, she has one of Bruce Fogt, a successful American sheepdog trialist and Border Collie trainer).

A big plus is Jeanne Joy's use of positive methods for training without the excessive dependence on treats that some positive trainers use. She says upfront that clicker training is probably inappropriate for teaching herding. She contrasts the positive and negative aspects of many of the traits that herding exhibit (for example, noise sensitivity, assertiveness, timidity, etc.) and indicates how to handle dogs that have these traits. Throughout the book, there are tricks for problem solving.

Although at the back of Stockdog Savvy is an appendix giving the profiles of more than sixty herding breeds, the book does seem to lean toward the collie breeds, probably because Jeanne Joy knows them the best. Throughout, although much is said about the dogs themselves, it is evident that Jean Joy's aim is to teach novices how to BE a stockdog handler. The book has a decidedly American West flavor, which is most obvious in the section on commands. If I have one criticism, it would be that too many commands are presented, some of them redundant; and even though I am myself an American, I found a few confusingly regional.

This book is a great resource for experienced handlers, and an excellent manual for the beginning handler, and will be a book that I recommend in the future when asked, as I often am as the owner of The Shepherd's Dog online bookstore. - Carole Presberg


ACD Spotlight - August 2010:

Stockdog Savvy by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor
Published by Alpine Publications (2010): http://www.alpinepub.com/stockdog_savvy.html
ISBN-13: 978-157779-106-5
290 pages

Some of you may recognize the name “Hartnagle.” The Hartnagle family has contributed generations of stockdog education to the public centering on not just stockdogs but more specifically Australian Shepherds. Others may recognize the name Ty Taylor as the country singer who has performed on Austin City Limits, The Grand Ole Opry and with Loretta Lynn. The husband and wife teamed together to produce this book.

My first impression of this book is to acknowledge the great quantity of photographs. Some of the best herding dog photographers in the US contributed ample images that the authors utilized to the best effect. Naturally, I think the Australian Cattle Dog images are the best. Well actually most of the ACD pictures are my images as my contribution to the book. That is my only connection to the book other than owning a copy. Now I have the disclaimer out of the way.

The author’s writing style is to-the-point making it easy to comprehend for the newbie or experienced handler. There is no excessive verbiage or an attempt to wow you with their years of knowledge and experience. When I read the book I had the feeling of attending a herding clinic – straight forward information put forward in a personal way.

The book itself gives the reader a realistic view of what the herding dog is all about, why it does what it does and how to make the best of the person/dog relationship as it pertains to livestock. It all starts at chapter one where the authors explain herding dog characteristics and instincts.

There are 26 chapters in all. You’ll see everything from what to look for in a herding dog, preparing your puppy and making the most from your dog’s talent.

The authors break down the components of herding into separate chapters and discuss how to train that element.

For example, Chapter 9: The Outrun explains what the outrun and lift is with concise accurate descriptions and several diagrams. At the end of the chapter is a series of “Problem Solving” scenarios. For example, The Outrun Chapter has eight scenarios you may encounter and they suggest how to train through the problem. Some of the Problem Solving scenarios are “Dog overruns the top of the outrun”, “Cutting in on the outrun” and “Dog lacks excitement.”

Not only do the authors cover dogs but they also discuss livestock. You’ll read about “flight zone”, “defensive behavior in livestock” and “methods of moving stock” to name just a few. There are individual chapters covering “Poultry”, “Sheep”, “Goats” and “Cattle.” You’ll also notice the explanation of the trial programs from AKC, ASCA, AHBA, CKC and USBCHA.

How about a chapter on “What Judges Look For”? It’s there. There is ample information about dog diet and performance, water, stamina, foot care, shelter, containment, injuries and basic first-aid kits. Whew!

All in all, this book is THE one to have. We have on our shelves many books about herding but none of them are as comprehensive as this offering. Who needs to read it? Anyone who has a herding dog should read this book to understand more about what makes up a herding dog and why it does what it does. Those who are thinking about pursuing herding as an activity should first have this book to understand what is involved BEFORE you commit the time and money for lessons. Anyone who currently is involved in herding or ranching will find many portions of the book valuable.

Perhaps one of my favorite sections of the book is the Appendix: Breed Profiles. There is a synopsis on most of the herding dogs of the world. From Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs to Savoy Shepherds, Texas Blue Lacies and Bergamascos!

You can learn more about the book online by going to:


The book is available from the author here:


The cost is $31.00 which includes shipping to Continental USA.

Happy reading! - Jeff Jaquish


Refreshingly New and Original Information - August 19, 2010 by Ellen Nadeau (Connecticut):

This book was highly recommended, and I was not disappointed! The information coverage is all that I expected and more. Only occasionally does a new book offer something original, training methods that have not been covered before only written in a different way. It is fresh, and written in a clear, step by step manner with many diagrams and black and white photographs. If I could give more stars I would.

The book Stockdog Savvy is written by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle now Taylor (and her co-author husband Ty Taylor) who is well known for her stock work, and also for the Australian Shepherds that she and her family have raised for years.

It starts off defining the traits of herding behavior. This is followed by “What To Look For In A Herding Dog.” The concepts of pressure and release are covered. Taylors’ goal is to create a well-trained herding dog without using aversive training tactics. They outline positive ways to create a reliable working partner based on the dog’s natural talents. Livestock behavior and good stock handling practices are pointed out throughout the dog training process. Stockdog Savvy puts strong emphasis on creating calmness in your dog through quiet handling.

Also included is an interesting chapter that illustrates a way to teach stock-related skills (such as stop, walk up, steady, get out, come in, turn back for more sheep, move clockwise and anti-clockwise) before ever introducing sheep or ducks. It is a unique method and seems to make a lot of sense to the dog. And it is a lot of fun besides. Finally, the book closes with a section on herding breeds. It covers the temperament and working style of each breed and gives a summary of original use. This book is an excellent resource.


Western Horseman Magazine, October 2010:

Stockdog Savvy (310 page paperback / Alpine Publications) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor, Foreword by Ernest Hartnagle.

On many ranches and farms, herding dogs are often used to assist in moving sheep, cattle and other livestock. These dogs are not only working animals, but also companions to their owners. In Stockdog Savvy, Jeanne Joy and Ty Taylor collaborate on presenting their experiences with herding dogs to bring an entertaining and educational training book to readers.

Not focusing on one specific herding breed, but touching on characteristics and training practices for breeds ranging from Australian Shepherds to Rottweilers, the Taylors are concise in their descriptions and suggestions.

“You will want to assess his degree of sensitivity,” they write. “The average Collie (Smooth or Rough) or Shetland Sheepdog, for example, will not tolerate rough handling and may shut down completely. In contrast, the average Australian Cattle Dog, Rottweiler or Catahoula may require a firmer hand.”

Stockdog Savvy takes a stockdog owner from the process of beginning basic training through advanced training for working dogs or for dogs that are to perform in trials and competition. The problem-solving aspects of this book are useful for not only those who are considering further training or want to break a bad habit, but also for those who are experienced dog handlers and need a solution to an ongoing problem.

Though Stockdog Savvy is an educational book for herding dog enthusiasts it contains an entertaining quality, with quotes and short stories on stockdogs and their owners. There are short profiles on dog trainers like John Payne and the famous blue Heeler Skidboot.

Intermixed with the instructions and descriptions, the Taylors have included photographs of working dogs in various training situations and real-life encounters to aid in the reader’s assessment of each lesson. - Ross Hecox


The Cassette, Summer 2010:

Authors Jeanne Joy Hartnagle Taylor and her husband Ty Taylor have worked stock dogs for years. Their book starts with the different breeds and their suitability for various needs. They then go on to explain what to look for in a puppy, laying a foundation for that pup and training it on stock. There are chapters on teaching the outrun, driving, penning, sorting and tending. This is one comprehensive book! There are chapters for those interested in trialing their dogs, complete with info on what judges look for. The Taylors' book ends with profile of all the herding breeds. Highly recommended for anyone serious about working dogs on stock.


RECOMMENDED READING for all who want to understand and work with dogs and livestock - March 29, 2011, Ridingforthebrand (Alpine, TX):

I learned about this book in a ranch management class. It is helpful in understanding the basics. Numerous illustrations are provided to aid the reader in grasping difficult training concepts. It is a great resource for trainers instructing students at all levels. At the same time, it is a useful reference for students from beginner to advanced. If you can only afford on stockdog book, this is the one to get! Highly Recommended Reading!


Midwest Book Review, May 2010:

STOCKDOG SAVVY: SELECTING, TRAINING AND TRIALING A WORKING STOCKDOG covers all breeds of herding dogs and all types of stock work and features profiles of key herding personalities and problem solving techniques. Any owner of a herding dog will appreciate the specifics on how to work sheep, cattle, goats or exotic livestock.

Man's best friend is also man's best farmhand. Stockdog Savvy is a guide for livestock keepers who want to use their dogs the best way possible in raising them to help deal with livestock of many types. Special breeding and training techniques, assigning the right type of dog with the right livestock, and more, Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor provide a wise and very comprehensive read. Stockdog Savvy is an invaluable farm dog raising and training tool, highly recommended.


The Working Border Collie, January/February 2011; Borderlines, February/March 2011:

The authors of this 290-page title are familiar in stockdog training and trialing circles, especially in the Australian Shepherd world. They have many many years of experience in working ranch settings. Jeanne says her efforts were “to help readers gain a better understanding of the types of livestock and their behavior to facilitate better stockmanship in training.” Another aim was to “give readers practical information to assist them in their efforts to cultivate their dog’s natural instincts.”

This book covers a wide range of very useful information, from the choice of breeds for specific needs and acquisition of the stockdog puppy, through the raising and beginning of its training. A wide range of difference breeds are described with their capabilities from the authors’ own depth of experience. The method the Taylors use for training their stockdogs is carefully described, including typical problem solutions.

For many of those gaining interest in stockdogs and their use, there is little opportunity to develop the years of knowledge gained from day-to-day work in the ranching and farming worlds. The Taylors go into great depth providing excellent information about the livestock types that are frequently controlled by stockdogs, as well as breaking these types down to various breeds and how they fit into the commercial agricultural world and their traits for the new stockdog user to take into consideration. How to handle the various types of animals and handling situations is covered thoroughly in a straight-forward way that gives the new enthusiast information that they simply would not have access to in their routine life.

Even with in-depth knowledge of livestock and dog training, the Taylors repeat throughout the book that a dog, regardless of its breed, must have certain natural talents itself to make the information and methods described turn the dog into a useful stock handler and trial contender.

Now that the book has been out for a while, Jeanne believes that ‘Yes, I think we met our goal based on the feedback we’ve received so far.” When asked if she would have anything additional to add, she comments, “If I would add anything, it would be to reiterate to readers to give their dogs as many opportunities as possible to think and make decisions without telling them every move to make.”

This book is an excellent read, especially for the person new to the world of stockdogs and livestock with little opportunity to experience livestock handling skills to the level necessary for training and trialing successfully. Lots of good information! – Claudia Frank


Excellent resource whether you are a newbie or an old-time sheepdogger. - September 29, 2010, Kate Drexler (Lexington's Blue Grass Region):

I've got a library of training books. Most books don't highlight the key principles of handling livestock; yet applying good stockmanship skills improves the results for both the trainer and dog. The authors draw attention to the importance of low-stress handling techniques in training to produce calm, confident herding dogs. The book covers working with a variety of animals in different situations. It teaches how to recognize an animal's "flight zone", the point at which it feels pressure from the dog or trainer's presence. It explains the distance and angle to create movement, slow or stop movement, where to be to change the animal's direction.

While most books don't take the place of hands on instruction, this book is a wealth of information. It is a well-written, easy to understand book filled with practical advice. Owners of all ages and degrees of experience will refer to it time and again. All terminology such as "Look back" (you forgot one), is described and illustrated through diagrams and photographs. It deals with problem solving techniques that apply to problems commonly faced in training. Stockdog Savvy's central focus is to cultivate a useful working partner using the dog's natural talents. It brings a new clarity to natural training methods.

In conclusion, Stockdog Savvy is an interesting and helpful book. It is an outstanding resource whether you are a newbie or an old-time sheepdogger.


Easy to understand - July 30, 2010, Tim Henry (California, USA):

Most training books are focused on Border Collies working sheep. This book covers lots of territory with helpful information for Border Collies and loose-eyed herding dogs working cattle. It is easy to understand. The sections on various types of cattle, sheep, goats and poultry, the appendix of herding breeds and people profiles (which are interesting in and of themselves) make this book enjoyable and educational. If you can get only one book on stock dog training, THIS would be the one to have!


Stockdog Savvy – A must-have book - April 11, 2010, SullivanPhd / Barnes and Noble:

A handbook that is both interesting and informative. It is a valuable reference for individuals who want to know more details about training a dog for farm work or for herding trial competitions. The credibility of the authors is evident from the beginning until the end of the book. Summary is as follows: includes a detailed table of contents, glossary and index, fully explains and illustrates all commonly used terminology, covers training procedures and addresses problem solving techniques (extensive overview of various approaches) with hundreds of diagrams and how-to photographs, covers many well-known and rare herding breeds, brief profiles (of dogs and their owners) sprinkled throughout the book add an element of human interest. Stockdog Savvy is published in paperback so it is comfortable to hold and take to the training field.


A great read well worth the price of the book! - May 13, 2010, Ted Woodard / Dogwise:

I got the paperback for my daughter and her children. It was refreshing to find a book on training written without a bias toward any specific breed. Stockdog Savvy is jam-packed with useful information. These authors know their stuff.

The book outlines the basics of stock dog training that even a beginner can understand. It is also one of the only books that I’ve read that covers farm or ranch dog training for cattle work. There is even stuff for city folks with high octane herding dogs. My grandchildren are having a blast teaching their young Border Collie sheep dog commands. They are using the herding play outlined in the section for preparing a pup to work. The different stories of stock dogs helping their owners were particularly interesting for an old geezer like me, particularly the wheel-chair bound sheep rancher. The book was worth the purchase price many times over.


Stockdog Savvy - A Complete Training Guide for Herding Dogs - June 14, 2010, J. P. Davis (Livingston, Montana):

Stockdog Savvy is a practical guide for the serious rancher or the hobby farmer wanting to train their dog for pleasure or competition. The heart of the book is centered on stockdog training for everyday use. An abundance of illustrations throughout the book pictorialize terminology and training methods. Stockdog Savvy covers various problem solving techniques and it talks about the working characteristics of seventy or so herding breeds. Herding personalities scattered throughout the book are worthy of note.


The Australian Shepherd Journal, September/October 2010:

I know that this column isn't really about my dogs and me, but I want to share something that I wrote a few years ago and then explain how it relates to the book I want to talk about, Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications, Inc., 2010).

A Fine Day

It was a cloudy cool day with temps near 42 degrees. As a light rain fell the sheep huddled in a comer of the small pen surrounded by pools of melting snow and areas of partially frozen sheep slush. Suddenly the peaceful scene was disturbed by the sound of an adolescent Aussie on a mission-Cutter and I had arrived for one of our early stock lessons.

The sheep huddled in a tighter cluster as the fearless Aussie pup slowly approached them on leash learning how to "walk-up" and "wait" and then turn away to walk "out" away from them. One ewe nervously glanced over her shoulder before making a short run for another corner of the pen, while her compatriots quickly joined her in their near-panic at the approach of the young stock dog in training. The bold Aussie boy held his wait, pivoting to follow them with his loose-eyed stare. Good dog. Then at last it was time to let the boy move the stock. Placed in a down stay, Cutter awaited my direction while keeping his eyes on the sheep and straining so hard to retain his self-control. And then what he had waited for came: "Cutter, get around" and he was off.

We moved the sheep from one end of the pen to the next, only to turn around and go back across again and again. Cutter performed like a pro-changing directions, "getting around," and keeping his stock under control (despite the much slower learning capabilities of his handler). When we'd all had enough I told him to "wait" and he stopped in place keeping his eye on the stock but maintaining his distance, until I took his leash and told him "that will do." He knew his job was done for the moment and left the pen willingly with me but to keep those woolies in mind. Good dog.

After some rest and discussion with our instructor, in we went again and once again moved the sheep like we knew what we were doing (well at least one of us did). Finally it was time to call it a day and once again he heard "that will do, Cut" with a firm pat and some loving praise. On the way to the car he strutted with a gleam in his eye-as if flaunting his superiority over the silly sheep. Once in his crate he waited until we were all settled into the car and on the road, before he stretched out on his fleece bed, sighed with satisfaction, and fell off to sleep, surely to dream of the next time he would get to work stock. In the front passenger seat, I too drifted off to share his dreams of sheep and dogs and doing what you were born to do.

It had indeed been a fine day for a young Aussie dog and his handler.

Now for the Review:

I wrote this about five years ago, though it feels like yesterday when I reread it. As a result of that day my dreams no longer centered solely on agility but also on stock and the incredible teamwork it required between dog and handler. This breed was bred to work, and what could be better than to be doing what he was born to do?

Not having lessons close by, however, I tried to learn however I could. I bought every book I could find on training your dog for stock work but somehow while understanding the theory; I still became a confused mess when sheep were running one way and my dog another. The success we seemed to have in those early lessons turned into confusion and doubt. Instructors had me shadow them, gave me directions through earphones, and just yelled at me but there has always been way too much going on during the lesson for it all to sink in. I feel like I can teach Cutter just about anything, but herding seemed to be so complex with everything going on at once that I found myself at a loss. Then a change in job meant I could no longer afford the time to drive to lessons a couple hours away and our stock dreams became just that for awhile.

But this year, after a two year break from stock and lots of time watching advanced dogs work I decided it was time to try again. So you can imagine how excited I was about a new book coming out, titled Stockdog Savvy, by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor (Alpine Publications 2010). I couldn't wait to get my copy and I wasn't disappointed.

Reading this book reminds me of my first year away at college. Despite having always been a good student, during finals I finally opened a textbook from one of my core classes and suddenly all of those lectures made so much more sense to me! Oh, if only I had done the reading throughout the semester!

Stockdog Savvy is like that textbook I was so tardy in reading-it makes what you are doing out in the sheep pen so much clearer. Yes, your instructor can be telling you all of this during the lesson, but your brain can only process so much info when the sheep are moving, the dog is moving, and you are trying to make sense of it all at once. It doesn't take the place of an instructor (though in some cases it might have to), but gives you a valuable reference away from the stock to read and reread until it really sinks into your brain. The book is written in such a practical and straightforward manner that I found metaphorical light bulbs coming on over my head with every chapter.

This is also an easy book to read. The authors have managed to find the perfect balance of information, instruction, inspiration and problem-solving. The book is neither too long nor too short-what you need to know is right there clear and simple.

First we are given a nice overview of herding dogs in general and what to look for when choosing one of your own. There are two chapters devoted to preparing your pup and laying a good solid foundation of basic commands, including games to teach flanking commands, walk ups, steady, skit 'em, and others. These games are great for teaching the handler as well, so "go bye" and "way to me" are second nature before you're even near your stock! And speaking of the handler, there's a chapter just for you as well, with all those common terms and concepts that can seem so foreign to a newbie handler.

What follows is some of the clearest and most practical chapters on training your stock dog that I have come across. There are chapters on starting a new dog, making the most of your dog's talent, outruns, driving skills, balance and penning, sorting and boundary training. Each chapter provides descriptions, training tips, and common problems and solutions. Along the way there are also spotlights on selected handlers and their dogs which are often inspiring.

The authors also provide chapters about stock savvy understanding the livestock and how they think, react, and move, as well as basic husbandry and overviews of the primary stock you will encounter. In addition there is a nice chapter dedicated to the care of your stock dog including diet, stamina, grooming and common problems and injuries.

Some of you may never keep stock of your own and be primarily focused on trialing and titles. Well, the authors have you covered! There are chapters on trial dogs, programs, and even what judges are looking for in the arena. So whether your Aussies have driven you to becoming a weekend herder, a hobby farmer, or you have them to help run your working ranch, there is something for you in this book.

While writing this, I took a break to work Cutter on our ducks. While we don't have the space for sheep, we have managed a few ducks in our yard. As usual we went into the pen with a plan to work and then a few other things came up which we had not planned for. After coming back in I grabbed my copy of Stockdog Savvy and looked at what we should have done in all those surprise situations. It made me realize just how much this book has become my go-to resource, especially since we can't get to real stock lessons on a regular basis right now.

Enjoy! - Marsha Dusek, Recommended Reading Editor


Stockdog Savvy is a great resource for people. It’s nice how the blog and book complement one another. – Linda Rorem, Herding on the Web


I LOVE the book. THRILLED!!!! (is a better word). It is an excellent starter book for people interested in learning about the various kinds of herding options available and a very well-organized guide for everyone to refer to for terms, techniques and dealing with problems. Excellent array of photos to illustrate your words (I wish I had discovered this when I was younger).

Thank you SO much for sending me the book so meaningfully autographed. I will treasure it and recommend it. I have recommended your videos to many. You are doing a fine job teaching. – Ellen Nicklesberg, Nickelsberg Farm (New York)


What an absolute treat! The book is one of the most comprehensive studies on the stockdog I have seen. The numerous accompanying photos really help to illustrate your words effectively. GREAT JOB! – Jeff Jaquish (Washington)


I love the fact that you have used all different kinds of dogs doing lots of different jobs. True working dogs! – Mindy Bower, Uh Oh Ranch (Colorado)


Really enjoying the book! You have covered about EVERYTHING! – Deb Conroy, Conroy Farms (Minnesota)


I really, really, really enjoyed the book. – Kim Schneider (Minnesota)


Excellent Resource for Herding Info. - September 30, 2010, Charaine "Evey" (Texas)

My mini aussie and I have just begun "herding lessons." I bought this book because I will be participating in a seminar soon with the author and wanted to learn as much as possible before hand, so I wouldn't be a total embarrassment to my dog. This book is well written, easy to follow and is perfect for someone just getting started or wanting to learn more about herding and working with their dog partner. It's packed with pictures, terminology, problem solving, training tips and exercises anyone can do at home away from stock. This is a book I'll read over again and keep for reference.


Stockdog Savvy Provides All the Necessary Elements - November 23, 2010, Angus MacPherson (Washington):
This book brings together in one publication all the elements needed for herding. The real-life stories of actual ranchers and their dogs are very interesting. Of all the dog training books I've read so far Stockdog Savvy does the best job at describing the basics such as how to enforce the Stay command on stock. These exercises seem so simple they are often overlooked in other herding books. This is certainly a book I will keep close at hand and one I think everyone involved with herding dogs should read.


An excellent book that's not just about border collies!! - May 23, 2011, thubbard:
Stockdog Savvy is just the book I was looking for! An excellent book for anyone interested in learning about stock dog training. With the new addition to our family of an Aussie pup, I was looking for an in-depth book that could take me from beginner to as far as I decide to go. Was also looking for a book that wasn't hung up on just Border Collies. Stockdog Savvy is all that. The authors did a great job covering a large variety of herding breeds and their characteristics. Along with wonderful pictures of herding dogs doing their jobs throughout, it covers the language between handler and dog, basic obedience, different kinds of stock, ranch work and trials. Am sure I'm going to be reading this book more than once and will refer to it for years to come.


Practical and usable - May 11, 2011, Ima Jake Too:
I immediately found information I could use with my Aussie. Jake is already benefiting from Jeanne Joy's suggestions. Buy it, you won't be sorry.



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