My cross-breeding program started in 2003, breeding the Border Collie and/or Australian Kelpie to a Pit Bulldog/Mastiff cross, resulted in a formidable working cow dog. I am pleased with the success of this program. My efforts and findings have been very rewarding and the results are as follows:
The key to my success has been to choose good, proven dogs for breeding. The female Border Collies selected were first worked for thirty days and proven by me to be tough cow dogs, that had previously produced outstanding pups from litters sired by different working males. The Bulldog / Mastiff sire selected as a foundation sire, was a very gentle, biddable, family pet and working dog. He weighed one hundred and twenty pounds and was trained to catch and hold wild cattle and hogs, always under control and working alone most of the time. He was to be admired.
As a result, the disposition and temperament of these cross-breeds were noticeably different from the Border Collies and Kelpies that I was accustomed to training. They are quieter, more intimidated by the handler and extremely eager to please. I found these dogs to have no aggressive behavior toward me or others.
At the onset of training, the Cross-breeds do not have the intense desire to work stock as the Border Collies and Kelpies do. However, after they understand that it is permissible to bite and chase the cattle, their keenness increases greatly and there is no difference in their willingness or desire to work. The manner in which they work is slower, more methodical and with more purpose. They are not as athletic due to weighing fifteen (15) to twenty (20) pounds more than the Border Collies and Kelpies. However, the weight and size increase allows them to withstand more punishment from stock without serious injury. The cattle have noticeable respect for this larger size dog.
There is a distinct manner in which most of this breed bite cattle. The bite is hard and straight forward with minimum slash-biting (jumping from side to side), resulting in less loss of energy used by the dog. The cross-breeds do not bite unnecessarily and will not bite at all when in control of the situation. I expected them to hold on to cattle for too long when they bit, being the nature of the Bulldog, a trait that could not be tolerated in a herding dog, but I was pleasantly surprised that they did not. Few heel the hock low but prefer to bite below the knee or up on the ham. They are good headers and direct eye contact with a cow triggers the desire to bite the nose.
The initial foundation training was quite intimidating for this breed of dog. Being tied, leading, getting down, returning, jumping up into the dog boxes, and being led around cattle on a leash in a very controlled manner made them timid at first. It took some time for their confidence to return before they wanted to start the real work. I did consider the alternative, which was being loose and allowing them to work cattle as they wished, but being out of control and biting cattle excessively would result in injury. My foundation training took longer at the start but proved to be successful in the end.
Some half-breeds will work cattle to a degree but have little herding instinct and most will hold on to cattle too long when they bite. The three-quarter breeds have better balance, more herding ability, will not hold on and start showing some eye. A high percentage of the three-quarter breeds make excellent cowdogs and are closer to what we are looking for. They can also be used for breeding back to the Border Collies and Kelpies for a smaller, more agile cow dog that would weigh around sixty-five pounds. The seven-eights (7/8) Border Collie and one-eigth (1/8) Bulldog/Mastiff cross-breed is the product we market. We do not want to get too far away from those super traits that the Border Collies and Kelpies have to offer !
Recently, I was honored by the University of California at Davis, to participate in a study concerning the herding ability and eye in dogs. I was visited by a Professor and Veterinarian from the University who took DNA of all my dogs and filmed them in different stages of training. The results of their findings will be published by UCD at a later date.
I have been successful in my cross-breeding venture and will continue cross-breeding these dogs each year. This will enable me to furnish cow dogs to ranchers who have shown a great deal of interest in using these cross-breed cowdogs in their cattle operations.
Please visit my website at www.daltonscowdogs.com to see these dogs working and in action through movie clips I have provided.