LOGAN, Utah — For Preston resident Breck Hunsaker, dogs are more than just man’s best friend.
The four of them that he owns — Sue, Mindy, Scott and Cinco — work on his ranch, which includes 600 mother cows. Not only that but they compete, too, as they did last week at the Mountain States Stockdog Association’s qualifying competition at the Cache County Fairgrounds in Logan.
“It’s addictive. You can’t hardly quit,” Hunsaker said.
Hunsaker made those comments after running his border collie, Sue, through a five-minute exercise of herding several cows at his direction. Sue obeyed Hunsaker’s commands but had trouble herding one cow into a pin with the others.
“Sometimes, you draw bad cattle and sometimes the dog doesn’t do you any favors,” Hunsaker said. “In this case, it was just a cow that was being obstinate. . We were winning the battle, we just didn’t have enough time to finish it.”
Steve Wight, owner and president of the Mountain States Stockdog Association, or MSSA, said his organization has been around two years and includes hundreds of members.
The all-day competition last Saturday at the Cache County Fairgrounds represented just one of the qualifying competitions MSSA has before it hosts a national competition in Wyoming.
“It’s really, really competitive, but everyone gets along,” Wight said. “From A to Z, it’s a lot of work; it takes a lot of people to put one on.”
Wight said the competition last week included over 100 dogs from several states. Dogs were placed in different competitive classes based on their abilities.
The stockdogs corralled several cattle at a time through a course. The one with the most points and the fastest time won.
Wight said he hoped spectators who came to watch the competition saw “the true value of a working cattle dog.”
“It’s really entertaining to come watch,” he said.
Hunsaker said it takes consistent training to get his stockdogs to a competitive level. He will come home and practice with his dogs late at night.
“It forces me on cold days and late days and those kinds of things to go out do a little bit of something with that dog because I know I’ve got a show up here and people are going to be watching,” Hunsaker said.
Several stockdog owners The Herald Journal spoke with talked about why they have their stockdogs compete and not just stay on the farm all day.
Jennifer Quinton, of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, has been to the competition at the county fairgrounds before. She has several stockdogs, but this year she brought just one, named Whiskey, to the event.
“Some people strictly use their dogs to work; some people come to a trail and they see it and they kind of get a little bug and think, ‘That looks kind of like fun, I think I could try that,’ and so they come join,” Quinton said. “We all strive to get to the national level at competition.”
Since Whiskey is new to competing, Quinton says, “I’m really just excited when she works good and we get a course finished.”
Clyde McCourt of Wellington brought his stockdog, Spud, to compete. He believes the competition is valuable in ways beyond improving his stockdog’s abilities.
“It makes a better trainer out of you because you’re in here competing against these guys,” he said. “If I just stayed at home and worked my dogs at the farm, I don’t think I’d be as good a trainer.”
Wight talked about how stockdogs are used on the farm.
“My dog takes the place of five cowboys,” he said. “Where you would have four or five cowboys on a horse trying to put cattle in a pen or through a gate or load them on trucks, the dogs do it.”
McCourt said the stockdogs he uses on his property are reliable.
“They show up every day if you’re needing help,” he said. “He doesn’t come hung over or anything. He don’t want paid vacation.”
Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com