Shepherding is one of the oldest traditions humans still practice and dogs have been a key player since the beginning. Here at the Helle Ranch, tradition is kept alive with just under 30 working dogs that do everything from moving, to catching and protecting our precious sheep. We have two types of dogs we rely on: the cunning herding dogs and big, goofy guard dogs.
The Herding Dogs
Border Collies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds and instinctively want to work as soon as they can walk. Working with them is fun, and training them is easy. Since they naturally want to bring sheep to you, they don’t have to be told to go, but rather have to be told when to stop. Eventually, they will learn almost a dozen commands. Since the sheep can be spread out so far, most of these instructions can also be given by whistling. They love to play fetch in their free time and always want a job to do.
The Guard Dogs
Here on the ranch, we use a combination of Akbash, Great Pyrenees, and Kangal as livestock protection dogs. These large breeds naturally want to protect sheep. They can be bothered with tricks, are typically shy, giant teddy bears. They look intimidating if you encounter one in the mountains, but if you just say "Hi" and tell them to go back to their sheep, they will do just that. Montana’s mountain landscapes host many different predators, all of which occasionally try to kill a sheep. When a predator thinks about stealing an easy meal, the dogs are there to scare them away. In essence, the dogs claim their space and predators avoid them. Good livestock protection dogs are worth their weight in gold and save countless lives of sheep every year.