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Stockdog training clinics are fun for dogs and owners
Ohio Correspondent

HAMILTON, Ohio — At a Custom Stockdog herding clinic on Richard and Carol Lightfield’s farm, clients were bundled up against the cold and ankle-deep in mud. Nobody complained.

Coffee was brewing, barbecue simmered in a slow-cooker. Everybody had a good time and the dogs seemed to love their time with the sheep or in some cases, ducks.

Kenneth Kuykendall and Joyce Burn-ham, owners of Custom Stockdogs, bring the stock; all they need is a pen.

The duo raises border collies and sheep on their Illinois farm. They also travel the country giving herding demonstrations and training clinics.

“In our demonstrations (given at county fairs, expositions, school assemblies) we show how the dogs work,” Kuykendall said. “We set up props to simulate farm work and to show the public how you really use a dog. Then we add a lot of fun into it. It’s entertaining for people, city people the same as country.”

In clinics they work with all skill levels of people and dogs and with all breeds of stockdogs, Burnham said. Some clients want to train their dogs to work with their livestock at home, some have no livestock but wish to compete at trials and some people do it just for fun.

“I like teaching people,” Kuykendall said. “I like to take young dogs out with people. It’s half teaching the people how to get into position with the livestock and half getting the dog to understand that. Once you get the dogs into position with the livestock they settle in and then they start learning what you expect from them.”

“You have to get them on balance with the sheep so the dog is fetching the sheep to you,” he said.

“So you’re in the picture with the dog; the dog sees the sheep and then you. That puts you in the position where they’re more willing to listen to you.”

While Kuykendall was raised with dogs and sheep, Burnham had 4-H sheep and got involved with dogs afterwards.

“We started with Kenneth’s dad’s (Henry Kuykendall) line of dogs so our dogs go back nine generations,” Burnham said. “We stick close to the original bloodlines and focus mainly on the working instincts of the dogs.”

“We tend to like a tough aggressive personality,” Burnham said. “They can get (the breed) watered down a lot where they’re not enough dog to really handle large ranch situations.

They stick to the tough working-lines of dogs that are proven to be able to go out and work on large cattle or sheep operations. Many people that work with herding dogs for a hobby don’t want a dog quite that driven, Burnham said.

It’s a hobby for Kathy Smith, she owns no livestock, but she said she “wouldn’t miss it (the Hamilton clinic) for the world.” She worked her dog both days - most people did.

“It’s a beautiful thing to watch your dog’s instincts really kick in, like, ‘all right, this is what I was meant to do,’” she said.

The next Hamilton-area herding clinic will be June 24-25. For more information visit or e-mail or phone 618-965-3641 for organizers Chris and Jeff Vaughn.

Custom Stockdogs also holds monthly clinics in southern Indiana. Local contact is Debbie Willoughby at 812-366-4153 or e-mail

This farm news was published in the May 24, 2006 issue of Farm World.