By Sondra Murphy
An Upper Ojai couple got help from television’s “Dog Whisperer” in training their dogs to assist them with their cattle ranch. The dog behaviorist came to Black Mountain Ranch Thursday to help Ellen and Richard Gilleland work with three border collies named Mickey, Maggie and Mollie, as well as a German shepherd named Barney.
Ellen Gilleland attended one of Cesar Milan’s seminars last autumn. At the end of the seminar, people were given cards to submit questions to Milan. Gilleland asked if he would be interested in coming to teach her dogs to herd cattle. Two weeks ago, Gilleland heard from the show that Milan would like to take her up on her offer while filming a segment of “Dog Whisperer.”
The Gillelands’ dogs range in age from 2 to 4 years and are smart, as their breeds are known to be. The ranch keeps 150 head of Limousin cattle on 3,700 acres, grazing in the spring. “We bring them down to the ranch in the summer once they eat everything up north,” said Gilleland. “It would be nice if the dogs could help herd them.”
Five of the ranch’s cattle were used for the session and Gilleland said that their border collies took to the training very well. “Maggie, Mollie and Mickey did better than we thought they would, having not worked cattle before.” She said that the border collies quickly began following the lead herd dogs.
The German shepherd was less cooperative. “Barney absolutely has the instinct to chase them, rather than herd them,” Gilleland said. They suspected beforehand that Barney would be less inclined for the task, but they wanted to give him a chance.
Milan brought Daddy along: his favorite pit bull companion and poster dog for his calm and assertive approach. Milan also complimented the Gillelands on their dogs being so well behaved. “Cesar’s an amazing person. He has a special gift to be able to communicate with dogs the way he does,” said Gilleland. “He really enjoyed himself and it was a new experience for him to work with herding animals.”
Gilleland said that more training would be required before the border collies could assist them in cattle herding, as she is aware of the risk of injury. “We haven’t really decided yet if we will have further training,” she said.
“Dog Whisperer” airs on the National Geographic Channel on Fridays at 8 p.m. The Gilleland episode is expected to air this summer.