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Idaho rancher sets auction record

By M. Anderson

How much is that puppy in the pen? For a 3-year-old border collie named Skittles, the answer is $45,000.

Jeff Clausen, a feedlot manager from Melba, Idaho, raised Skittles both at work and at home, allowing him to be a pet for his children and training his natural talent with livestock. It’s a different approach than that taken by many cattle dog trainers, who cling to the old belief that socializing a working dog will result in poor driving.

“It used to be these cowboy dogs were tools,” Clausen said. “They’re not tools anymore, and I think today’s society wants a pet at the same time it wants a partner to work with.”

That mentality has served Clausen well in the past. In 2018 he set the previous sales record when his border collie Gurdy sold for $30,000 at the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale in California. Clausen attributes his success to his training approach, or lack thereof. Border Collies are raised for long hours in the field, have a natural inclination to drive cattle, and are eager to please. By trusting the dog to do what comes naturally to him and consistently rewarding a job well done, as well as inviting the dogs over to his house, Clausen has been able to set these record sales figures with just one year of “dog training”. “.

Red Bluff hosts a three-day herding competition during its annual stock sale, where trainers from around the country come to demonstrate their dog’s ability to lead a pack or pick out an individual with just a whistle. Seventeen judges placed Skittles’ performance fifth overall, a ranking that Clausen attributed to the judgment of the judges.

“In Red Bluff, they want a dog that will go forward and stop cattle hard. She was not that dog. She wasn’t the strongest dog in the competition, but she had the strongest personality.”

In fact, it was the personality that won over the highest bidders, the Siller family, who run a small Texas longhorn ranch in California. The husband and wife duo were looking for a tame dog that wouldn’t bite and potentially injure their show animals, and admired the care with which Skittles moved his herd during trials. Reuniting with Clausen and Skittles after their run, the connection was instant.

“She was extremely loving and you could tell she was going to be a family dog,” said Andrea Siller.

Even after they broke up, Skittles hadn’t had enough, breaking up with Clausen to solicit more love from rancher Neal Siller.

“He looked at me and said, ‘She’s coming home with us,’” Andrea said.

When the top through fourth dogs sold for between $6,000 and $11,000, the Sillers thought they’d get a good price for the fifth. But other viewers were also drawn to Skittles’ charm. When it was his turn, Clausen noticed that the crowd changed.

“Everyone started screaming and yelling,” he said.

Though they hadn’t intended to spend a record price on a dog, the Sillers have no regrets. His 8,000-acre farm desperately needed a dog with Skittles’ skill level, and when he’s not working, he’s a beloved family member to the humans and twelve other dogs in his new pack.

“She has fit in absolutely perfectly with our family,” Andrea said. “She is living the pampered life now.”

Clausen is proud of his dogs and is not shy about saying goodbye, knowing that working dogs will have a better life if they can do what they were bred to do. He joked that Skittles left without looking back, but Andrea Siller disagreed, noting that Skittles definitely missed Clausen.

“As soon as the auction was over and we had Skittles, it broke my heart because I knew they had to have the most incredible bond,” she said.

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