how to Choosing a Dog?
THE OLD SAYING
‘You can’t choose your relatives’ is very true but you can choose both your friends and your dogs and, when involved with sheepdogs, three of the best friends you can have are your bank manager, your veterinary surgeon, and your solicitor.
I always remember when these thoughts first crystallized in my mind—it was after winning the Rembrandt International Trials at Ruthin with Gel (a now-defunct trial which was then sponsored by Echo Jewellery of Ruthin). I was asked to be the guest of the Managing Director at a Rotary luncheon and it was not until after I had accepted the invitation that he suggested I might like to make an after-lunch speech.
Never having made a speech in my life, and being in a position where it was impossible to decline, I agreed with some trepidation and wondered what on earth I was going to talk about until I contacted a friend of mine who is a solicitor.
He said to me, ‘Nobody can write a speech for you—all you have to do is to enjoy your lunch and then simply stand up and talk about the subject you know best— dogs!’ When I stood up to make my speech, I saw that my bank manager and veterinary surgeon were also amongst the guests, so I based my speech on my dogs and these three friends of mine and, as predicted, I was able to talk enough to keep the audience interested.
I find that I like some dogs a lot more than others (as with people) and I always do better with those which I really like right from the start. I think it is necessary to remember that, if there is a clash of temperament between the dog and handler, it does not necessarily mean that the dog is no good—he may do extremely well with a handler who has a different personality and approach, so this is one of the factors which should be considered when problems occur and particularly if you find yourself not liking the dog as his training progresses.
As time goes on in your training, and handling of dogs you will find, as I have done, that you will look for certain traits and characteristics which you have seen in other dogs you have trained successfully in the past.
In a recent discussion at an Agricultural Training Board class (see Chapter 12) two young farmers were both saying of their own dogs, ‘This is the type I like.’
Each was saying exactly the same thing about two dogs which not only looked different but also had totally different working styles.
The interesting thing was that the two collies were litter brother and sister although their owners were not aware of this. Not only had these dogs been brought up by entirely different people, but they were also naturally different from each other.
I firmly believe that one can, with experience, pick out traits in dogs from particular lines, even going back many generations. In the line which Beryl and I have developed (strongly based on Winston Cap) it is possible to recognize a Winston Cap type of puppy at a very early stage, one that not only looks like his illustrious ancestor but also moves and thinks like him. In my book, Winston Cap was a marvelous dog, full of intelligence and innate ability, and I will never forget the first time I saw him working—I watched his run in the qualifying trial with his owner, Jock Richard- son, and also, on the final day, the run which won the International Supreme Championship, and it was beautiful to watch.
Latterly, it has become fashionable in some circles to denigrate Wiston Cap but I am convinced that he was one of the greatest dogs of all time and that any breeding problems have been caused by overuse of him as a stud dog, often to bitches whose owners did not give sufficient thought to the suitability of lines. Too many people who should know better will take their bitches to a dog because he is an International, National or good Open trials winner, not because the line of the dog is compatible with that of the bitch. An additional factor has been that some breeders fail to check back at least five or six generations on both the sire’s and the dam’s sides to ensure that there are enough outcrosses in the lines before making a decision about mating.
If you are breeding, you should try to keep to a pattern or breeding plan if you can—this is not easy to do and I would be the first to admit that, in addition to careful planning, there is always a measure of luck involved in the process. If you breed your own puppies, I think it is always easier to keep a bitch of the type you like because you can introduce a dog which you like, with compatible lines and characteristics complementary to, or balancing, those of the bitch.
Then you will have a whole litter of pups from which to choose the one(s) you wish to keep. When buying a pup from another breeder one should always have a firm opinion as to the type of pup required and then not swerve from that until the right puppy appears. Never rush it and never buy one which falls short of any of the criteria you have set yourself.
ideas on how to choose a puppy for future training for work, and some to go on to sheepdog trialing, the novice handler invariably asks, ‘How do I go about choosing a puppy in the first place?’ and I will put forward my ideas on this subject in the hope that this will be of help, particularly to this latter group.