With her help, and the help of Kali's breeder, Wency Lopez of Shantri Australian Shepherds, I have been developing my idea of the perfect Aussie. In my mind, the key to an Australian Shepherd is work ethic. Aussies are known as a tremendously versatile breed, they can do it all. You can find them in agility, obedience, service dogs, fly ball, Frisbee, search and rescue, working all kinds of stock (cattle, sheep and ducks) and being wonderful therapy dogs. In my mind, the key to all of the above fields is a work ethic and a good mind. Without these two items, you can have the most athletic dog in the world with all the talent in the world, but if they do not want to work with you, it is much more difficult.
If you are interested in owning Australian Shepherds, please do your research! They are very high-energy and very smart dogs. If you do not give them some sort of “job” to do, they will make their own and it will usually end up being something you don't want done, like redoing your landscaping or drip system. They are not for everyone. If you want a dog that will sit in your back yard alone all day, an Aussie is NOT the dog for you. Please visit the parent club website – www.ASCA.org - and read the informative article posted there about the responsibilities of owning an Australian Shepherd.
I breed very rarely, only when I want a puppy for myself, so I am breeding for what I want in a dog. Health and temperament are #1 – I want NICE dogs that I can live with. I do all the health screenings (hips, eyes, elbows) that I can think of and I try to look at the overall picture when contemplating breeding. Since I am an active competitor in several venues, the work ethic I mentioned above is critical.
Enthusiasm for learning is something I try to instill in all my puppies. They are clicker trained at a young age and taught all sorts of stupid pet tricks before they “go home.” They roll around in tunnels in my yard and get to visit safe friends so they are exposed to car travel, livestock and other dogs at a young age. I leash break and crate train pups before I send them home. Basically I take 2 months off of work and play with puppies - it's a fun but exhausting time! I try to encourage my friends with children to come over a lot and play with the youngsters. Also, I encourage prospective owners to come and spend a lot of time with the puppies so there is a basic relationship being formed before the puppy even goes home. It's open house time when I have puppies on the ground.
At the moment, I currently have no puppies and am not planning on breeding until 2005. But I will breed Gale next year – just not sure when yet! Keep checking back for more info.
I am fortunate enough to live where I can give private agility instruction. If you are interested in private lessons, be warned: I will make you run your tuckus off and I will not allow you to get upset with your dog. Ever. So, if you can handle that and are still interested, contact me.
I also offer handling services for owners who cannot (for whatever reason, usually physical) get their dogs around an agility course. Please see the page of the dogs I have handled and testimonials from their owners. I will not handle a dog that I do not have a relationship with: this is supposed to be fun for the dog and that is my number one priority.
This whole “dog thing” started with my third dog – Oso. I bought the puppy you are supposed to avoid at all costs (I didn’t know this at the time) – the runt of the litter, scared of everything and everyone and prone to cowering behind anything that didn’t move. I signed up for a puppy obedience class where the instructor warned me that if I didn’t work really hard, chances were Oso would become a fear biter.
After a year of obedience classes (and he got better at class but was still scared outside of his known safety zone which was really small) my obedience instructor suggested that I do agility with him. She said she didn’t think Oso would ever be able to compete but that it would do him a world of good in the self-confidence department. So, we signed up for classes and about a year later (he was 2 ½ by this point) we entered our first agility show! And qualified and took 2 nd place! I was hooked. Oh – one other thing about Oso I forgot to mention, he is an Alaskan Malamute – NOT the easiest breed in the world to train. That same obedience instructor (Wency Lopez of Shantri Australian Shepherds) also encouraged our obedience career. She had this AMAZING Aussie – Tilly (Summertimes Waltzer of Shantri, CDX, STDsd) and I would watch her do heeling patterns thinking “there is no way Oso is going to do that!” Well, he did – got his CD after 4 trips in the ring - and by now the competition bug had bitten deep.
“Come look at some cute Aussie puppies.” The deadliest words in the universe. That is how, in 1996, I ended up with my first Aussie “Shantri’s Kalifornia Dreamer” aka Kali. No one had ever warned me that Aussie puppies were the cutest things you can imagine and especially when they cock their heads at you!
Needless to say, Aussies have become my passion. I adore their looks, their bouncy attitude and their (oftentimes inappropriate) sense of humor. Wency then did another terrible thing to me: she introduced Kali (and me) to stock. Yet another addiction acquired.
Since then I have been active in dog sports focusing mainly on agility and stockdog training with some obedience sprinkled here and there. Oso not only successfully competed in obedience and agility (he didn’t leave the ring without me) but was the #1 ranked Malamute for Excellent level agility in the USA for 1998, 1999, and 2000. I also started handling a wonderful Aussie, Indian Run Apache Dancer ("Patches" - please see her own page under The Pack/Handling) in agility and that partnership is still going strong. We qualified for and attended the 2003 AKC Agility Finals and are almost finished with her MACH. I regularly attend both agility and stockdog clinics to continue learning. My “pack” has grown considerably (3 more Aussies and 1 Border Collie) and all are either actively competing or getting ready to. (More info about my critters on their individual pages.)