Choosing the right obedience puppy by Bronwyn Bartley
I spent some of my last column talking about choosing a puppy for obedience and the various breeds we see in the sport so I would like to start by carrying on this time in the same mode.
There is no doubt that the predominantly successful breed in UK obedience is the Border Collie together with its identical non-breed-show counterpart, the Working Sheepdog, but that is not to say that the acquisition of a Border Collie is an automatic passport to success. We have heard the breed referred to as ‘clockwork dogs’. ‘Yes’, we say, ‘but you still have to know where to put the key and which way to turn it’. This also applies to many other breeds of dog. As long as a particular breed is generally agile and reasonably intelligent, there is no reason why it should not be trained right up to top level.
Apart from the Border Collie and the traditional patriarch of obedience, the German Shepherd Dog, there are many other established and emerging breeds proving themselves in our sport: Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Belgian Shepherd Dogs (Tervuerens, Groenendaels and more recently Malinois, in particular), Australian Shepherds, Beardies, Dobermanns, Shelties, Poodles and, of course, many cross breeds which are currently all well represented and respected.
More important than theoretical intelligence in any breed is sound temperament and a willingness to please, and these are the qualities to look for in parents and, even more important, grandparents.
Once you have decided to acquire a new pup, do not be rushed into making any rash decisions. Once you have chosen your breed, enquire in the obedience show scene about prospective matings from obedience working stock. Proven working ability in other forms of canine competition is not always a guarantee of success. For instance, progeny from predominantly sheep-orientated Border Collies often prove too strong or independent for obedience, as can some of the gundogs.
If you can locate an established obedience line in a prospective mating of your chosen breed and you are able to book a puppy provisionally, make sure you are able to have a look at mum, dad, also grandma and grandpa too, if possible.
A carefully planned mating by a responsible breeder should include positive research down the parents’ lines against hereditary defects such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hereditary cataract and other particular breed problems. Nothing can be guaranteed but the odds against can be improved dramatically with careful research and planning. It can be heartbreaking to set out with your youngster on a carefully planned training programme only to find that your efforts count for nothing as some wretched hereditary disablement begins to manifest itself.
When the pups are born, or if you are informed of a litter which you believe will suit your needs and you go to see them, there are all sorts of theories and tests which have been devised to enable you to make the right choice. ‘Don’t take the meekie mildie’. ‘Avoid the obvious boss dog’. ‘Throw an empty match box and take the first one to pick it up’. These and many more old wives tales or more scientific selection processes exist to help you decide.
In our experience the most important thing is that you should really WANT your puppy. If he has been planned for, waited for, and at last here he is, something inside will tell you he is the one for you. If you find yourself looking at a puppy or a litter of puppies and being persuaded, or find that you are trying to persuade yourself that you like this one or that one, it is time to stand back and think again.
The show season is now well under way but before moving on to the May Bank Holiday weekend, in my report from the Midlands Border Collie show I wasn’t sure at that time who was awarded the reserve bitch ticket but now I can report that Margaret Ward and Flyte (Amazing Flyte To Fame) collected this award. This is obviously a good show for Margaret and Flyte as last year they won their first ticket there under Roy Page.
On the Bank Holiday weekend I had decided to go up to Scotland again, this time for Burnbank DTC’s championship show on Saturday May 5 where Kath Mangan judged the bitch ticket while Hazel Turnbull was in charge of the dog ticket.
The number of entries at Burnbank were down this year probably due to the fact that not only should Rugby have been on the Sunday but also Leicestershire GSD was holding its championship show on Monday May 7 so this may have made a difference to Burnbank’s entries which were 15 in the dog class and 22 in the bitch class.
Of these ticket entries, 13 worked in the dog class while in bitches, just 14 of the 22 entries actually worked.
To get on to the details of the ticket classes, the leaders in the dog class were Alison Gresty and Double Jeopardy (Haddie) with Billy Ferguson and Alameda Red Kite (Kite) lying in second place after being drawn first.
After stays and scent were completed the situation remained the same so it was Alison and Haddie who went on to win the ticket, their third. And where did this team win their first ticket? At this show two years ago. And who was the judge? Well it was me so I was absolutely delighted with the result. Many congratulations to Alison and Haddie. I am so pleased that this lovely boy is now an obedience champion.
Now to the bitch class where the ring work was completed before lunch. The leaders at that time were Kathy Ingham and Ob/WT Ch Ruskath Othentic Image (Oddi) while in equal second we had Alison Gresty with Canen Georga and Kathy with Ruskath Mankana Image, while Pat Watson with Forever Magic It’s Flicker and Linda Rutherford with Ob Ch Colliewood Confidential were half a mark behind.
Three in the line-up
However, after stays and scent the positions remained the same so it was Kathy and Oddi who took their first ticket of the year while Alison and Georga took the reserve. Incidentally, Kathy also finished fifth and sixth with Nyla and Zuri, so not a bad day for Kathy.
I wonder, is this the first time one handler has had three dogs in the same ticket line-up?
As for my second trip to Scotland in as many weeks, I also came back feeling quite pleased as Tammy won the open C, after I made a mistake in the ticket, while Tallis finished third in B and fifth in A.
Yes, I was very pleased with my kids.