Old English Sheepdog Breed Magazine - Showsight

spring sunshine. Th e goats and I drifted towards her in disbelief. I retired her from herding shortly thereafter. Th e goats were relieved. As was I. It goes without saying that obedience is its own special challenge for this breed. Agility may allow for some creativity. Th ings like herding and nose work and tracking, relying as they do on inherent instincts, give the dog some creative free- dom. But obedience, here, the breadth of acceptable performance standards is nar- row. Very narrow. Especially according to your average creative OES. An OES generally doesn’t mind doing something the same way maybe twice. After that, it gets old and the onus is on the handler to keep it fresh. Very few of us are truly up to the challenge. I fi nd this the most challenging venue of all. I recall argu- ing vehemently with one of my girls about sitting at the start of the o ff -lead heeling in novice. Th e bitch is one of the smartest OES I have ever known. But every title in every venue with her has been hard-earned and then some. She fi nally sat—I was all but begging the judge to dismiss us long before then. When the judge said “Forward” on the pattern, I obeyed, OES proudly stayed put. I gave her an extra command, to no avail. And then performed the o ff -lead pattern near perfectly, if you must know, sans dog. Th ankfully, the judge was of the well-endowed variety, humorously speaking and could laugh at my near fl awless footwork—much easier, without the dog, I confess—and my bitch’s admi- rable ability to, as we had argued for at least two minutes, SIT. I love the breed. I hope I never, ever fi nd myself without an Old English Sheepdog. But easy? Never. About the Author Kristine B. Loland

Photos © k9 images

agility judge, who, through repeated expo- sure, has developed her own a ffi nity for the breed and who refuses to believe that the OES’s greatest performance handicap is anything other than their handlers. I never argue with her. I’ve learned the hard way that she is always right. Instructors like her are worth their weight in gold for all of us in the OES performance community. Still, there’s nothing like being sur- rounded by hundreds of your all-breed peers, not to mention John Q. Public and his children—the latter almost always an OES favorite—with an almost nine-year- old Old English Sheepdog that looks for all the world like she’s never been in pub- lic before, that then turns around and pulls out all the stops. Minutes after her run she was working the OESCA Meet-the-Breeds booth, o ff lead, mingling, in great company and working the crowd as only an Old Eng- lish can. You learn to go with the fl ow. And you learn to enjoy and appreciate both the highs and the high jinx of this breed equally. In the herding context, it’s a mixed bag. I know I go against conventional wisdom here, but, quite honestly, as breeders, we have not selected for herding aptitude to any signi fi cant degree. Th e pressure to try to maintain soundness, physical type and acceptable temperament is probably challenging enough.

True, our breed is by its original design not likely to excel in competition fl avored by and favoring strong eye breeds, like the Border Collie. We’ve already established that subtly is not the Old English Sheep- dog’s forte. Light stock will often quickly feel overpowered by our breeds in your face approach, adding to the competitive challenges at the trial level, especially. And sometimes we accept enthusiasm and strong prey drive as proof of herding instinct, if not ability. Every so often, an individual OES will excel in herding and give us all hope that the ability is still there. More frequently— and, again, hampered by their handler’s ability—we see overly enthusiastic dogs, or, perhaps, like one of mine, the play- fulness aspect takes over. I had one bitch that would work enthusiastically until she felt she was being micromanaged and by an idiot, at that. I’ll grant her the latter. I don’t know about most of you, but a feel for stock is not in my personal pedigree. Still, one day, her sense of fun got the bet- ter of her and she play-bowed to the wrong cranky, cornered goat. He head-butted her. I took him to task, but she still took it per- sonally. On another notable occasion, in the midst of a beautiful, rare drive with a larger fl ock of goats, she got carried away and dropped and rolled in the beautiful

acquired her fi rst Old English Sheepdog in 1986. She made her agility debut at the Old English Sheep- dog Club of America’s 2001 National Spe- cialty, and has been competing in agility, obedience, and, more recently, rally and occasionally herding

with assorted Old English Sheepdogs since then. She has also served OESCA in various capacities, currently as Performance Chair.


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