It’s agriculture editor-in-chief Catherina Cunnane in conversation with Paddy Fanning of Churchmount Sheepdogs in this week’s sheep segment. They discuss how reading a book launched a career with sheepdogs.
“I’m Paddy Fanning, 49, from Wicklow and I live in Glenealy.
For the past four generations my family have been farmers around North Wexford and South Wicklow. My father practiced tillage for years and only started tending to the meadows and ranching around 1985.
My earliest memories of farming are usually things like running down the road in front of cattle or sheep and having to stand in spaces and stop cattle, which usually involved a bit of stress!
When I was younger I went to Canada for a few years to work. By the time I got home, I had discovered that my father had greatly increased the number of his sheep.
Honestly, I didn’t feel like running around trying to keep sheep, so I bought a book on how to train sheepdogs called “A Way of Life: Sheepdog Training, Handling and Trialling,” wrote by a Welshman named Glyn Jones; that was in 1997.
I was a full-time farmer until about 2002. At that time, I decided to try to get away from farming to generate my income.
I am now a part time sheep breeder and only breed Wicklow Cheviot sheep. I put them on the hill for mountain grazing from April to the end of October every year
In addition, I keep six to ten sheepdogs at a time.
I have a few well-trained ones that I use for work, like picking up sheep on the mountain. On weekends, I also use them to participate in dog shows. I always like to have a few young dogs that come too.
Also, I have good stallions and people often bring their females to them for mating. I usually tend to take a puppy out of the litter as payment for mating.
But, I don’t tend to breed my own females as I have a fairly steady supply of puppies instead of the service charge.
Registered Shepherd Dogs
Well, in my opinion, if I want to breed a good sheepdog, I have to breed a well-bred female dog and use a good proven stallion.
Registered Shepherd Dogs are the best to use because you can go back generations and examine the lineage.
I like to use well-known dogs that are registered with the International Sheepdog Society.
This is a much safer route to raising a good puppy than using dogs that have only anecdotal evidence to demonstrate their ability, as International Sheepdog registered dogs are generally from generations of proven working dogs.
The length of time to train a sheepdog can vary wildly, but depends on factors such as the dog’s enthusiasm, the number of times we take the dog out for training, the amount of training we want for our dog and how natural a dog is. That works.
Quite often a trainer can put a lot of training on a young dog in 3 weeks.
For example, if a breeder just wants his dog to know how to pick up sheep 100 yards, how to stop and be called back, he could do it in four weeks with a good trainer, if he’s the right guy. of dog.
First Shepherd Dog Test and Deacon’s Influence
I started experimenting in 1997. This book I mentioned helped me learn to train a dog. It brought me to a level where I could witness my first sheepdog tryout.
I met the dog handler, Mr. Norman Deacon when I was there. Norman started to help me, and with 40 years of experience with working dogs he quickly improved my skills.
In 2000, three of the 60 dogs qualified to race in the international dogs I had trained.
Each year, 150 dogs participate in the Irish National Sheepdog Trial over three days. The top 15 represent Ireland internationally.
I have been part of the Irish team twice. The first time was in 2000, and more recently I was there in 2018.
When foot-and-mouth disease hit the UK in 2001, shepherd dog trials were suspended for several months. At that time, I lost the habit of competing, and I completely gave up competing until 2015, when I decided to start again.
Much had changed in the sheepdogs. Trial and competition have become very popular in Europe and America.
Local, national and international custom
Social media was a new thing on the scene now. People all over the world could easily see what our dogs were doing on video.
This meant that the market for selling puppies and dogs had really grown during my absence.
Nowadays, when I have a puppy or a young dog for sale, it can end up going anywhere.
I like to sell locally, but at the same time I often send puppies to Europe or America.
Therefore, it is just as likely that a puppy could go to California or Poland as quickly as Wexford or Kerry!
Every now and then I do a sheepdog demonstration for an event. It is very interesting for people in a corporate environment to see how our dogs interact and make the sheep work through the master.
People often ask me where they would buy a good puppy for cattle. It doesn’t matter if a puppy is meant for sheep or cattle, even with the best of breeding, there is never any guarantee that a new puppy will make a good dog.
I just tell people what I would say to myself. Just try to buy a registered puppy and find out from a few more knowledgeable people about the breeding background.
In my opinion, that’s about all that anyone can do to at least move in the right direction to get the result they need. “
For the past two years, I have offered a bespoke demo or customer experience where I take guests with me up the mountain when I go watch my sheep.
It’s a once in a lifetime experience, but the guests should be reasonably fit!
National Shepherd Dog Trial
Every year we have a national sheepdog competition and an international competition.
Of course, 2020 has been an exception due to the pandemic. The international has operated since its creation in 1906, with the exception of the war years.
The national trial in Ireland switches between the north and the south of the country every other year.
The International consists of teams from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
It is held in each country on a four-year cycle. In 2023, the international will be back in Ireland, and our pitch here in Wicklow has been chosen as the venue.
We are very happy to welcome such a prestigious event in the Shepherd Dog calendar.
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