An interview by Shelties Online
and the gang at the 2006 ASSA National Specialty in Virginia Beach.
1. What dog show venues do you participate in? How long have you shown in each one?
I have been involved with dogs, training and showing my whole life. I did Obedience and Junior Showmanship when I was young. I did spend a number of years away from the dog show scene competing horses in 3-Day Eventing. Eventing is a triathlon sport so I guess that is why the challenge of training and competing versatility dogs appeals to me. I have bred quite a few Shelties that are out doing everything: Conformation, Obedience, Agility and Herding.
I concentrate on Herding and Agility training and those types of competitions first when my dogs are young. I usually try and put a Pre-trial Herding title on my puppies and then spend more time getting them ready for the Herding Trial classes but they do not compete in Herding Started until after they are out trialing in Agility. For Conformation, I may take a puppy out in a puppy class once or twice if I am going with a more mature dog just to get them used to that whole scene. If I am not trying to finish a more mature dog then I just wait until they are ready to start picking up points.
Conformation is not where I spend my weekends showing dogs. I go on that road only when it is time to finish one of my dogs. My husband Glen and I love doing agility as a hobby and it is also my livelihood and where our friends can be found on the weekends so that is usually where we can be found as well. I am a full time dog agility instructor, trainer and handler.
2. What area of the country do you compete in? Is there any advantage or disadvantage to the area of the country in which you train?
We live in New Jersey. It is a great area to do any type of dog showing. I believe where we live is an advantage, we are drivable distance to any number of shows in just about any venue you want to do in five different states.
3. What brought you to shelties first, performance or conformation? How?
I have loved Shetland Sheepdogs since childhood. The first time I remember seeing one I could not have been more than 4 or 5 years old. A neighbor's sheltie had gotten loose and came into our yard for a visit. I thought he was exquisite. Just the look of him; I loved his sweet, intelligent expression, his beautiful coat and full white collar. My adoration continued into early adult hood. I bought my first pure bred male Shetland sheepdog hours after moving into my first apartment. His moderate size seemed perfect, not too small or big. When I was in my late 30s and decided it was time to stop competing horses and become more involved with dog sports I felt so lucky that I had already chosen the perfect breed to pursue them with.
I always wanted to breed dogs so Conformation was something I knew I would need to be involved with. My first sheltie could have done Conformation; I just did not know enough to have his ears set right and how to groom so we did Obedience together. My second sheltie was purchased as a show prospect and I started to mentor with my now close friend Nancy Runyon (Foxcroft Shelties), even though she was not the breeder of my second sheltie. This second sheltie did not work out for Conformation so I made sure I got my third sheltie from Nancy. She is my foundation bitch and she goes back directly to Nancy's foundation bitch. She is: Am/Can CH & MACH3 Foxcroft I-Mar Winnie, PT, VCX.
Winnie is the dog that started us down the "no U-turn" road of dog shows; she was the first dog with which we did Agility and Herding. She is our first breed champion and our first generation of dual champion VCX dogs.
4. Did you have any mentors or success models that you followed in the beginning or along the way?
Most definitely, I have already mentioned Nancy Runyon of Foxcroft Shelties, but right now I need to add her husband, Bob, too. He is the best ring side mentor you can have. While Nancy was in the breed ring, he would explain everything that was going on. Nancy and Bob have also been so generous about sharing their dogs with Glen and me. Nancy is a great groomer and breeder-owner-handler and herding trainer too. I give her most of the credit for why I have been able to finish my own dogs. She prepared me to be able to groom and handle successfully. To this day, I love when she visits me all the way from Kentucky, she brings ducks with her and we have herding lessons in my front yard.
The other friend I would like to mention, who has been a great mentor for me, is Vicky Nelson. She is a terrific groomer and really good at trimming heads. She knows way more than me about pedigrees and the dogs further back in pedigrees and how they still have an affect on what we are breeding now -- particularly with emphasis on health and good temperaments. I was honored when she wanted a puppy from me. Vicky, like me and Nancy, is interested in both performance and breeding dogs that can finish in Conformation. She was the first person in our breed to finish a CH/MACH sheltie. We co-bred a litter two years ago: CH/MACH Foxcroft Pinelands Mustang Sally, HIAs, OF, VCX to Am/Can CH Talisker's Bengal. She co-owns a Sally daughter with me (BPISS Pinelands Heaven Help Me). "Darcie"has 7 points and just started her agility career last weekend. Vicky is really enjoying owning her and is doing a great job bringing her along.
5. Tell us about when you got your first performance title and your first
My first performance title was a CD on my first sheltie over 25 years ago. My husband put the first agility title on Winnie in 2001 and also the first MACH for our shelties. Winnie finished her American breed championship in 2003. Winnie just finished MACH3 three weeks ago. How's that for longevity of a dog's performance career? She has been out showing for 10 years and is still going strong.
6. Over the years, Was there a memorable event or performance during
which you realized a turning point in your abilities as a handler or
For my husband Glen, I guess it would be placing in one of the rounds last year at Agility World team tryouts with Linus (CH/MACH Foxcroft I-Mar Pinelands Ranger, HSAs, OF, VCX). Linus has just been such an exciting dog to have bred and own. He is our second generation dual champion VCX. Glen and Linus are crowd favorites at all the local agility trials. They are very competitive and continue to trade the top placements with some of the best handler-dog teams in our area.
For me, there have been so many memorable moments I am truly lucky to say. It is a process and each title earned, whether it is that first Novice Title on your first agility dog or the fact that I just finished my third generation dual champion VCX, they are all special moments at that time in your career with show dogs.
For Conformation: moments that stick out for me are when we get that last win to finish. Any of those are always a source for emotion and thankfulness.
I handled my Moriah to many group placements and the day we won a Group One was pretty awesome. I will never forget the judge putting me up front in the Herding Group and telling me to take them around one last time. How many times have you seen a sheltie leave those big herding breeds in the dust, she is an awesome mover and it was always exciting to get the claps and attention she deserved from the crowds watching the Group ring.
Sally won a Bred By Exhibitor Best In Show at Bryn Mawr earlier this year, that was certainly a memorable moment.
My husband and I have celebrated many MACH wins together on our own dogs and with our students dogs -- it is just the best thing you can do with your dog. Running and having fun with your dog and have them give you a championship for it too . . . not that it isn't hard work and a lot of hours spent training with disappointments along the way, but it is just a great way to spend a day!
7. Are their certain traits you look for in your shelties that determine
if they will be successful in the performance ring and/or the
Thanks to Nancy, I have been very lucky to have started with great foundation stock. The dogs I have chosen to breed have passed all their genetic testing. The ones I have chosen to keep or co-own have been finishable in the breed ring or are in the process. The last eight or so litters I have been involved with, either directly or that have been sired by "Linus," have produced litters where every single dog has been titled and there has been no health issues. I hope my luck will continue. The breeding traits I look for are: good structure, pretty dogs that are balanced and moderate with confident temperaments, but, that does not mean they have to wag their tails and greet every stranger like it is their best friend. A sheltie may be aloof with strangers but still be a great performance dog. Drive is very important to me, and I evaluate that separately from temperaments. You can have a very out-going sheltie that has no work ethic, i.e., no play drive or food motivation. Fortunately, I have not run into this problem with any puppies I have produced. But, have helped some of my students through some of these issues with their shelties.
8. Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Tough question to answer, there are many proud moments, some I have already listed, but I guess it is the fact that I just finished my third generation of dual champion VCX dogs would be the answer, I don't think any one else can lay claim to that accomplishment in shelties.
9. What advice can you give for those that would like to participate in both conformation and performance events.
I think I have already given out some good advice answering the questions above. Start with good stock and a good mentor, they do not have to be the same person. Don't be in too much of a hurry to try and do everything at once. I always figure I won't finish any of my shelties before the age of four in Comformation, but in that time I can be having fun doing Agility and or Herding. I never expect my females to finish in the breed ring before they have a litter so I just plan to breed them around the age of two, after they have all their genetic testing done and I get them out after they coat up
10. What recommendations can you offer on how to get started? Does it make sense to start with any certain kind of training or event first?
Wow! I must have been anticipating this question as again I answered some of this along with the first question. I will elaborate a little more on my formula for success in competing in multiple venues. Always get them out herding as puppies if you want to get a VC or VCX. I do believe shelties start to lose their instinct if you don't introduce them when they are young, before you do a lot of the handler focus training necessary for Obedience and Agility. Wait for them to mature and be in good coat to show in Conformation, especially if you are planning to owner handle. Besides, you can finish a performance championship in the mean time. I do spend time training my dogs for the Conformation ring. I spend a lot of time with my puppies at Agility trials teaching them to self stack and gait.
11. What "life lessons" have you learned from all your years of training
Have patience. Always display good sportsmanship even when it is not being displayed to you. At the end of the day, never blame your dogs for anything, remember why you started showing dogs, and always love them.