“I hope this gives a bit of insight into my experiences, an everyday owner that feels it’s very important to train my dogs and give them the best resting spot I can, for all they give us.”
Kuranda: How did you get into competing at sheep herding.
Theresa: I have always loved dogs but didn’t know anything about dog sports or events. I became part of a local dog club that hosted conformation and obedience trials. Through a friend at that club I began to learn about herding with our first Australian Shepherd and participated in several clinics held by a wonderful man name Bob Vest. Bob had Aussies from the early days of the breed and they were amazing to watch.
Kuranda: What is it about Kuranda dog beds that’s so different from other dog beds?
Theresa: I like Kuranda beds for the dogs as I feel they give the best foundation for the dogs, and they last. We have four Kuranda beds, 2 in the house and 2 in their larger kennel areas. And all my children use them for their hunting dogs.
Kuranda: Does Luna or other dogs you’ve had have a history of destroying beds? If so, do you have any stories?
Theresa: Not that I recall, but the dogs we have now have only grown up with Kuranda dog beds as I was sold on them a long time ago! I hope you are able to, get, a good, a good sense of what our training is and how we use the Kuranda Beds. We use them both for resting and for place training, which I think is one of the most important things you can teach a dog so for instance you can answer your front door or have company and the dog isn’t all over the place and yet not kenneled. They’re in their place being responsible for their own behavior.
Kuranda: You need to teach a dog place training so it doesn’t harass guests when they arrive.
Theresa: Well, yeah it should come up with every dog owner. You have to train the dog to go to the bed and stay on the bed, stay in place. Just like anything you have to train them to do it. I think that might even be, something that you could offer on your site. How to teach place using the Kuranda bed. You’re not asking the dog to use that bed. You’re teaching the dog to use the bed. It’s a very different approach to things. As the alpha in the household you have to do that. Left to their own devices, dogs are going to go the path of least resistance and become the alpha themselves.
Kuranda: You’ve spent a great deal of time training your dogs.
Theresa: Correct. It’s a daily process. Even everyday owners need to have some training on their dogs.
Kuranda: Who are some of the people that taught you about herding/boxing dogs?
Theresa: Gail Rempel is a friend of mine that I met probably 20 plus years ago. I got my second and third Australian Shepherd from her. She went to an equine college in Canada and was very much in tune with horses and the people that were in that circle. She became friends with a man named Bob Vest who again came from horses and was a dog trainer. I went to him for many years prior to his death and he just had a really sound way to train dogs on livestock. He was much more disciplined and structured so that even though the dogs were talented, you just didn’t turn them loose and hope for the best. It’s almost more like going to school with a young dog. They’re not ready to do big things without having the basics.
Kuranda: Having been bred to herd, sheep Herding as a competitive sport seems to be an ideal way to make an Australian Shepherd healthy & happy.
Theresa: Yes, Aussies love to work, but that can be at a variety of things, scent work, agility, obedience, rally, and herding. Being a very intelligent dog, they need mental and physical conditioning.
Kuranda: Is sheep herding competitions limited to Australian Shepherds?
Theresa: No, any herding breed can participate in competition. There are several groups that host trials, ASCA, Australian Club of America is the largest single breed club in the world, there is also AKC, AHBA, and others. Most of these host trials competing on Cattle, Sheep and Ducks.
Kuranda: Tell us about a day in your life. How much time is spent training/grooming Luna
Theresa: We are on a very small farm, primarily so the I can train my dogs. We have sheep, ducks and chickens, though not enough room for cattle. I’m retired now so it’s easier to spend large amounts of time with the dogs. We exercise, work the livestock, and a variety of games to keep them mentally engaged.
Kuranda: Is Luna your only dog?
Theresa: No, we also have a 12 year old male Aussie that is retired from competition, but still helps with chores. Grant earned his WTCH, Working Trial Championship several years ago. I plan on adding a puppy in the next year.
Kuranda: What was Luna judged on at the Nationals? Was it exclusively about her sheep herding skills or did grooming play into the final scoring?
Theresa: These competitions are only about how the livestock are moved thru the course that has been set. Only in Conformation is the dog judged on it’s grooming, movement, and structure. In a herding trial, you start with a perfect score and deductions are taken from deviating from what this course is that trial. Luna competed in both the ASCA and AKC National herding trials. She was in the Started class and moved the livestock thru a set pattern earning many first placements. At the ASCA Nationals, Luna earned the Bob Vest Memorial Belt Buckle, by earning the highest score in the Started class working sheep. At the AKC Nationals, Luna earned “High in Trial” from the Started class in Sheep.
Kuranda: I understand you asked Tenley Dexter to handle Luna at the Nationals. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with her?
Theresa: Tenley Dexter bred Luna’s litter and we co-own her together. I have a great relationship with Tenley both as a trainer and friend. Tenley is an elite trainer and competitor, so at the National level, it was important to have to best opportunity for Luna and Tenley provided that.
Kuranda: Who is Tenley Dexter?
Theresa: I’ll let Tenley’s website speak to her accomplishments, but I’ll tell you about why I train with her. Tenley is an excellent trainer and teacher. She wants us to succeed and like a good coach, pinpoints areas that we need to work on. She has a beautiful farm in Kentucky. I’m actually going down there on Wednesday to train with her. She’s got cattle but primarily it’s a sheep farm. She keeps about 150 sheep and she also has ducks for training. She’s got a beautiful indoor arena that can be utilized in inclement weather. She came from the horse world. She was a student of Bob Vest as well. She just has a really good way of getting the most out of the handler and to be able to fine tune the dog skills. I’m on a much smaller property than most of the people that you have on the site. I think that offers a more realistic approach for regular people that think, oh, I can’t do this because I don’t have a huge farm. But you can, it’s about being creative, just like in any training, you have to be creative to keep the dog’s mind busy and working.
“When they have three head of livestock, there’s three different attitudes in that group. There’s a leader, there’s one that will sacrifice itself and then there’s one that will go around, get along. So that ups the ante.”
Kuranda: Are you a trainer?
Theresa: I don’t call myself a trainer. I’ve accomplished things in different arenas or different venues, obedience and rally and livestock but if someone needs help, I’ll help them but I don’t consider myself a professional. In livestock, the dogs will always know more than we will. I didn’t grow up on a farm. I came into this in my adulthood and so the dog is always going to have a keener intuition of what’s going to happening next. You need to learn enough to anticipate what they’re going to do next. Unlike some other dog sports like agility those courses can change all the time, but they’re a stationary object and the dog understands what a dog walk is or what a tunnel is or what weaves are, but you go into the livestock arena and the livestock know more about the dog when you close the gate than, you know. When they have three head of livestock, there’s three different attitudes in that group. There’s a leader, there’s one that will sacrifice itself and then there’s one that will go around, get along. So that ups the ante. Herding and livestock is one of the few dog sports that is instinctual. Dogs that search for bombs and things, that do scent work is instinctual. Agility, fly ball, all of those, while they’re wonderful and the dogs love them, they are man made.
Kuranda: Your dog Grant earned his WTCH working trial championship several years ago. What is, what is WTCH?
Theresa: It’s the acronym for working trial champion. That’s the Australian Shepherd Club of America’s designation for that accomplishment. He had to have three different levels of advancement, there’s started, open and advanced. He had to earn two qualifying scores on each of cattle, sheep and ducks. So he had to have 18 qualifying runs to earn that and it doesn’t necessarily come one through 18. You don’t always qualify because of different things, the dog couldn’t do it that day or the livestock wouldn’t participate or whatever.… good days and bad days.
There are herding championships in AKC and the All Breed Herding Association, which I mentioned in AHBA. There’s also border collie trials that are much different than AKC and ASCA because they are usually on large properties, you know, 10, 15 acres. Like you see on any of those border collie trials you see in Scotland or in Europe where they go, it would seem like a mile out to pick up the livestock and bring it to the handler and through many panels. It’s just all different depending on what group you’re with.
Kuranda: How can you train for herding if you don’t have a farm or the property to have sheep or ducks?
Theresa: There’s still plenty of local organizations, AKC or ASCA, clubs that have access to livestock. Most clubs depend on individual members to have any of these things. Some clubs will have it and some won’t. It just depends on the membership.
Kuranda: Do you compete at other AKC events such as Agility?
Theresa: No. I have competed in obedience, rally, barn hunt, and scent work but not agility. Although Aussies excel at agility and I have friends that love it.