Hello, my name is Caroline Woolley and thank you for logging onto the All About Sheepdogs website. I hope you find it interesting. As an information source a website offers so much more than Facebook or Twitter.
If you would like to talk to me you can always contact by email -
firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07703 197823
There are four National Sheepdog Trials for 2015. These are held in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland during July and August with the International Trial in Parkgate, Dumfries, Scotland this year in September. This International Trial is held after the Nationals. Look at the Resources page for further detailed info about the Nationals.
We are often asked aobut providing a 'Fun Afternoon' as a Birthday or Christmas present. This is where you can find out your aptitude for working a dog with sheep and might discover that it is not as easy as it looks. Some of our trainers are engaged by large corporate companies as a management exercise for their senior staff. And with very interesting results! Our Trainer in South Devon - Victor Pitts - is especially happy to provide these and you can find out more by contaacting me on 01934 732661 or 07703 197823 or by email as above.Vic uses his own dogs for these events.
'Flockstars' is almost upon us! ITV have commisioned a game show involving 'celebrities' and Border colliesinorder to learn the art and craft of working a sheepdog. I believe the programme is meant to be entertaining. MAkes a bit of a mockery about the serious business of working with sheep. But then I turned it all down for this very reason. Good luck to Emma Gray, Ioan Doyle and Ed Hawkins; the professionals.
You can become a member of the International Sheepdog Society even if you do not have a sheepdog. The Sheepdog News is published six times a year and full members receive one automatically. Please see RESOURCES for the full contact details of the Society.
The Working Shepherd is a new Magazine about the mud on your boots and under your fingernail aspect of the shepherding scene.
My Border Collie, Jaanci and I, hope you find our pages interesting, full of information, fun and a jolly good read. I have set up these pages and training courses because I love the whole scenario of (wo)man and dog working together in the common aim of perpetuating the ancient art and craft of shepherding. Sadly some collies have had the herding instict all but bred out of them. As mentioned elsewhere it is not always a good idea to introduce non-working collies to sheep. Openng a can of worms is how one of my trainers decribed the scenario.
Background & Experience
For over 12 years, I have been setting up sheepdog and handler courses throughout the south west of England - farmers, shepherds, small holders and hobby farmers.
During these many years we have spoken and met almost 2000 people from the south-west of England we have had many success stories – satisfied customers who now have a well trained work force to hand.
The involvement with the Internatonal Sheepdog society has been a bonus. I have been a regular contributor to the Society's magazine for over seven years and contribute articles about shepherds, trainers, hobby farmers and, particularly, overseas shepherds. Most recently I have written aobut the Huntaways of New Zealand. This was about a Trainer who lived just 'up the road' from my son and his family to whom I paid a visit in October 2014. Then there was the piece about the Puppies That Went to the Falklands. There were 40 Border collie pups that were sent to the Falklands about eighteen months after the Conflict had ended - this was in 1983 - and I managed to find photos of them before they went and a few of their current great-great grandchildren!
With all the participants taking part in working sheepdog handler training since setting up, writing and attending Sheepdog Trials it means that I have hundreds of contacts throughout the Border collie world, particularly in the south west but also have access to a world wide base.
Jonny Beardsall wrote in the Saturday Telegraph a couple of years ago, "Caroline, despite her beguiling appearance, is no ethereal white witch. Beneath her silver mane of centre-parted hair, circular framed speactacles and layers of natural fibres is a no-nonsense countrywoman. And for Britains's growing numbers of hobby sheep-keepers - many of whom have no rustlic genes at all - she and her service "All About Sheepdogs" have proved an indispensable resource, particularly in the West country."
When a daisy fresh smallholder opts for sheep, a dog surely completes the bucolic image - which is where Caroline comes in.
"If anything, I am a catalyst", she says. "I can put people in touch with trusted breeders where they can buy a pup for around £200 - although you can pay as much as £9000 for a fully trained trialling dog. After that I talk to the nearest trainer." Caroline has about ten trainers on her books through out the West country.
I run courses in the South West of England for up to forty people each year. Following an initial assessment to check whether or not the dog is ready for training, five two hour sessions are held on a fortnightly basis. This will give the absolute basics of shepherding. Practice is required to build on the lessons for lasting effect. The official International Sheepdog Society Training Book - edited by me - is issued as part of the training course.
One couple who are benefitting from a course are from Cheddar in Somerset where, three years ago, they bought a house and rented a few acres of ground for their rare breed sheep. Their little bitch Skye is attending training sessions and proving to be a 'proper working dog' - although she sleeps by the Rayburn!
On the edge of Exmoor is a chap, semi-retired from the music media, who keeps a small flock of pure-bred Exmoor Horns and some Blueface Mules. "It's been a hobby for eight years but it only occured to me two years ago that I needed a dog. When I bought Sweep at 10 weeks of age, I couldn't even get him to come to me. I was clueless with the collie until I found Caroline online". He joined a training course near Chipstable in West Somerset and would tell friends that he was 'off to Sweep school!'
"At first he (Sweep) had no respect for me but then I hadn't earned any. I was put straight by the lady trainer who would say, 'Shut up, the dog knows more thatn you already', which was true. We're a crack team now and I can 'pick up' sheep with the dog and put them in a pen - my friends think it's quite hilarious".
Largely due to the perpetual popularity of the BBC Two One Man and his Dog, a few trainees purely have sheepdog trialling in mind. "They'll buy a few sheep so they can train and enter trials", says Caroline. "The tradition is no longer confined to working shepherds."
There are many considerations to be taken into account when accepting someone onto a course. They must have sheep for a start and be prepared to practice between training sessions. If you have no regular access to sheep it is not right to awaken the dog's herding instinct and then not let it continue If there are no sheep, Caroline will guide a handler towards Agility or Obedience training instead. A collie's mind needs to be engaged as much as its excessively exhuberant body because it is, arguably, the most intelligent of dog breeds.
Dogs must be kept active and interested. Boredom leads to depression and possibly violent behaviour. Rescue centres are full of abandoned collies, the result of people buying a fluffy puppy that by nine months of age has turned into a raging sofa-trasher. Or a potential sheep killer!
In the right hands the pet collie can be a delight.
This site and the future
It’s our aim to use our knowledge, experience and contacts to create a complete Sheepdog Resource site that enables you to find everything about sheepdogs all in one place.
There are many different types of dog used in the UK to work sheep. The most popular is the Border Collie, referred to as the "Sheepdog", but there are also Bearded Collies, Welsh Collies, Kelpies and Huntaways – to name a few. The term "Sheep Dog" is used to cover all types of working Shepherding Dog. And as this site progresses reference to these other types of sheep dog will be included but for the most part all information given refers to the Border Collie sheepdog. In addition to the sheepdogs mentioned earlier we know of several German Shepherd dogs who regularly worko either sheep or pigs. Their style is more about puersuading sheep intoa 'holdin' situation rather that dashing about gathering or driving. Useful as a back up dog.
Many times I have been asked questions - they are usually the same sort of theme and it was athese questions that first prompted me to set up this website. I’ve listed how the All About Sheepdogs Website will provide some of the answers:-
Qu. Why should I have a well trained working sheepdog and be training it myself?
- Ans. Because you will save time, frustration and have on hand a ‘member of staff’ who can help you take care of your sheep for little outlay - just its keep.
Qu. Why not get the dog trained by someone else?
- Ans. Good idea - if you can afford it. And sometimes this is the better option but you will still need to bond with it and to know how to give it the correct commands, so we have included information about Dog and Handler Trainers.
Qu. Supposing I want to buy some books and DVD’s about working sheepdogs
- Ans. Good thinking. There are a lot of titles available - some of the older ones remain the difinitive products. See the links to other sites where purchases can be made.
Qu. I would like to buy another dog, where do I look?.
- Ans. Contact All About Sheepdogs but please do not buy from a newspaper. If buying a puppy, you must always see the parents wroking. Allways use a recommended source. Remeber that your dog is an investment.
Qu. I have always wanted to ‘have a go’ at Sheepdog Trialling, where do I start?
- Ans. We have a link to the International Sheep Dog Society website who have lists of all the major Trials and there is information about the three Trialling clubs in the south west. www.isds.org.uk
Cornwall Sheepdog Society - Secretary Trevor Hopper Contact All about Sheepdogs
Devon& Exmoor Sheepdog Society - www.devonandexmoorsds.co.uk
Somerset Training and Trialling Club - Secretary Tracey Davidge - contact All About Sheepdogs. Website coming soon.
Qu. What if I need to know where trainers are in other parts of the Country or, in fact, other parts of the World.
- Ans. Contact All About Sheepdogs
Qu. It's all very well for people who live in the country and can gain acces to sheep, what if I have no sheep?
- Ans. Could be tricky but not impossible - contact All About Sheepdogs. But remember, once you have alerted your urban Border Collie to its herding instincts, you could have a bigger challenge than if you had gone along to Agility classes in the first place. It is cruel to let them start and then stop. Also this can cause sheep worrying.
Jaanci and I hope you will agree that this site is a “one stop shop” for everyone interested in working sheepdogs and that it provides a wealth of resources and information for the experienced and novice owner alike.
Many of you contact me from all over the UK and I so enjoy answering your queries - obviously I do no know anywhere near the answers but invariably Iknow someone who can. The most recent mind stretcher was the lovely lady from Slovenia who asked about getting her dog to stop! This we achived and as a result she is now translating the Training Book into Slovenian. In addition there are now versions in Hungarian and Brazialian Portuguese.