I often heard fellows here saying “you only ever get one really good dog in your lifetime”. To that, I say that you need to be careful who you listen to.
So whenever I want to know a thing I usually just go and find an expert to ask. When it comes to breeding working sheepdogs though, I don’t know any experts. I don’t know anyone who can predictably produce exactly what they are looking for, but I could think of one fellow who’s opinion I would value, Serge Van Der Zweep.
I was talking to Serge a month ago and asked him if he’d give his opinon in interview and he agreed. Serge is one of those handlers who is not dependent on that one good sheepdog coming along and instead, for over 20 years, he has been able to keep coming up with world class dogs. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Serge, this year he won 3rd and 7th place in the World Trial with his dog Gary and bitch Jenny respectively. Of the sheepdogs in the World Final last year, 4 were offspring of Gary. This year in the Welsh National Sheepdog Trial, three of the four top placed dogs were by Gary. Gary seems to be a very consistent breeding dog producing a lot of good working sheep dogs.
In this interview Serge explains how most of his dogs (the exception being Glen) started out as pups that he either bought in, or bred, to find the working attributes that he was attracted to.
I wrote a blog post a while back about how a goat has independent thinking and how sheep tend to have a flock mentality. I like how Serge mentions the breeders he knew years ago and how they had rules for themselves with regard to breeding.
I think nowadays as a result of social media that there is a tendency for us to ‘flock’ after ideas that may be incorrect or rules that are non existent. I know that in my own case when I breed, I breed for what I want and I don’t think about what a customer might like to buy from me, when I make selection.
Serge’s ideas and opinions are not necessarily rules to go by, but they are definitely ideas to digest and consider. I always find it easy to follow someone who can ‘walk the walk’ in these days of talking the talk.
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