It is right for us to be proud of our “working dogs.” That word, “working” has been in the title of at least a couple good stock dogs magazines. These are not show dogs. We do not breed for beauty, but for brains.
The unofficial motto of our mother institution, the International Sheep Dog Society, is, “There is no good flock without a good shepherd, and there is no good shepherd without a good dog.”
But it is crucial that we keep a strong link between what we do for sport and hobby and the practical dog work that happens on a farm.
John Wentz was our representative for the Wisconsin Working Stock Dog Association to this past February’s GrassWorks Grazing Conference in Wisconsin Dells. He reported to the WWSDA Annual General Meeting that we have dropped the ball a little. While the WWSDA originated with a high level of participation from people who made a good deal of their living from sheep and cattle, and with fair amount of name and purpose recognition among the farming public, the farmers he talked to at the grazing conference know little
about our association.
Now that our WWSDA web site and Facebook pages are up and running, we are just starting to get nibbles and bites from farmers asking for more information. One thing is clear: There is
a vacuum of good information about stock dogs among cattle and sheep farmers. Another thing we can conclude: The WWSDA must work hard to fill that vacuum. “The harvest is plentiful,” as they say “and the laborers are few.”
If you know sheep and cattle farmers who could use good dogs, and could use the training and know-how to utilize them, why don’t you have a serious conversation with them. Tell them about the WWSDA, its Newsletter, web site and Facebook pages. Let them know we can help them network with trainers, breeders, people who will give them a place to practice, and other resources. Report back to your Board members about ways our club can meet their needs more directly and efficiently. Note that the web site has a tab they can use to leave comments and questions, and someone from the club will make contact.
The future of stock dogs depends on us maintaining a strong link between practical farm work and all our other activities and competitions. Let’s all work to make sure our dogs will always be honored as “working” dogs and not as pretty things up on a pedestal. And let’s work to make sure sheep and cattle aren’t thought of as tools for training our dogs. Their health and well being are the reason our dogs have jobs.
Submitted by John Seraphine