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An Interview with Kathy Gooch from Outlaw Kelpies in Victoria in Australia 

(written in 2008 for the International Sheepdog News)

[www.australiankelpie.com]

As Kathy has kindly donated a beautiful painting based on a border collie working in the last World Trial at Tullamore, it would be nice to know a bit more about her.
Meirion Jones's Joe (6th World Trial 2008, 6th International 2007), copies available from Kathy Gooch, click here.
 
Having enjoyed reading Kathy’s articles about working dogs and trialling in Australia over the past few years, it seems that there is more and more to find out about the lady herself, and it gets more and more interesting the further you delve. Kathy is American and worked with tigers there.
 
Kathy has raised working stock dogs for about 20 years, including Australian Cattle Dogs, Kelpies and Border Collies. After marrying an Australian, Geoff Gooch, the past six years have been spent in Australia where working dogs, cattle and sheep are an integral part of everyday life on the 1800 acre farm in Gippsland in Victoria.Kathy has two very impressive websites that cover her lifelong passion for working dogs (www.australiankelpie.com) and her work as an artist (www.kchristianart.com). She has very modestly asked me not to dwell on these, but they are well worth a visit.
 
 
In 2006, in her quest to improve working dogs with long distance casting ability, Kathy imported to Australia Glencregg Fly (winner of the Irish Nursery Finals) and a young pup Barney. His brother Ted went to Vern Sullivan who also lives in Victoria.

Fly

Barney

 
 
 
Kim: We read about Glencregg Fly and Barney that you imported from James McGee (I.S.N. May/June 2007), how are you getting along with Fly and Barney?
 
Kathy: After much confusion on my part in learning James’s whistles for Fly, we are finally working as a team. It took a while to get on the same page with each other!! But she is definitely my dog now. Barney is very smart and strong and has been a challenge but I understand that his sire Killiebrae Sweep was a handful until past two. Some of the training methods I was using on Barney, on another trainers advice, were not working so I have gone back to what my own instincts have told me and he is coming along really well now.
 
 
Kim: What work to you use them for on the farm?
 
Kathy: I use them for sheep only. Since I am too lazy to get on the motorbike and find the sheep I usually send Fly or Kelly, one of my Kelpies, to bring them in from the paddock. Barney is still too “eager” to be trusted out of site yet. In addition to the cattle, we run a small flock of around 100 -150 Wiltshire Horn x Dorper sheep. Although I am sure they would work cattle, they are both too valuable of an investment to work on cattle at this point.
 
 
Kim: How is this work different to the work that the kelpies do?
 
Kathy: We use kelpies on the cattle and the sheep. The kelpies are also used to weaner break around 250 head of Hereford cattle each year. Fly is not crazy about working in the yards as she prefers wide open spaces, so the Kelpies work the yards (pens).
 
 
Kim: What is weaner breaking? It is getting the young cattle used to a dog?
 
Kathy: Educating cattle with dogs to respect man and dog. It has been scientifically proven that cattle and sheep properly broken in with dogs stress less when handled, are calmer in the yards and gain more weight.
 
Kim: Have you run Fly in trials in Australia?
 
Kathy: Yes, I have, but the three sheep arena trials in Australia dont suit a big casting strong bitch like Fly. The last trial, we made it to the pen but I felt like I was directing a scud missile on the small tight course. She cant get far enough off her sheep to negotiate the tight openings of the obstacles. I got her to work, if she can do trials, fine, but I did not go out and look for a dog to work three sheep trials.
 
Kim: When you say she can’t get far enough off her sheep, what do you mean exactly?
 
Kathy: The sheep trials here are NOT in open fields but usually small football ovals. Very short casts, and the openings to the obstacles are very narrow, so the dog can't push it's sheep. The Merino, merino x sheep, are very different to work than the British breeds and can't take much pressure from a dog. If there is a perimeter fence very near the obstacle, the dog can't manoeuvre around it. As I said before, the trials are VERY different to ISDS trials.
 
 
Kim: Has there been an increase in interest in I.S.D.S./ outwork trials in the past two years with the coming of the third I.S.D.S. World trial?
 
Kathy: No not really. People are very set in their ways over here with regards to a different type of trial. Plus the type of collie that is being bred in Australia does not suit the big courses.
 
 
Kim: How is Vern Sullivan getting on with Barney's brother Ted?
 
Kathy: Barneys brother Ted is very different to Barney. He is very easy to work. I got the tough one it seems. It is probably a good thing as Vern Sullivan is trialling him a bit and he just turned 90 years old!! I think Barney would have been too much dog for Vern.
 
 
Kim: How many sheep does Vern have?
 
Kathy: I don't think Vern has many sheep, maybe around 50. He is 90 years young after all!!! He has put Ted in the two big casting trials we have here.
 
Kim: What are the names of the two casting trials and how do they differ from the three sheep trials? Do the same dogs run in them and do different dogs do well or the same dogs?
 
Kathy: The Victorian Championships and the Captain Payne trials have long casts (for Australia) 450 yards and are run in open fields (in Victoria). Some of the same dogs run in both three sheep trials and these trials, but to tell you the truth, I haven't paid attention to who does well in both.
 
Kim: Can you tell us about the sire of Fly's pups, and what work he does?
 
Kathy: Glen ISDS 236832 was bred by Jessie Main and was imported to Australia by Paul Oates in 2000. Another dog Dan ISDS 220972 came over at the same time. Paul lives in Emerald in Queensland and runs Brahman cattle. Glen works strictly cattle and features in most of the pedigrees of the top cattle working Border Collies in Queensland. We chose Glen (not that we had many choices for I.S.D.S. registered sires in Australia) because of his pedigree, even temperament, and the fact he works cattle. Since we work more cattle than sheep this was an important consideration. Paul and Linda Oates have a son from the Glen x Fly breeding and he is coming on fine as well.
 
Kim: How are the pups coming along? Are they meeting your expectations?
 
Kathy: We kept two pups, Chlair and Ringo, and I get good reports on the other two; Irish and Piers. Chlair is very much her mother’s daughter, quick, sharp, keen. Ringo is a big tall leggy pup, and very calm and steady. He probably is much more like Glen. They are just a year so I am now only just starting serious training with them
 
Kim: I have enjoyed reading about your kelpies, starting with similarities to collies, it sounds as if kelpies have the same basic working abilities, eg, outrun (cast), lift (cover), balance, power (push, force) and eye? What are the differences, if any, between the breeds on these qualities that they have in common?
 
Kathy: As the present day Kelpie has been bred more and more for yard work, they are losing the ability to cast great distances. The popularity of Yard trials has exacerbated this as well. Kelpies also hate to be controlled and are best left once trained to do a job on their own. Once they learn a routine they are very adept at doing it by themselves.
I wrote this awhile back…..
 
“The Difference Between Border Collies and Kelpies ( no offence to either as I have both).

Once upon a time in the beautiful greens hills along the ocean in the UK a sleek black and white Border Collie tended his flock. One day a fox spooked the flock and they all took off in the direction of the cliffs overlooking the sea. Knowing that the flock was indeed doomed to go over the edge, the Border Collie quickly equipped all the sheep with lifejackets, parachutes and water-proof GTS tracking systems should they become separated (I know you are thinking a dog can't do that but it's my fairy tale I can say what I want). But in his haste to look out for his sheep the Collie forgot to put on his lifejacket and parachute. As his flock floated over the side of the cliff in their neon coloured parachutes, the Collie jumped and was dashed to death on the rocks below. (no tears, this is only a story) On the other side of the world in Australia, a lean muscled red and tan Kelpie dog was moving his mob of Merinos when a huge grey kangaroo jumped out and spooked the mob. The flighty sheep raced off in panic with the Kelpie in hot pursuit. Coming to a river the sheep all ran in and were promptly eaten by crocodiles. The Kelpie tired from his pursuit pulled out a beach chair, donned his sunnies and cracked open a stubby. As the last sheep disappeared into the water, the Kelpie could be heard to say..."I told that silly ram not to mess with me".

The moral of the story is .....

Without the watchful eye of the shepherd the dog was lost and
Without the watchful eye of the drover the mob was lost....
Watch your sheep AND your dog and work as a team....”
 
Kim: Does it just depend on which mix of qualities a certain dog has?
 
Kathy: Kelpies come in basically three different types as follows:
 
1. The Yard dog Fairly upright, very little eye, very pushy has a natural bark on stock, Will usually love to back sheep once taught and has no problem going over, under, around or through large mobs of sheep. Rarely has a good cast and is rarely used in the paddock. Many farmers have a paddock dog and a yard dog.
 
2. The Paddock Dog Strong to medium eye, tends to work the head of stock, usually wide casting and good footwork. Rarely barks on stock and likes to work in the open rather than in the yards
 
3. The Utility Dog- A combination of the above two types and the hardest to find or breed. What the kelpie used to be until focus was put on the Yard Kelpie.
 
 
Kim: With collies, their natural abilities are then honed by daily work and training? Some need more training than others. Is that the same with a kelpie? Or are kelpies much more likely to be left to learn as they get on with the work?
 
Kathy: I think its the same with any working dog, Collie, Kelpie etc. etc.
 
 
Kim: Some kelpies bark when working stock and others do not, is it that kelpies with no bark do not bark at all? Or do they all bark to some degree?
 
Kim: All dogs bark!!!! The “bark” referred to in the kelpie is a natural tendency to bark on stock in the yards to push large mobs through the race. If a dog is behind three thousand head of sheep, the sheep in the front of the mob are not going to know there is a dog behind them unless it makes some noise. Usually the kelpie with eye does not have much bark on stock.
 
Kim: In my experience, collies literally do not bark on stock.
 
Kathy: Now if you think collies don't bark on sheep, come to Australia. There have been some highly successful Collies, competing in Yard Trials where bark is needed and they bark. How many Collies do you know that are used on 2,000 head of sheep? Dogs that you think may not bark, learn to use a bark on large mobs or when working cattle. I have seen it time and time again. It is a useful bark which is used as force. Teaching a Collie to bark does not mean they go out on a cast and start yapping behind their stock BUT if you send them out behind 2,000 head or 3,000 and tell them to speak or push up, they will. The Australian bred three sheep type collie usually has no force as they were bred to delicately push three flighty Merinos around a small arena and are useless for the most part for Open Field work.
 
 
Kim: How do you train a kelpie to bark only on command? Or do you train them to be quiet on command?
 
Kathy: Kelpies usually bark in excitement so when they bark one gives them a command like “Speak Speak” and tells them they are good, then gives a quiet command and praise when they are quiet. Very simple really.
 
 
Kim: What do you mean by a kelpie's footwork?
 
Kathy: Its the way in which they cover and hold their sheep, never taking their eyes off them. They look very much like a cutting horse working a cow. Cover, footwork and hold are very desirable traits for sheep work here in Australia.
 
 
Kim: Do kelpies really stomp their feet? Or was it just Stalker?
 
Kathy: A lot of Kelpies will stomp their front feet up and down when they bark.
 
 
Kim: You breed kelpies for the paddock not just the yard, and it seems that kelpies are preferred for the yard work in Australia, with the big open spaces obviously stock farmed in Australia, what has actually taken over the outfield work?
 
Kathy: The motorbike and the four wheel drive ute (pick-up truck).
 
 
Kim: Would other Australian kelpie breeders agree with you that paddock dogs are on the decline?
 
Kathy: Very few breeders of kelpies are breeding paddock style dogs. With most bloodlines being Yard types there are very limited bloodlines to access the paddock style dog. There are too many “fly by night” kelpie breeders in Australia that just breed any two registered dogs with no care or concern about genetics or type or working ability.
 
 
Kim: In general, what sizes are the paddocks?
 
Kathy: From ten acres to thousands of acres. We have paddocks from 20 acres to 1,000 acres
 
 
Kim: In general, what numbers of sheep are worked in yards?
 
Kathy: On the big Merino studs, thousands of sheep are put through the yards and race. So that is a pretty general question.
 
 
Kim: Would Kelly be your most successful trialler?
 
Kathy: Kelly or Stalker
 
 
Kim: And she has trialled on both continents?
 
Kathy: Yes, she is very worldly, and has lots of frequent flyer points (Quantas Airlines awards points for every mile of air travel you fly with them).
 
 
Kim: Do you visualise a kelpie being as good as a collie on the I.S.D.S. style course?
 
Kathy: The rare Kelpie can do the I.S.D.S. courses as well as collies. Two of Kellys daughters in the U.S.A. have won I.S.D.S. style sheep courses under a U.K. judge (Ray Edwards) and they have also won cattle trials. The problem is the Kelpie does not end up for the most part in the hands of the top trainers to elevate them to that status. The top trainers and triallers in Australia are doing Yard trials and three-sheep trials with kelpies and not the big casting courses.
 
 
Kim: You provide a fascinating insight in your articles and on your website with your views on genetic illnesses in dogs, what would you say to I.S.N. readers?
 
Kathy: Simply that knowledge is power. Having a dog that is a carrier of a disease is not the end of the world. If the dog is an outstanding worker and there is a DNA test to determine the dogs status you can use that information to breed better dogs. Not knowing the status of the dog is what gets breeders into trouble and only propagates the problem.
The other issue is the honesty of the breeder. If a breeder is honest with his customers and with himself about his dogs good and bad attributes he can breed better dogs but on the other hand “ DeNile (denial) is a deep river”.
 
 
Kim: You have maremmas, what work to they do in your Australian situation, and does this differ in any way from when you were in America?
 
Kathy: In Australia they are on fox patrol on our farm. In other places they keep dingoes out. In the U.S.A. they are used for coyote and domestic dog control. There are a LOT of Maremmas in Australia.
 
 
Kim: The obvious question for the uninitiated, such as myself, is how do they cope in the heat when they are so woolley?
 
Kathy: Good insulation against heat or cold. Not all places in Australia are hot. We have very cold winters with frosts and cold winds.
 
 
Kim: That is something else that I did not know, that there are many maremmas in Australia.
 
Kathy: The fox, an introduced feral species, has wrecked havoc on native species and lambs and calves. Also dingoes have cross bred with domestic dogs in the wild and are killing stock as well. The maremma has become very useful in protecting flocks. Some folks use Alpacas.
 
Australia is a land of extremes, harsh weather conditions, poisonous snakes, constant drought, floods and fires. Running stock here is nothing like in the UK. Many working dogs don't have a long life. Read my article on three sheep trialling and you will get a better understanding of the three sheep trial in Australia. Where we live is not as rough as some areas. I was talking to a fellow who was in the Northern Territory where they use dogs and horses to bring in feral cattle in the outback. One of the biggest worries is when they get to waterholes that the dogs don't get eaten by crocodiles when they get a drink!!!! It really is a different world.
 
Thanks very much to Kathy for her time.
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