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Working Insight: Amy Berry

Amy Berry was one of the founding members of the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America in 1968. She has had cattle dogs since 1965. The breed was accepted by the AKC in 1980.

Amy has been involved with the ACD as a working dog since her first involvement in the breed. She has used the dogs to work stock, competed in herding trials, finished conformation champions and been heavily involved in ACD rescue and with the ACDCA board over many years.

She has bred dogs with Esther Eckman under the Blueberry prefix and now uses the Lassic kennel name. Her devotion to the breed as a working dog has been a lifelong journey that included a visit to Australia to seek out working dogs there. We are grateful for her work with the breed and appreciate her taking the time to answer some questions for us.

Amy's webite is

More information about the early years of the ACDCA can be found here:

1) Where did you get your first registered working acds?

My first registered ACD was from Harry Conley because he raised cattle and used his dogs on open range as well as fenced pastures. Her name was Conley's Blue Jessica. She worked the pens great but wasn't impressed with working out in the fields. She was also a great bird dog and hunted with my husband for deer, etc.

A) What drew you to the breed?

An overnight drive of our cattle to winter pasture in the '50. The Aussies we had were good dogs but we always had friends come and help cover lanes and roads. One of the friends brought his dog with him to help and it was an ACD. I was 14 years old at the time and my only comment was "why do we have Aussies?" Esther Ekman and I bought out first ACD before we were recognized by AKC. It turned out to be a McNiven dog so when we were finally recognized I bought a pup that could be registered.

B) Who were your mentors?

At that time other than Harry there weren't any around that I felt would be of much help.

2) What do you feel are the minimum standard working traits that a working acd needs to have naturally (not trained)

A working brain. That seemed to have almost been bred out of the ACDs. Luckily we had enough people who fought for the breed. Structure to work long hours on rough terrain is something else we seem to be losing now.

3) What do you think is the most important trait and why?

The working brain. Without it a dog is pretty much useless for getting the job done. I've been very disappointed in so many of the dogs I've seen over the years because they only do what they are told to do. They don't work using their brains.

A) Can you further define working brain?

My first thought is to say the dog reading stock and understanding the job but that really doesn't tell the average person much. I'll have to do some more thinking on that. It's much harder now to talk things out because so many of the people trialing now are city people who learn from many different "trainers". Some are good and some aren't. When I was a kid most people had dogs that just knew what to do from the beginning.

4) Who was the best dog you owned and why?

That's a 3 way tie. They were all very special.

Rose (Second Hand Rose) was my first one and when I saw that she read stock everything was automatic. She was a throwaway dog that came into the shelter where I worked. She and I looked at each other when she was brought in and I knew she was going to be my other half. She was the first rescue Champion herding dog of any breed and a very special girl.

The second one was Mischief (Mischief Maker) another rescue dog. She was obsessed with working cows and did it well enough to get 4 buckles at ASCA trials. An ACD winning at ASCA trials years ago was major win. At our national specialty in CO one year she was HIT one day and RHIT by 1pt the second day on cows.

The third one was Lascy (SoLo N Lassic Frills N Lace) I had talked to Alice Kapelos for several years about getting a pup from her. We agreed on a litter from her Nellie (SoLo Easy One) and Craig Watson's Samson (Alaska Samson Tonewek Mist). I stopped at Alice's when the litter was 3 wks old on

my way to Alaska to visit my son. I wanted to see the litter and within a few minutes one of the bitch pups climbed onto her brother and got out of the pen and ran to me. She pretty much stuck to me over the weekend. I told Alice she was the one so I left her there until she was 8 weeks then flew up and brought her home. Lascy worked everything with equal grace and style.

She was my girl and I had her for 15 years. I bred her twice and got two nice litters from her. She was a very special girl.

5) Who was the best dog you didn't own and what did you like about that dog?

Solo Blue Banjo was a wonderful working dog that died too young. He was a free mover with tons of cow in him. Losing him about broke Craig's heart.

6) If you no longer work Acds or have added another breed, what were the factors that lead you to that decision

I still have my ACDs but the two girls of other breeds are now gone. I took in a year old Kelpie that was a rescue from a woman who had no clue about a working dog. She was an import from Australia and when our eyes met I knew she had to come home with me. It took several months to even be able to do much with her since she had been mistreated by "in house trainers" in the city where the woman lived. Once she decided that she could trust me I started working her then trialing her and she never let me down. She was a wonderful girl and brought lots of people ringside to watch her work. I had her for 14yrs.

The other one was a BC that was a trade for one of my ACD pups. She was a

good working dog too but when I moved back to Idaho she was so terrified of

all the shooting around she about lost her mind. I sent her back to the

breeder and she's still working in Canada.

7) What do you look for when picking a puppy?

Intelligence and tractability.

8) What is your breeding philosophy?

It all depends upon the dog. I see lots of ACDs hitting the shelters now and that is sad because they don't survive well in shelters or most city homes.

A) Linebreeding?

I've done some of that and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

B) How often do you outcross and how do you chose a dog to breed to?

I outcrossed some but not a lot. I want a dog that has a good working brain,

solid conformation, and good temperament.

9) How do you bring up a puppy?

Once they were weaned I brought them singly into the house for part of the day. That way I could get them house trained, manners, and socialized. I've been lucky with just a few pups in most litters which made it easier to do.

I also drove my pups one at a time to town and walked the streets with them once they got a shot in them. That way they get socialized.

A) At what age do you start them on stock (sheep? Cattle?)

It totally depends upon when the pup is ready and can handle it. I'm careful which sheep I put out for them at that age. I've also put up four sheep panels for a small pen and put a few of my quietest sheep in there. Rhett is just short of 7 months now and we are just starting to deal with the sheep. He has no fear but I don't want him hurt so we are taking it slow. He's an I know how to do it kid that has never done it before. That can cause problems that they might never get over.

B) What training do you do before stockwork?

Walking on a loose lead, teaching a wait, sit, down, come, and be quiet. I also walk them through the sheep on a lead in a small pen with me between them and the stock. That way I can block any sheep that try to butt the pup.

10) What can breeders do to preserve working ability in the breed?

Not breed for the breed ring only.

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