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Working Insight: Linda Bell

Linda Bell, of Thatldu ACDs, has been involved in breeding and working Australian cattle dogs for over 25 years. She is a herding judge in AKC and AHBA. Arguably her most well known dogs were her foundation bitch that she trained and handled: CH Nip'n Heels Caoura Biala HX OTD(ds) HTD II CDX Can CD U-CD ROM VQ; and Cory's son WTCH HCH CH DC Thatldu's Boomerang Chance HXas RTD(sc) NA NAJ STD(dsc) JHD CD Canadian HX NAJ, ROM. She bred and owns GCH Thatldu's On Top, CGC, SCA, SBN, SEN, SIN, TKN, who was a top ranked conformation dog for several years.

She has also competed in conformation, obedience and other performance venues with her ACDs and in AKC, AHBA and USBCHA herding trials with her border collies.

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

My first registered ACD was a puppy I bought and did not realize until I got home that puppy was deaf. That was my first lesson in only buying from reputable, responsible breeders. The breeder I had gotten this puppy from did not do any testing. I was new to the breed of the time and did not realize what testing needed to be done.

My next puppy I got from Jeannie Clark at Nip'n Heels kennels. I made sure this time that all the testing was done on this puppy.

A) What drew you to the breed?

I had originally had German shepherds, not registered, and decided that I wanted to get a purebred registered dog. I went to a local dog show and was horrified at what I saw in the German Shepherd breed. Shortly after that a friend had gotten a Blue heeler and I fell in love with that dog the first time he heeled me.

B)Who were your mentors?

My mentors have been many. Firstly Jeannie Clark. Hanging around with her and going to dog shows for several years. I learned a lot listening to great people like Patty Saladay, Kathyrn Hamilton, Kris Read and Jolyn Owen and many others that are too numerous to even mention. Many that are not even in the breed anymore. The biggest thing I learned was just shut up and listen and just observe and absorb. I was lucky to live in the northwest and had a lot of really great people to learn from.

My herding mentors were Ken Oliver and then Bonnie Block. These were both border collie handlers.

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

Minimum working abilities are they have to have a brain. I like a dog that thinks independently but they also have to be biddable.

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

They have to have a brain, be able to work independently but they have to be biddable.

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

The best ACD I've owned was Cory, CH Nip'n Heels Caoura Biala, CDX, HX, ROM. This little bitch did everything and anything I asked her to do. Only once in her life did she tell me no I won't, but we worked that out. She was my first dog I did herding with. We learned together. She also gave me Boomer, DC, HTCH, WTCH Thatldu's Boomerang Chance, CD, ROM. He was an incredible dog as well but with different strengths.

I also have always had a border collie. The reason I got one is I was training with border collie people. I was given the opportunity by Ken Oliver to own Jan, his open dog. This dog taught me volumes and volumes about herding.

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

Dogs I have not owned but really liked and was also interested in breeding I don't want to mention their names because they both had hip dysplasia.

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

What I look for when picking a puppy first is structure and health testing. If it's not going to physically be able to last, or hear (must be from full hearing parents) or is going to go blind I'm not too interested in investing my time and money in training up a dog like this.

7) What is your breeding philosophy?

My breeding philosophy is they have to be sound. I don't mind doing line breeding at all. If there's things in there I want to preserve I'll go for it. But if you start breeding knowing there's a bunch of crap back there that craps going to show up eventually. But that can happen either linebreeding or outcrossing.

I haven't bred in several years since I don't have any bitches right now. I guess I don't put as much thought into it as some people do. I'll look at a dog's structure first, then their mind, and hopefully have an opportunity to watch them work. That's not always possible as there's not a lot of people that work their dogs anymore.

I'm of the mind that the herding instinct in cattle dogs is still in pretty good shape. I don't feel at this time we have two different types in our breed. The working versus the conformation. All of my multiple high in trial dogs, multi titled, won at national level dogs were from conformation lines.

8) How do you bring up a puppy?

I don't do anything special and bringing up a puppy. Other than it must have manners. Any work off stock it must have a sit, down, stay and to come. Rock solid.

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

What breeders can do to help preserve our working breed is to get out there and let em work! I still think we're in pretty good shape in our breed. I think a lot of people would be surprised if you took some of the show dogs and put them in the pen and they would work. They just have to have the structure to be able to do the job.

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