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Working Insight: Lynn Leach

After being involved with dogs since 1976, Lynn Leach is an experienced herding trainer, clinician, and a judge in several of the all breed herding programs (AHBA, CKC, AKC). She is the only original committee member on the Council for the CKC Herding Program, a keynote speaker for Herding Judge Seminars, published author and creator of 3 training DVD's “Introduction to All Breed Herding”, “All Breed Herding the Next Steps” and “Getting Your Driver’s License”.


Many years ago, after giving lessons locally, Lynn was asked to give her first clinic in Goderich, Ontario in 1995. Word spread quickly of Lynn’s ability to help handlers of all levels to progress with their dogs. She now travels world wide to give clinics.


Lynn’s personal breeds are the Australian Cattle Dog, Mudi and Border Collie, however she has also trained, competed, and/or titled with many breeds.


Lynn’s love and respect for dogs, animals, and the sport in general shines through her as she teaches, judges, and competes with herding enthusiasts.



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


My first registered working ACD came from Carol Delsman, who lived near the Oregon coast at the time. Her name was “Shadybrook’s Brew Delight”, and she taught me more about dogs then any other dog I had owned up until that time!


A) What drew you to the breed?


My husband wanted a “Blue Heeler”. My breed at the time was toy poodles, and I showed them in conformation. So I told him that if he got a heeler, it would have to be registered so that I could continue showing. That pup was nothing like a poodle!!!! She drove me nuts – chewed my house up, destroyed furniture, and was continuously getting into trouble. I was home raising kids and this crazy puppy, while my husband went to work and complained about the naughty dog!! Ha ha haa….. Eventually I asked some other ACD folk for help, and they suggested that I try herding with her.


B) Who were your mentors?


Carol Delsman and Alice Kapelos for sure. Later, Craig Watson helped encourage me to free up and let my dogs use their instinct more, rather than trying to control their every move.


Carol & Craig came up to Canada lots to compete with their dogs (Guy, Samson ). Watching these dogs motivated me to keep trying with my two! Later I met Linda Bell from Washington State, and she also gave me confidence and helped me.


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


Definitely a heel bite, but I also like my ACDs to be willing to go to the head and hold pressure if needed or turn direction. I also like them to enjoy working and enjoy pleasing me as their handler/trainer.


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


The drive to want to take charge of their stock. I think a good working dog can’t give up easily if things don’t go the way they think it should. I want them to keep trying to figure out a new way to make things work, and I want them to be confident enough to insist that the stock listens to them.


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


Although I’ve learned from all my ACDs, I really think that BJ fits that bill of my best dog! I think part of that is because I learned a lot from ACD #1 (Brew), so avoided many mistakes with BJ. But also, I liked the way that BJ held pressure, had the push that he needed and was a confident dog. I took all of this for granted and just assumed that all ACDs were like that – but I learned later that I had owned a very special dog!

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


Spider owned by Leslie Olsen, and later Kate owned by Steve Waltenburg. Both these dogs had lots of power, push & confidence!!


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


I started herding in 1989 with Brew and at that time, there were no other ACDs working livestock in all of Canada! There were no trainers that I could get help with, because all herding people worked Border Collies and didn’t want to have an ACD near their sheep. I had to travel to the USA to get help, take lessons or attend clinics. The Canadian dollar was very low at the time, and each $40 entry was costing me almost $60+ Canadian. I had 3 small children, and not much income. I decided to buy a border collie pup and keep it for a year so that I could learn herding, and then put that training onto my ACDs. My intention was to sell that pup after a year, however Pepsi lived to be 17 years old, and became head of ranch security on my farm!! I learned a ton from her, was able to take herding lessons in Canada and was eventually allowed to bring BJ to work at those Border Collie clinics in Canada too.


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


I like a pup to be curious and brave enough to check things out. I like the pup that is ‘middle of the pack’ – not too forward, and not too nervous. I like a pup that gives to pressure, but doesn’t run away from it, and a pup who thinks or tries to figure out how to get what he/she wants.


8) If applicable, what is your breeding philosophy?


I guess that include breeding using healthy parents that have proven working instincts, to increase chances of having healthy pups that can have a long working career.


A) Do you think linebreeding or breeding to a dog with known work is more important for retaining working behaviors?


Absolutely. Especially the last half of the question.


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


I don’t breed enough to answer this question. If I decide to breed, I often talk with lots of people who know more about genetics then I do and/or have researched many different lines of ACDs.


9) How do you bring up a puppy?


I start teaching my pups how I want them to learn as soon as they are walking around! I enjoy working with pups, teaching them to enjoy learning new skills and to enjoy making me happy.


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


I like to try them when they are very young – but that’s just because I can’t wait!! It often doesn’t make much difference to how they will turn out – it’s just fun for me! After that, I might take them out to calm, quiet stock at about 6 months of age, and teach them to listen to me even if they are excited. Perhaps sit or lay down – just one command, and then put them away. I’ll bring them out to stock about once/month until I feel that they are mature enough to begin real training. However, I do insist that they do at least one thing that would be considered “work” each time we go to stock. I don’t want them to think that livestock is tons of fun and chasing for a year, and suddenly all fun turns to work!


B) What training do you do before stockwork?


I want my dogs to be obedient before I go to livestock. Not a formal obedience, just an obedient dog. I teach them to come to me if I ask, lay down or sit, and stay.

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


I think that breeding to dogs that have working ability already will help, and to ensure those dogs are healthy. I don’t imagine a dog could work hard if it is in pain, or unhealthy.


11) Please share any other thoughts you care to about working dogs and working ACDs.


I think ACDs learn quite differently then many other breeds. They are not a dog that can be forced into trying something – if we push on them, they tend to push back just as hard, or quit working. Many of the sheep breeds can be taught using pressure and release, however ACDs need to learn that way of training before we start using it too much. If I can manipulate an ACD to think the pressure/release training is a game that he’ll enjoy – then I can make huge steps in his training plan very quickly – but it has to be “his idea” and not mine……

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