Nancy Barker, co-chair of the 2011 Canadian All Breed Championships, considers herself an “Urban Herder.”
Like most residents of the Lower Mainland, Barker doesn’t have livestock of her own, but she enjoys the mental challenge involved with working livestock, and consequently she works other people’s livestock.
When asked why she goes to all of this trouble just to work livestock with her dogs, something that many people think of as work, she says, “Sharing the joy I have with my dogs when I use them for what they were bred to do is why I enjoy herding. I love to see my dogs’ excitement when I put on my ‘herding jeans’. There is nothing more pure.”
“Herding or stockdog work is also my answer to keeping my mind sharp as I advance to middle age. I find it very challenging and rewarding on so many different levels. Relationship building with my dog, meeting new friends, appreciating the subtle communication between livestock and the dog, often recognizing how much smarter my dogs are than I am,” she says.
Barker’s breed of choice is the Australian Shepherd.
“I love working with Australian Shepherds for many reasons: they are fun loving, exceptionally loyal, and have very good stock sense.”
Barker owns Australian Shepherds and will be competing with two of them in the 2011 Championships this weekend at Thunderbird Show park. When asked how she thinks she will place, her response is, “Sure, we want to do well, but more importantly I want to feel that my dog and I work together as a team, moving the livestock around the trial course in a calm, respectful manner.”
Barker enjoys watching the different herding breeds using their natural instincts, and then researching their original purpose for farm or ranch work. The 2011 championships will also allow her to do that. Competitors and spectators will enjoy watching many different herding breeds, including Rottweilers, Boxers, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Australian Cattle Dogs, German Shepherds and of course Australian Shepherds.
“Each of these dogs is doing jobs that they were originally bred for: moving livestock for a farmer or rancher. It’s wonderful to watch. The breeds all have a slightly different working style, none better than the other, just different.
says. “If you are coming out to watch the championships, make sure you ask some of the handlers about their dog and their breed history, they’ll love to tell you.”
Barker predicts that the championships will be a “fun, unique event to bring your family too, maybe learn a little bit about your own dog, and gain an understanding and appreciation of the working dog and how they facilitate respectful movement of livestock.”
Admission to the championships is free. For more information about the 2011 Canadian All Breed Herding Championships, visit http://herdingcanadashowcase.com