Sheepdog trainer (20) selling dogs worldwide

Sheepdog trainer: Shannon Conn

It’s farming Editor-in-Chief Catherina Cunnane in conversation with 20-year-old sheepdog trainer Shannon Conn in this week’s Women in Agriculture segment. We discuss his father’s footsteps, his passion for breeding and training sheepdogs and selling seals around the world.

“I come from the north of Ireland; Magilligan is the name of my homeland where I run Rockface Sheepdogs.

I come from a family farm, which was primarily a beef and sheep business, but now we focus more on sheep and our border collies. We are currently the fourth generation on our farm.

After completing my GCSEs I continued my education and studied ICT, 3D Art and Design and Travel and Tourism as A-Levels.

While I was finishing my A-Levels, I wanted to study in the evenings at Greenmount Agricultural College.

I studied a Level 2 in Business Operations in Agriculture; this course was a great way to start my studies in agriculture.

Currently, I am helping on the farm full time alongside my father, Loughlin, and my partner, Kieran.

I spend most of my time training and competing with my sheepdogs. Also, I recently became Logan’s new mom, which is a whole new experience. You could say that Logan is always with me when training my dogs.

On our family farm we have sheep and a few beef cattle. As my father and I compete with our sheepdogs, we focus more on training, selling, breeding and competing with our sheepdogs.

Sheepdog trainer

Currently, I have seven sheepdogs. First, Harry is retired, but I’m competing with Yellowhill Chip, Joker and Ralph. Plus I also have a few in training – Rockface Maise, Rockface Jen and Ash.

I try to raise a few litters each year. But recently I have been used to breed other people’s female dogs with my dog ​​Yellowhill Chip, as he has done very well in competitions.

When raising sheepdogs you never know how the puppies will develop, but it’s a great start to have great breeding behind them. As the saying goes, “a champion can come from anywhere”.

I started sheepdog training when I was barely 10 years old. I started with a young dog, Dan. Just like humans, dogs learn something new every day. Therefore, when I started with the sheepdog, I could tell that I was training with this dog, Dan.

I try to train and sell a few sheepdogs each year at auctions such as CCM Auctions Skipton (England) and Farmer’s Mart (Wales).

As I keep dogs to compete and still train them, I always try to have around 4-8 dogs a year to train and sell.

A family tradition

Working with sheepdogs is in my blood. My great-uncles have been racing collies most of their lives, and my dad got into it a few years before me. You could say he taught me everything I know.

When I started competing with the dogs after finishing my race, my dad came up to me and told me what I had done wrong and how to improve. This is what shaped me to become who I am today.

The moment when you call your dog away from the sheep and he runs as fast as he can to come back and get a big hug, and a pet after doing so well, is nice.

International titles and sales

The main titles I currently hold are BBC One Man and His Dog Champion (Bill) 2015, Irish Young Handler Champion 2015 (Harry), International Young Handler Runner up (Harry), Hills of Donegal Young Handler Champion 2018 (Maggie) & 2019 (Harry), NISDS Nursery Final Champion 2022 (Yellowhill Chip), North vs South Nursery Challenge Champion 2022 (Yellowhill Chip) and Four Nations Nursery Final Reserve Champion 2022 (Yellowhill Chip).

I have sold sheepdogs in Ireland, UK and America. Today we can ship dogs to most places in the world.

Sheepdog training

As for training, it depends on the dog; all dogs are different when it comes to learning.

You can train a dog in about three months, but like everything, a dog gains experience on the job the longer he is away. But it all depends on the dog.

First, obedience is very important even before bringing a sheepdog to sheep. Once you have the basic commands, such as sit, stay, lie down, and stop, you can then take the dog to a round pen.

This means when the sheep are placed inside a circular pen and the dog is outside the pen.

When the dog goes in one direction, you say the command such as a-away (right) or come-by (left). Then you can start stopping the dog.

Once the dog takes all of his commands outside the pen, you can take him to a small field with some sheep and continue to practice the right and left and stop commands.

Therefore, once you have these basics, you can start training your dog to do so much more.

Photojet (23)

Obligations

The best advice I would have for anyone with a dog is that the bond between you and your dog is one of the most important aspects of training.

If you think about it, if you worked for a company and they treated you well, you would put more time and effort into your job.

However, if that company didn’t treat you with respect, would you want to work for them? This is how dogs see their master as the person they work for.

I find that if I have purchased a new dog it may take a while for that dog to form a bond with me as some of them are not used to a female handler as a female handler has a louder voice acute. It may take longer to change.

I don’t think I have any regrets, because every choice I made led me to where I am today. There is no point in looking back; you should keep watching the way forward.

Shannon Conn (20) is a sheepdog trainer, breeder and essayist, cattle farmer and mother of one from Northern Ireland.

The next generation

In the future, I hope to have set up a space on our farm where new/young handlers can come with their dogs to help them improve their skills and knowledge.

When I started sheepdog competitions, I found there was enough help from the best handlers, and you had to learn it yourself unless someone else isn’t already in the sport.

Every day is different, which I like. The best way to see my typical day in my life is on my instagram or Facebook under the handle: Rockface Sheepdogs.

To share your story, email [email protected]

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About Patrick K. Moon

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