I hope I speak for the American Beauceron Club, and the breed, when I say thank you and congratulations to Cindy and Loki for representing the Beauceron breed so beautifully in the sport for which they are bred. He and his owners, breeder, and trainer/handler deserve a standing ovation!
A piece of Beauceron history has been earned! On November 7 and 8, 2020, GCh Loki du Chateau Rocher BN, HXAds, HSAsM, HSDs, NA, CGCA, CGCU earned his final points needed to make him the FIRST DC HC Beauceron in U.S. history (pending AKC approval). Loki earned those final points with a bang with scores of 94 and 93, and HIT both days.
Loki loves his sheep and is always very kind to his stock. His gentleness with stock has always been an attribute appreciated by the judges he has trialed under. Loki started his herding training in 2016. We hope to continue the herding journey by seeking out some C course work.
Loki is owned by Cindy Burgess and Amelia Foreman, bred by Karla Davis, and herding trained and handled by Tracy Parciak.
Instinct: An innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in response to certain stimuli, from the Latin instinctus for impulse
Venturing into any new activity or sport can be daunting, and the foray into herding can be especially overwhelming. Unlike most canine sports, you have to determine if your dog has some level of instinctual herding capability before you can actually start learning to herd! A herding instinct evaluation is this first step. There is also a certificate issued to AKC registered dogs if they pass a formal test under a herding judge (Herding Instinct Test or HIT–not a title). You can see what an AKC judge is assessing in a HIT here. However, a trial is probably not the best place to expose your dog to livestock for the first time.
While Beaucerons are notoriously biddable and eager to work, there are some things that cannot be taught. The innate genetic desire to herd is one of those things. Although we partake in this traditional job as a sport today, generations of Beaucerons were selected and bred because of their behaviors toward livestock. It is hardwired into their genetics, in some more deeply buried than others, but some level of instinct is present. Training a herding dog is simply bringing those instincts out (principally the search, stalk, chase of prey drive) and molding it to perform desired tasks.
Although it sounds relatively straight forward, there are several key aspects to an instinct evaluation. A herding instructor is looking to see if the dog has some sustained interest in the stock, if their drive is appropriate, and if they are biddable to working with a handler to gather or fetch stock. For a potential trainer to assess a new herding prospect, they are going to set up the dog to have a positive and successful first outing around stock. This means that they are going to be in a small, controlled environment, with tame, dog-broke stock who are used to the general type of dog (hopefully). For a puppy especially, there should be no negative experiences during their first exposure. This means no corrections, no getting stepped on, or charged at, by stock, or squished against a fence. Also, no corrections from the owner for what can be perceived as “bad” behavior.
A trainer assesses multiple facets of the dog’s outing. Is the dog is trying to control how the stock moves, does it want to stop them, keep them together? Further, does the dog move around a loosely grouped set of sheep to prevent runaways? Does the dog “see” all the stock, and if a naughty sheep splits off does the pup see them, does it attempt to bring it back to the group? Does the puppy want to bring them to the trainer/owner/handler? Can the dog get the stock off a fence line or out of a corner, on their own or with some handler support? Will the dog change directions easily (believe it or not, dogs have a preferred direction, or ‘handedness’ like humans), and how far off the stock is it seeing and making these adjustments? All of these questions are being answered during an evaluation of a herding dog’s instinct.
Most herding training sessions are not very long, and the initial evaluation will not last long at all. You will likely have a short session on stock, followed by a period of rest, and possibly a second session. The length of time and number of sessions will depend on the age and response of the dog being tested.
Watching a herding instinct evaluation is probably one of my favorite parts of attending training. I had the pleasure of watching several Beaucerons on stock for the first time at the facility where I train. These were different dogs of different ages and from different lines. You will notice in the videos below that both puppies begin quite differently, but the endings are similar.
This puppy is obviously confident around sheep from the beginning. Notice the trainer drops the leash shortly into the session. One of the nice things you can see in the video is how she kicks herself out and around the sheep, particularly when one goes astray. You can also see that she takes the direction of the trainer well, obeying the pressure to change direction or move out. Toward the end you can see that she is feeling the balance between the trainer, sheep, and herself. Notice how she is taken off the field, being brought around to get another feel of moving the sheep, and then walked out still wanting more.
This second puppy was not quite as sure of herself, and her leash stays in hand during the first video to provide her guidance and support. She is definitely interested just not as confident to start.
A few sheep are removed from the field, and the session resumes in the second video. She is more confident but still wants to check in to make sure she is doing good.
This puppy was put up for about 45 minutes and then brought back out to work again. In the third video you can see how much more confident she is on her second run and how she is starting to connect her movements and actions to what the sheep are doing. She is just as reluctant as the first puppy to come off the field at the end of her session.
Region 2, once again, put on a very successful ABC Herding Test and Trials in Berryville, Virginia. I believe we had eight Beaucerons present, with sevearal new titles earned by the breed. The FDC and ATT were huge hits, and although the judges were worn out, those titles were very profitable.
Sara Reid and Pride D Matcho du Chateau Rocher (Pride) completed their HT and the FDC. Jon Hicks and GCH CH Nostradamus Des Gardiens D’Apollinaire (Nytro), HSAsM FDC, competed on Saturday and Sunday, earning three more Qs in Started A Course Sheep, and placing in all three trials (first, second, and third!). With these qualifying runs, Nytro has earned his Herding Started Course A Sheep Master title.
The 2019 trial made $2,100 for the ABC. I am beyond happy to
report that the net profit from the 2020 trial is $5,435.16. It is only because
of the members in Regions 1 and 2 that we can sustain these numbers. Our
Maryland and Virginia members were the primary volunteers, but we even had members
from Ohio and Pennsylvania who drove through terrible weather to be at the trial
I cannot thank those who helped to make this trial such a
success enough. I am already looking forward to next year’s trial, and many
more in the years to come.
Jon Hicks, Region 2 Director and 2020 Herding Trial Chair
Hey Everyone! My name is Caitlin Bailey and I am a first time Beauceron owner. Over the next year, I will be writing about aspects of my journey as a newbie to the breed. You can meet me as a new ABC member and Rowan here.
First, a little background on myself: I am a 90s baby, live in Orlando, Florida, and grew up with a southern family and a heart for horses. I was surrounded with horses, herding breeds (plus one amazing Jack Russell), and aspirations to become a veterinarian. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in International Studies and a minor in French, I began working as a professional dog trainer in Orlando. Today, I am a bookkeeper for my in-law’s commercial construction company, and I train dogs on the side. As far as dog sports, Dixie (my ACD) and I train in agility and herding. One day, I hope to become a cattle rancher here in Florida with my husband.
After meeting Beaucerons at the Royal Canin show, I spent two
years researching. I spoke with breeders, made connections in the Facebook
Beauceron community, and picked the brains of other owners. With this being my
first well-bred dog, I was not interested in the complications of importing
which ruled out all foreign breeders. Therefore, I was left with the few active
breeders who come highly recommended by the community. One of those breeders
was Jill Rose of Armored Rose Beaucerons. Her dogs seemed to have all the
qualities that I was looking for, but I hit a snag. She was not willing to sell
me a non-showing puppy that I was not planning on neutering. This was something
I was very upfront about and having the choice to neuter/not neuter my
future dog was a deal breaker for me. The next breeder I made a connection with
was Lauren Trathen of Vaillant Feu Beaucerons. She was open to the idea of
allowing me to have that choice and so we moved forward in our relationship.
While researching pedigrees and the overall type of Beauceron I was interested in, my breeder was an invaluable asset. Any question I threw at her came back with an educational answer. Any insecurity or worry that I had was complimented with an honest and sincere response. What completely won me over was her persistence to find me the puppy that fit my lifestyle and goals the best, whether that was produced by her or not. It was never about her kennel versus another, it was always about the dog that worked best for me. This was especially important due to the ups and downs that come with breeding. The original breeding I was interested in was Jamais x Hulk but both AI attempts failed. Not only was this heartbreaking for Lauren, and myself, but it was frustrating for me as a potential buyer. Each failed attempt was mitigated by Lauren’s willingness to help me find a breeder who already had a litter on the ground or was planning to have one soon, if I wanted to go another route. Because of this, I not only gained a mentor in the breed but someone I can call a friend.
In June, Lauren’s bred-by bitch whelped her litter. These puppies were expected to be sport prospects with lots of drive, which loosely fit my expectations. My criteria for my first Beauceron was a partner who would work. I love dogs who want a job and I wanted to provide that for my new puppy through SAR training, herding, and any other sports that came our way. After weeks of waiting and watching them grow (not so patiently, I might add!), she finally let me know there was a male puppy available for me.
As a dog trainer, it was very important to me to
establish a working relationship with my puppy. Socialization, boundaries, and
a set schedule were key to our future success as a team. As soon as I brought
Rowan home, I began a schedule of obedience training, engaged play, separation
and socialization. With the help of members of various SAR teams, we also began
foundational nose work games to prepare him for SAR. My current career has given me the
blessing of being able to work from home, allowing me to engage with Rowan
while also performing my day job. As I work, he plays with his toys in my
office and works scent training through various nosework toys throughout the
day. When I go back to work, he will be coming with me to continue his
socialization and general obedience while also being a lazy office dog! Not
everyone has this opportunity and I am so thankful that Rowan gets to accompany
me most places, preparing him for a career of helping people.
There were many things that I thought would be difficult
about bringing home a Beauceron. One of those difficulties has been a reality, the
cropping procedure and aftercare. Due to healing time and travel restrictions,
we chose to have his ears cropped in Florida by a recommended vet. The
procedure itself went very smoothly and the vet did a phenomenal job. However,
the incision line healed so quickly that by the time the sutures came out at
the recommended ten days, they had embedded in his skin. Thankfully, our vet
removed the sutures without ruining the incision line. The second problem we
ran into (and are still battling) are pockets. Many cropped puppies develop
pockets and it is a constant battle of trying to figure out how to pop them out
and keep those ears perfect. This is where the virtual world of Beaucerons has
been so helpful and I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
with his ears!
While some things have been difficult, the first two months of owning a Beauceron have been largely exciting and unexpectedly easy. When breeders and fanciers speak of how quality genetics can dictate the future of a dog, I did not expect those genetics to show themselves so soon. I have been surprised again and again at the sheer intuition and instinct that Rowan came to me with. He has been exposed to humans of all ages, livestock, construction, thunderstorms, and fireworks. We have gone on several outings including the Sunshine State Cluster show. Rowan floored me at his ability to remain calm and collected the entire day while passing hundreds of people and dogs. He showed flawlessly in the Beginner Puppy ring (I, however, need more work!), as well as received his CGC, CGCA, and TKN the next day! I could not be prouder of his character and behavior.
The first few months of bringing a new canine into any family can be both extremely exciting and difficult, but I truly believe overcoming those difficulties is what truly makes the relationship between canine and human stronger. Over the next few months, Rowan and I will continue our obedience and conformation training, and attending herding and SAR training. For obedience, we are working on duration and distance on his positions as well as in-motion position work. For herding, we are allowing his instincts to drive him while also working on calm behaviors around the sheep. For conformation, we have had the hardest time with a manipulated stack and have moved onto working on a solid free stack until he meets the height and age requirements for showing. For SAR, we are meeting with our local SAR K9 team to evaluate his temperament and begin HRD (Human Remains Detection) land and water foundations.
I look forward to updating everyone on our progress and connecting with everyone on your own struggles and successes in early puppyhood. If you have any questions you would like answered, stories you would like told, or topics you would like discussed, please feel free to email them to me at email@example.com or send me a message on Facebook.
At the AHBA trial held by the San Pasqual Valley Herding Club, Océane and I trialed for our HTADs-1 title. We did two runs against six to seven competitors. First run was a Q and third place due to losing a sheep at the start that I did not want to lose time trying to pick up. Our second run, Océane swept away the competition with a first place run losing only 1/2 a point and securing herself not only the new title of HTAD 1 but also High in Trial at the end of it all!! I am immensely proud of my bred-by bitch and the amount of talent she continues to show me on the herding field.
FIVE! Count them, five Beaucerons herding together for a whole weekend!! Even though the official herding clinic had to be cancelled, Lauren Trathen and Kelly Davis made the trek to Gardnerville to join ABC member Syndi Keats and Christine Emery at their regular training sessions.
The Beauceron Herding Clinic is still scheduled for August 8 and 9, 2020 at Bitterbrush Kennel and Livestock in Nevada. Details can be found here as well as registration and payment through the website. Ms. Edwards is offering dry RV/trailer camping on site. People who are wanting to meet their breed, and their awesome owners, are welcome to attend for free to observe and visit. The cost is per dog, and Ms. Edwards recommends dogs be at least a year old, but the clinic is suited for all levels of training. If you have any question contact Event Chair Syndi Keats (Sanda Kat on Facebook) through message on Facebook or tag her in a post in one of the Beauceron groups.
We all know it can be difficult to find a trainer who understands the breed, or is at least experienced enough to think outside the box. We would like to feature trainers from various sports to provide some unsolicited advice. If you have a trainer that you love and just “gets” your Beauceron, and would like to contribute, let the newsletter know!
Shelly Spotswood began her career in dog training doing Schutzhund with her GSDs; she even put a BH on her first Border Collie! She moved to Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, competing and excelling in herding, agility, tracking, obedience, and rally. She was the first person to obtain all five ASCA championships and has several WTCH titles on multiple dogs. At WonderDog Farms she trains a menagerie of “off-breeds” in herding, including Belgian Tervurens, Belgian Lakenois, Berger Picards, German Shepherds, Corgis, Rottweilers, a Swedish Vallhund, Bearded Collies…and Beaucerons!
What should someone who is a first time herder, and/or Beauceron owner, look for in a herding instructor?
I would recommend someone with a gentle hand, not because this is a soft breed but they do better when guided rather than brow beating them–less “old school.” I would also say that a trainer who is willing to work with them starting at a young age will give you the best foundation. Assessing if the trainer is not afraid of large bodied black dogs is also key.
What is the most challenging aspect of the breed, relative to other breeds, that you have experienced?
Their natural desire to tend is for me personally something I have to keep in the forefront when working them as well as their physical presence. In general terms, you have to remember that trainers, judges, and most stock have no experience with big scary black dogs and that can be challenging–particularly in trials.
What has surprised you about the breed, good and bad?
The most surprising thing is the amount of natural talent they exhibit. I found that very surprising both when you first brought Rose out and even more so with Drax, and with Yvette’s girl as puppies. I have no doubt that if tending style herding was available they would be absolute rock stars, and Drax has gobs of natural herding talent and will go far if you stick with it.
Ha, well their ability to think on their own is entertaining and frustrating all at once. As an experienced handler I find it to be a fun challenge, whereas someone who is just starting out might find it to be too much.
Any other thoughts or advice?
Start them young, appropriately for their growth and maturity and keep it fun. That goes for any kind of training with young dogs. Don’t let them have bad experiences on stock. Start in a smaller pen and with tamer sheep than you think you need to. I wish more people with Beaucerons would get into herding as I think it could open a lot of eyes to the potential of off breeds [meaning, trainers might not be so reluctant to take on off breeds] and it really is wonderful to watch them work.
December 8, 2019, I was staying in Mississippi for work, and attending a conformation show in Mississippi, which lead to a discussion with Sarah Price about meeting up for a Beauceron play date. She was going to her herding club and asked if I wanted to join. I quickly said yes, as herding is something I wanted to try with my girl (Yue) but never really looked into. As she was approaching her first birthday, it seemed like a good time to try.
Sarah trains at WonderDog Farms (Louisiana) and the owner and trainer is Shelly Spotswood. It was weird driving up to someone’s house to do training, I am so used to training facilities, but it is a working farm as well as her home. I met Sarah and her dogs, Rose and Drax. We were able to chat for a while and allow our Beaucerons to meet as Shelly was whelping a litter of Australian Shepherds. The farm was very nice looking and almost all of it is designated for dog sports. I was in awe, herding pens, fields, and a section for agility; I needed this farm.
Once Shelly was done, she came out to meet me and introduce herself. She is a nice woman who is very down to earth. She asked if I knew anything about herding, which was a hard no. I had watched videos, but I had no clue what I was seeing. She asked if Yue had prey drive, if she liked to chase things, and some questions about her general personality. Shelly gave me two options, 1) to watch her handle Yue; or, 2) be with her and Yue in the pen. I picked option 2, I am a tactical learner. I need to be there and ask questions while it’s happening so I can better grasp a concept.
After I decided, Shelly rounded up a couple of sheep from a grazing field she thought would be good for Yue to start with. She referred to these as heavy sheep, or knee knockers, which I found out are sheep that are used to dogs and tend to follow the shepherd or handler. Using heavy sheep helps build drive and assess how a dog reacts to stock. Once Shelly’s Border Collie rounded up these sheep into a separate pen, she gave me a long line to put on Yue’s collar. The long line was a safety precaution, in case Yue decided she wanted a lamb snack, until Shelly felt certain that the stock was safe. It didn’t take long for Yue’s little light bulb to turn on. After a few moments of watching them, she had an urge to go around them. As she was circling around the sheep, I would hear Shelly say, GOOD, NICE, OKAY, and so I asked her to explain what behavior she was praising. She began to discuss what my dog was doing, said to watch how she goes around the sheep tucking an errant one back into the “flock,” what she is doing in order to move certain sheep a direction, and keep them to me. It was very cool to see Yue do what comes natural to her and I enjoyed Shelly’s patience’s in explaining what was happening while it was happening.
about ten minutes, she asked me to take Yue out to rest. Sarah Price was
watching the side lines and cheering us on. After my dog was done, I was able
to watch Sarah work her dog, Rose on her A course herding. I had no idea what I
was watching and what these courses meant, so Sarah was trying to tell me what
she was doing as she was doing it, decided to walk backwards and talk to me,
thus causing her to trip over some hay and land on her butt. Shelly decided to
tell me what Sarah was working on so Sarah can pay attention to her course. At
the end of the lesson, Shelly encouraged me to pursue herding as Yue definitely
showed instinct and promise. She recommended some trainers in Missouri to contact
after I went back home, including Tracie Parciak. She gave me a confidence
boost when she said that if what we’d done that day was an instinct test at a
trial, Yue would certainly pass. She also mentioned that if I wanted to do what
tending breeds were bred for, to look into C course training. I just nodded and
said okay, but I had no idea what she meant. Later I looked up what this meant
and found out it’s the living fence type of training that parallels what Beaucerons
were bred to do.
I returned home to Missouri the following week and began to look up herding instructors. I called around to four different places asking specifically for some type of C course herding instructor and was eventually told that is a very new AKC course that most herding folks in Missouri don’t do, until I finally got ahold of Tracey Parciak at Rottiewe Farms. I also found out that Cindy Burgess trains at Rottiewe with her Beauceron, Loki. Tracey offered for me to come and train with her and watch Cindy work Loki in early January. I was very excited, and still nervous. I am always nervous going to new clubs since I never know how welcoming people will be. After driving up, shaking hands with Tracey, we did the formalities of, what kind of herding so you want to do, have you done herding; how was training with Shelly, and what do you want in your next sessions. It went something along the lines of: I am not sure? Tending? I want my dog and I to have fun.
got to the farm early so that I can watch Tracey work Cindy’s dog Loki. I got
to see him work on driving (the dog behind the sheep moving them into a
direction like driving a car) and outruns.
There was not much difference in watching Tracey work Loki then when I
watched Shelly work Drax, Sarah’s other dog, even though Loki is further along
than Drax. Although when watching these hardheaded boys work, you can tell the
intelligence in the Beaucerons eyes calculating the stock’s next move. Watching
Loki, I noticed he was anticipating Tracey’s commands and would try to move the
sheep on his own, which is a no-go Cindy told me. While watching her dog work,
she told me Tracey is giving him commands he wouldn’t normally get on this
course to keep him on his toes. After Loki was done and put the sheep away,
Tracey was ready to work Yue.
had us work in a small round pen with knee knocker sheep. She showed me how to
body block Yue from trying to drive the sheep upwards for a chase and keep her
by my side, to get her used to tending and work on her obedience in a high
drive situation. I thought I did good for a newbie, and Tracey said as much, so
we took a break and she sent her herding champion German Shepherd into the
field to show me what tending looks like, and what the big picture of what our
training will lead up too. To say I was in awe is putting it lightly. Watching
this dog run up and down the boundary of the flock acting like a living fence was
amazing and so beautiful. Afterward we worked Yue again, only this time she
gave me lighter sheep. These sheep didn’t want to be next to me, they were
easily spoked and ran from me and Yue. I was so confused until Tracey told me she’d
given us hard sheep on purpose, she said it is the hard sheep that show you how
to work better. Here I was, attempting to control my dog, guide her with the
stick and have her bring the sheep to me while I walked the outside of the circular
pen. We worked at this for about ten minutes, and I’d guess those sheep stayed
by me for a total of a minute. Tracey told me we did good despite me getting
mad at the sheep and feeling like I was thrown into a new world to sink or swim.
However, I found it fun. Just a lot harder and so much to learn if I want to pursue
herding with Yue. From both these experiences, I know my dog has the will and
the drive, it’s about me taking the time to read, learn and get out there with
If I was to give any advice to someone wanting to get into herding, I would say contact herding instructors and talk to them before vising their farms, ask what breeds they have trained or are willing to work with. Since most have never seen a Beauceron, it helps if the instructor has worked loose-eyed upright dog herding breeds. I was lucky as both of the trainers I met with DO work Beauces, so they are familiar with breed already. If you can, talk to people who have worked with those instructors. Don’t get upset at any feedback the instructor gives you, good or bad and strive to learn. You will be surprised at the amount of work goes into herding, it’s not a sport you do once a month. The hardest part for me was to change my mindset on what herding was. Herding is an all hands in sport and you will need to go often to get the best of it. The neatest thing for me was seeing Yue just click and do something completely natural. What I didn’t expect is how comfortable and confident she was around animals I had never shown her before. I would encourage anyone to at least have an instinct test, if you have the opportunity. To experience the Beauceron in their natural “game” is a really insightful and fun experience.
(The newsletter team will be publishing these “Sports and Recreation” cheat sheets for various sports and activities. They will include information on the various organizations offering the activity, training and trialing, and Beaucerons competing and titling.Thanks to ABC member Kayla Phillips who came up with the original idea!If you have experience and knowledge in a particular sport let us know if you would like to help compile a specific sheet!)