Hungarian artist honing art for over 20 decades –
It’s farming Editor-in-Chief, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Krisztina Rozanich in this week’s Women in Agriculture segment. We discuss his off-farm background, his time in Budapest and Texas, his move to Ireland, and his striking passion for training sheepdogs.
“I am a 52-year-old Hungarian artist and part-time farmer. I keep a small flock of sheep, mainly hardy breeds like Blackface, Shetland and Easycare and take large lambings each year.
Having grown up in a big city, I had no agricultural experience or tradition in my environment.
However, I have always loved animals and the natural beauty of the world, so my agricultural knowledge comes from experience. My love of sheep grew out of my passion for training sheepdogs.
I usually have 6-8 sheepdogs at different ages and in different stages of grooming. Most of my dogs can be traced back to my first good sheepdog, Skoj, who was a fantastic female dog with whom I won the Irish Nursery Final after six months of competition.
I don’t breed many, but I believe in starting with a good female dog. I currently have a stallion, Pete, from Skoj and Silver from James Mc Gee.
He has proven to have many of the best traits from each of his parents, which I believe is successful breeding. There are a few traits that I don’t like to see in a dog, and I try to avoid dogs with those traits.
However, breeding is a gamble, and you never know where a good dog comes from.
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I think we should diversify the gene pool when it comes to breeding.
Also, I think a few very important characteristics I look for in a dog are brains, naturalness, and the dog’s desire to work with me.
You can’t put brains into a dog, and it can be terribly difficult to work with a dog that’s just in it for himself. It is, after all, a partnership.
Budapest, Texas and Ireland
I started training sheepdogs over twenty years ago. It started when I was living in Texas with two not-so-talented dogs. I was fascinated by the working collie, even though I had no collie training.
I moved to Ireland in 2001, but it wasn’t until I lived in Budapest a few years later, where I helped set up the Hungarian chapter of ISDS, that I started to make dogs and helping others learn.
When I moved back to Ireland in 2009 I started training puppies for sale, and soon started taking dogs to train others. I usually break about eight dogs a year.
Every dog is different. I think that to be a good coach, you have to be a bit of a psychologist. You have to get into that particular dog’s mind; you need to be flexible in your thinking and approach.
And you have to be patient. I also believe that how they are raised is vital. A dog, like a child, needs both love and disciplinary boundaries.
They are more comfortable with you being the leader of the pack, but I think they need time to grow into a puppy.
Also, I think a dog should be allowed to be a dog, which means having some time for play, socialization, etc.
Every dog is different; therefore, each of them trains at a different pace. For example, I had a dog in training and after six weeks she qualified for the nursery finals. I have sold dogs to Norway, Finland, America, Germany and the United States.
I really taught myself how to train sheepdogs through a lot of mistakes, and I have and still do a lot.
We are always learning. I listened to others, asked questions and saw what made sense to me.
Honestly, I would be terribly confused with things like “a half flan” when I first started. I think we learn best when things are kept simple, and not given too much information at once.
It is a progression; I find it very rewarding to train dogs for work. I love getting calls from people telling me how happy they are with their dog in their daily work.
Although the trials are enjoyable, I think we should breed and train for work and trials, second. I use my dogs for lambing and often ride to help my good friend, Maura Ryan, who farms at Mt. Leinster.
Every dog has their flaws and strengths, and we need to recognize that flaw and strength to get the best out of the dog.
The most rewarding thing for me is when I do work with my dog. I enjoy their company, their intelligence, the sense of partnership, and I never fail to be amazed by the natural abilities of a good dog.
If I were to advise anyone to start training or testing a sheepdog, it would be to first understand what a collie’s natural instinct is.
Also, realize what kind of master you are, because it wouldn’t be a very successful partnership if you’re not the kind of person who loves tough dogs and you have a tough dog on your hands.
I start every dog with the same approach, whether it’s a farm dog or a trial dog. The ability to read stock is vital for someone interested in a working collie. This was one of the hurdles I had to overcome as I didn’t grow up with sheep/farming and knew next to nothing about it.
You can’t know where to put your dog if you can’t read the stock. So if, like me, you don’t come from a farming background, get involved in moving livestock without the dog, and you’ll realize where the dog needs to be to move them properly.
I would also ask a lot of questions of people involved with sheep and collies. Try to find people who can explain the different types of dogs clearly and simply.
But I think the most important thing for anyone interested is simply the experience.
The more dogs you train, the more your knowledge increases. The more varied the situations you place yourself and your dog in, the more experience you gain.
I would have one regret in my journey with sheepdogs – if I had my first female dog to train now, knowing what I know now.
However, we cannot go back. I often look back and laugh at some of the mistakes I’ve made. For example, quite often, I would give her a flank to put them in the pen, and the poor girl wouldn’t take them.
When she finally did, the sheep rushed in front of the pen! She knew better than me. She had an amazing natural ability.
I learned and I still learn that when you have a good dog, you have to trust him. I’m the kind of handler who likes to let his dogs work. Therefore, I try not to micromanage. This of course depends on whether you have a natural dog.
In saying that, a dog should always listen to you, and that’s where the part about a dog’s willingness to work with you comes in. Your dog must also trust you.
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