Interview with Gwen Shepperson of KS Ranch and breeder of “KS Ranch Heelers”
by Doris Duewel, Finland
“Gwen,you are working in your job as farmer with your Australian Cattle Dogs on Angus cattle and you are aswell a reputed breeder of ACDs. Which experience have you made with your breeding stock and your puppy owners?
Are working ACDs difficult to handle or keep, if you cannot give them the opportunity to work? Does it make sense to sell pups to private people?”
“I do believe that our dogs are much more active and athletic probably than many show dogs. Our dogs’ body type is much the same as your European dogs I think–it seems that the American ACD is tending towards a smaller, very bulky dog with a narrower head and longer muzzle, all of which I do not care for! I like an athletic dog with a bit of leg, but still strong in the chest and hind end, with a good strong jaw on a short muzzle and broad head that can better withstand a kick from cattle during work.”
“I often wonder how long a show dog would last on the cattle range of our ranch during a working day!
There are quite a few show dogs that trial on ducks, sheep and cattle, but ranch work is an entirely different kind of livestock handling, with hardly any commands used, but rather a dog sees the job at hand and does it without stressing the livestock any more than necessary.”
I know many trial dogs that do not make a move without a command, and our dogs are quite the opposite!
Our dogs do have plenty of energy for the working days, but they are also well mannered house and family dogs when we are not busy in cattle.
I have sent pups to all sorts of homes, some ranches as large as ours, many smaller ranches and farms with small numbers of livestock, some performance homes and many family companion homes as well. I do make certain people understand that this is a very intelligent, working minded breed that needs a good daily amount of physical and mental exercise, whether that be working livestock or something else. But our pups have been happy in all sorts of homes. All our dogs are very good tempered, get along with each other, very friendly with any child, and most will happily greet a stranger, and while others are a bit leery of strangers, none would ever be aggressive.
Most days I have 4 or 5 dogs in the back of my truck when picking up my children at school, and they happily greet anyone that wants to say hello!
Many people are surprised how friendly they are for this breed of ranch dog! I refuse to let aggressive working ability be an excuse for a socially aggressive dog–there is no reason a dog cannot be an aggressive, hard biting worker and a pleasant companion and family dog all in one.
I do feel that the working instinct and ability is being forsaken for many other ideals to make the ACD successful in the show ring, which is why I would like to establish my own AKC lines that have a reputation for being well structured for the breed standard with good intelligence and temperament for any activity, but still have that natural instinct and drive for livestock work that the breed was originated for.