THE Sydney Royal Easter Show has gone to the dogs – an adorable Australian cattle dog called Mr Walker to be precise.
The seven-month-old red pup has brought home the Best Puppy of Breed award for owner Flora McKeown, of Edenville, south of Kyogle.
“He’s still only seven months old, so what he’s done in this time is amazing,” Ms McKeown said.
“His father has won 12 best-in-shows, and I’ll be happy if he does half as well as his father.”
Homeleigh exhibitors Brian and Fran Eichmannalso won the Open Bitch category in the Australian stumpy tail cattle dog division.
Ms McKeown is no stranger to the show ring, having begun breeding and showing ‘on-and-off’ since the late 1970s under the kennel name of Queblue.
“I got a stray Australian cattle dog years ago and when she died I decided to get a pedigree, so I bought my first puppy from Iris Heale,” she said.
“Her first litter produced two champions, but there isn’t a scrap of my first one in any of my dogs now.”
The world of Australian cattle dog breeding and showing was a ‘hard job’, Ms McKeown said.
“It takes a lot of tenacity, and you get a lot of criticism,” she said. “I’ve had to analyse the standard, and it’s really about being true to what you’re doing.”
Identifying a champion is also quite a task.
“Everyone interprets the standard differently, and you have to turn a lot of corners to find what you’re looking for,” she said.
“I like free, supple movement, and that’s what they say in the standard, but in the show ring a lot of that has disappeared in cattle dogs.
“Getting that gets harder, because as you get to know more you get fussier.”
But breeding isn’t just about getting nice dogs with good markings.
“There is a lot of paperwork involved, genetic testing for eye disease, and we travel to Brisbane to get their hearing checked,” Ms McKeown said.
Ms McKeown and Mr Walker will travel back to Sydney this weekend to contest the Best Puppy in the Working Dog Group, hopefully adding to other awards won in Sydney, Canberra, Casino, Bonalbo and Armidale.