It’s a dog’s life … and Vicki just loves it

VICKI Jones is not your regular dog mum – she is also a dog trainer and is now the first female president of The Tasmanian Sheep Dog Association.

The appointment of Ms Jones is a significant milestone for the association and great accomplishment for her.

She is the third generation in her family to run her family farm in the Central Highlands in Ouse.

She trains and cares for eight border collies which are her main working dog team at the farm.

However, her collection of dogs is made up of about 20 that include the old ones, the pets, her grandchildrens’ and the ones that don’t work.

Ms Jones’s farm is 1000ha with a flock of 2000 breeding ewes and 100 breeding cows.

Growing up with working dogs her appreciation and love of them started at a young age.

She got her own working dog at the age of 12.

“That’s your goal, to have your own dog before a car,” she said.

“His name was Whiskers, he was never brilliant but he was faithful.”

The TWSDA organises working dog trials across the state and works under Dogs Tasmania.

Ms Jones said she feels very privileged to be in the role of president and hopes to work towards expanding their association with more members.

“We don’t have a lot of members and we are aging,” she said. “We have a lot of older people and a lot of them probably only have one dog each. We are getting depleted, we need to put it out there more and get more younger members.”

Ms Jones said throughout her career as a trainer, she has enjoyed being able to meet other people and having things in common to talk about, especially dogs.

“It’s just nice to have people to talk to about that, people who I would have never otherwise met, it’s like knowing who’s having a pup this week, and can I go see  them?” she said.

She started training in 2008 with her focus on one dog but increased the numbers each year as her skill-set and training abilities improved.

“You know when you go to Agfest and you sit there and watch the trials and just say ‘Oohhh, I would love to do that,” she said.

“It is a precise sport, but it’s a good sport because you don’t have to be an athlete yourself, no physical demands. It’s a good and inclusive sport for any type of person, all you need is to have that bond with your dog.”

There is little room for error in sheep dog trials which requires dog and handler teams  to move  three sheep through a course of obstacles within a set time limit.

Ms Jones’s eight border collies participate in trials around the state.

She said trial dogs were specialists in what they do and are different to farm dogs.

“The arena is a totally different environment, its more intense and more precise.” Ms Jones said.

“Their movements are creep-like and slow movements, they turn the sheep.”

Ms Jones said experienced dogs at trials were just magic to watch.

 “Sometimes you look at the sheep and you can see the sheep just decides to move with them. It’s amazing,” she said.

“It’s very different than just working on the farm, it’s completely opposite. At home it doesn’t matter where the dog stands or runs, you’ll get the sheep from one spot to the shearing shed. But out there, everything you do you could be losing points.”

Ms Jones said is essential to build a relationship and trust with your dog to work out when it is ready or if it will be ready to be a trial dog.

“Some people will start their light training at  four months and some trainers will start later,” she said.

“They all do it differently. I’ve got some dogs that I started training up at three years old. It’s like people, some of them don’t mature and are still childish in their ways.”

When it comes to breeding top working dogs there is some luck involved.

“It’s hit and miss, your mum can be a champion, the dad could be a champion, but the pup could just be on a total different page,” Ms Jones said.

When it come to competing it is Ms Jones’s love of her dogs and passion for working with them that keeps her coming back for more. 

 Ms Jones would like to foster newcomers to the sport and especially encourage more young people to join.

“There are so many young people, probably like myself when I was young, who we’re not into other sport like netball, tennis or cricket but if you love dogs it’s a great opportunity,” she said.

Ms Jones said she had a great team of like-minded and motivated individuals behind her in the TWSDA and together they hope to start pushing for more community involvement.

She said she hopes to stay involved with the sport for a long time.

“Although the sport is working with sheep and dogs as well, it still like a little break to farm life,” she said.

“It’s a different focus and a different goal.”