Candy Kennedy

Profile: Candy Kennedy


How long have you been active in training and trialing working border collies?

I’ve owned, trained, and trialed Border Collies for over 20 years.

Tell us how you got started in border collies. Did you have any experience with any other dog sports before you got interested in herding? Did you have any livestock background?

I was raising calves for a living and decided to get a dog to help with loading, sorting, etc. I started off with a Queensland Heeler and after having her proceed to run them through the fence a few times a day, I almost decided I could do better by myself. However, I ended up selling the Queensland buying a Border Collie and as they say “the rest is history”. It wasn’t long before people coming to buy calves, would see my dog work and ended up trying to buy the dog instead of the calves. So, I started training dogs for other people.

Tell us about your first dog. Did you train the dog yourself? How did you go about finding the dog? Were there any particular challenges that you encountered with the dog? Is there anything you’d do differently if you had the same dog to work with today?

My first “real” dog was a red dog named Mocha. I bought him from Betty Maddux as an 8 week old pup and he lived and worked with me until the day he died. He was a perfect dog for a beginner and to this day I say “he taught me everything I know about herding”. He had a great outrun, perfect balance, a little too much eye and not quite enough push but he gave everything he had to me. I saw a ½ sister of his working and went up and asked about her breeding. Betty told me she was expecting a litter by her dam so I ordered a pup. When I started training him I tried to keep everything slow and easy (since I didn’t know what I was doing) and when we went to open we ended up running out of time. Although he placed a number of times in open, if I had kept things moving better when he was younger I think we would have been more competitive.

Were any “big hat” handlers particularly helpful to you when you were starting out? What was the best piece of advice that anyone gave you as a novice?

I don’t think anyone was giving lessons when I first started but I did attend a lot of clinics and felt like I got something new out of each and every one. On the other hand, I think the best lessons are sitting on the sidelines and watching dogs and handlers run and then deciding which type of dog and handling style suits you.

Tell us about your first trial. What class were you in? What happened?

The first trial I went to was Porterville, Ca and I came in 2nd in Novice. I trusted Mocha so much that I wasn’t even nervous. Just sent him and relied on him to bring the sheep to me. I think because I worked stock so much I was comfortable in a trial situation. It took me awhile to read sheep as they react differently than cattle but “stock sense” is just that “stock” sense. It’s been so many years since I worked cattle I’m sure I would have to work on my approach and timing if I went back to that.

What were some mistakes you made in your early days that you no longer make?

I use to slow dogs down too much as I thought every thing needed to be at a walk. Soon found out that if the sheep are walking the whole course you usually ran out of time. I prefer a strong trot (not running) to feel comfortable about having time to finish an Open course.


Tell us about the dogs that you’re currently trialing: how many do you have? What are their names? What do you like about each of them?

At the moment I’m running Moss that I’ve been running for the last 5 years and a new one named Roy. Moss is a well rounded dog that can work all types of sheep. He really shines on double lift courses. Roy I haven’t run for long but he’s young and full of enthusiasm and energy so “we shall see”. He’s fun to run as he never does anything half ways!

What is your general working routine with your dogs? How often do you work each of them? How do you tend to plan and structure each working session?

I work my dogs 5 to 6 days a week. I try to give my open dogs around 20 – 30 minutes of work so I know they will be in shape for a double lift. The younger dogs I work according to their intensity, drive, and age. I don’t work young pups long as I want to make sure they remain keen. I try to always stop when they still want more and gradually work up to longer sessions. I don’t plan work sessions unless one of the dogs has a specific problem – say one of my open dogs didn’t shed well at a trial – then I will set it up to work on shedding. Or if I’m preparing for a double lift I will practice that a little. I tend to work on a little bit of everything daily rather than “bits and pieces”.

What are your facilities like? How large are your fields? How many (and what type of) sheep do you have? Are you able to get to different fields often?

We have 15 acres that we live on that I work on most of the time. I try to trailer out at least once a week to as many different fields as I can. I run 50-75 head of sheep mostly Barb/Dorper cross ewes. I keep a few wool sheep just so the dogs learn to work all “kinds”.

Do you prefer training your own dogs now or purchasing trained dogs? What qualities do you look for in a dog? Do you use your trial dogs for farm chores?

I’ve done all of it - from breeding, raising and training pups all the way up to open and buying imported totally trained dogs. When I was younger I use to love to start puppies. Now, I enjoy the “polishing” end of it better than the “starting end”. I like to buy started dogs and finish them, run them for awhile and then sell them and buy more. I don’t understand the argument about “trial vs. ranch” work. If I don’t think a dog can work the sheep I own why would I think he can work trial sheep? I sure don’t keep a “separate” dog for working at home. When I have “practical” work to do, I usually end up taking my top trial dog. I try to make myself use the younger dogs as they need the practice but it’s just so much easier to take your open dogs.

How do you mentally prepare for a run on the day of a trial?

I don’t and really never have. I just go out and run my dogs. I will watch some runs to see where the sheep tend to be heavy towards or how they respond to the way different dogs work but that’s about it.

What has been your most gratifying trial experience to date?

I suppose it was coming in 4th at the National Finals with a dog I bred, raised, and trained myself.

What are your goals as a trainer and handler? How are you working toward those goals?

I like developing dogs instead of making them. I try to reinforce their strengths and improve on any weakness. It takes more time but I like the end results much better. There are some dogs that you just have to make mechanical but I give them every opportunity to develop a feel for sheep before I resort to that.


What do you see as the single biggest challenge facing the sport of trialing border collies today?

Too many people are breeding for things other than top quality working ability.

What advice would you give to a novice starting out in the sport?

Enjoy it. When you first start everything is new and exciting so don’t make yourself miserable by making trialing “life and death”. Instead look at it learning experience for both you and your dog.

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