Aled Owen, twice World Champion, four times Welsh National winner and Supreme Champion, has run for his country at 36 Internationals.
Aled is based on a farm set in Penyfed, in Wales. He balances his work on the farm with his competitive games. When asked about his approach, he commented ” Well I don’t think you can ever stop learning and my handling has definitely improved with time.”
It’s now twenty years since I was first in the team with Roy and I won the Supreme with him in 1999… Oh, he was a tremendous dog, brilliant and I’d love to have him still in the pens. Old Roy was very similar to Cap, great in his farm work, but able to adjust to trials – without hesitation. Both strong dogs…”
His brother bred ‘Old Roy’ from his dog Nel and Aled’s dog Ben. “He was sold as a pup to Dei Roberts, Penlan, Bala and I bought him when he was 12 months old. The other Roy was a service pup that I’d bred myself. Old Roy wasn’t the greatest breeder; the best i had from him was a dog called Dan who came seventh in the Supreme in 1997. I sold him because I saw Bob and I wanted Bob straight away and Bob was a brilliant breeder and I haven’t had to buy anything since…”
All Aled’s dogs go back to Bob and the younger Roy. He did actually buy Gwyn from Pennant Williams because he wanted a line from Wyn Edwards’ famous Bill, a dog he really admired.
Now all his dogs carry his breeding lines, including amazingly, two that really do roll back the years – Ben, his 1985 Welsh National Champion and Jess, the first bitch he ever had that his father bought in 1976. “Jess was out of Dick Nicholl’s Cap and Jill and she’s in all of my dogs.”
Does Aled have any preference for any of his four champions?
“No, no I don’t. The four of them were great dogs and what they all did meant a lot to me at the time they did it.”
How has trialling changed since you started?
Aled is well placed to take a view on how sheepdog trialling stands today since he’s been visiting overseas countries for many years and knows the domestic scene backwards.
“There’s no doubt that, worldwide, trialling has grown in popularity and is set to go on that way. There are excellent top-class handlers in a number of countries now, some of them as good as anywhere, but in North Wales at the moment, there are fewer people running compared with what there used to be – still excellent handlers, but fewer of them.”
Do you ever feel the pressure of living up to expectations or feel nervous?
“No I don’t feel any pressure. There’s a little bit of nervousness, yes, because you need it, but not much. You have to go out there fully aware of what’s ahead of you and where things can go wrong and I’ve proved that over the years.”
What are the qualities that top handlers must have?
“People have different personalities and their dogs have to match them so I couldn’t say that my type of dog would be right or as good in other people’s hands… There are different types of dog and different types of handling and the two have to come together…
Personally I like a natural working dog and definitely one that’s in contact and I don’t like one that isn’t. One that’s going forward a bit, over here, over there, forward a bit, over here, over there. And I judge according to that preference too, but a lot don’t. They look at the sheep and the line, but not what the dog’s doing. it could be way out of contact and still get good points… A dog that’s in contact can move sheep with very little movement and actually that’s the way the old handlers used to work with those line dogs.”
Source: Champion Chat, July/August 2016: http://www.isds.org.uk
CSJ is very grateful to Aled Owen for judging the A Way with Dogs Trial.
Meet Karolina Dyszy
Karolina Dyszy did an amazing job for us, releasing the sheep, when we were filming A Way with Dogs. Karolina is a competitor and trainer from Poland who is making quite a name for herself in North Wales, around the village of Ty Nant, Corwen, better known as the stamping ground of Aled Owen, multiple World and International Supreme Champion.
When Karolina saw an advertisement on the Social Media Site, Facebook, for a lambing assistant in North Wales in the spring of 2015, she applied to Gwyn Lighfoot, who had placed the advertisement, immediately as she was interested in coming to the UK to broaden her experience of sheep and dogs. When she learned from Gwyn that the job was actually on Aled Owen’s farm she admits that she would have been heartbroken if she had not had the job, which was the job of her dreams. She began work at Penyfed in the spring of 2015 and is still there, working with Aled.