We wanted to know more Shetland Sheepdog dog, and we have asked Ms. Martina Ossola, long-time dog trainer, dog sitter and breeder give us an exclusive interview.
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, thank you for this interview. My name is Martina Ossola and I am from North Italy, Varese. I am a dog trainer, dog sitter, wedding dog sitter and breeder of shetland sheepdog. I am graduating in “Animal Breeding & Wellness” into Veterinary Medicine.
When did your passion for dogs started?
Since I was a child but I had the opportunity to get my Shetland Sheepdog first dog, a sheltie, when I was 13 years old. From that moment I have started to take part in dog courses with him, and study dog behavior, training, etc.
What made you choose your profession?
Actually I am still studying and working. When I will be graduated my profession will continue as now with dogs: trainer, sitter, and breeder. Dogs are my life, passion and work.
Can you tell us more about this dog breed?
This is a long question, I can speak for hours about them. The Shetland Sheepdog is such an incredibly small working dog breed. They are so wonderful and elegant with their long coat and long nose but on the other hand great working and herding dogs. People must be careful to not confuse them as companion dogs because they are a bunch of power and character in a small body. A Shetland Sheepdog is always ready to do something with their owner but at home, they are calm and good dogs. They can be noisy because barking is in their DNA but it is something you can control and train easily from puppy age.
Shetland Sheepdogs are sweet and cuddling with their owner but usually wary of other people, as all herding dogs are. This part of their personality can turn out into shyness and fear if the breeder is not a good breeder. Being reserved with foreign people is correct, being scared not. It is important to buy Shetland Sheepdog from a responsible breeder who cares also about a character not only health and beauty.
Shetland Sheepdog are ok for families but parents must train the children to behave well with the sheltie because they are sensible and usually they don’t like to be touched and cuddled too much.
Some technical data: shelties are around 6-10 kg weight, 33-39 cm height. There are 2 types of shelties: American Type and British Type. (I am breeding the British one). The difference is little, usually, the Americans have more substance and different heads.
Can you describe your philosophy of raising a dog?
Consistency at all. This is the most important thing when you have a puppy (or if you adopt an adult dog) and start your life together. Consistency makes everything easier. This is important for the owner but also for all the family members. You cannot allow the puppy to sleep on the bed because is cute but when the dog is adult and bigger inhibit it. You should decide from beginning how you want to handle the dog and follow the rules.
Another important thing, in my opinion, is to always think in the dog perspective and ask our self: what is the dog trying to tell us with this behavior? Why the dog is doing this? If the dog bark, chew something, dig in the garden is telling us something. Pay attention also of which kind of dog you have, respect their natural aptitude and breed’s motivations. A hunting dog is different from herding dog and companion dog.
Can you tell more about puppies?
The aim of my breeding is “beauty and brain”. I don’t agree with “working line” and “beauty line”, I do believe shelties are both. Of course in the litters there are always some differences, one puppy can be more energy, one more cuddling, one more brave and one more suspicious but then is the breeder work to choose the best family for the puppy, looking also the single personality.
Raising a litter in a proper way is not that simple a lot of people think. There is always the risk something can go wrong, you can lose puppies and you can even lose the mother. Every breeder experienced something very tragic and hard. When there are problems and you need to feed them with the tube or artificial tits are not easy, you can’t sleep well and you give all your energy and thoughts to puppies, sometimes you give them all your soul but it is not enough and you lost them. This is really heartbreaking.
From the buyer’s point of view, buying a puppy is sweeter than buying an adult or old dog but surely also bigger work. So I would suggest to some people to be aware because getting a puppy means to have a lot of time for raising the puppy up and continue the work of the breeder. When you get a puppy you should consider some damage in your house: pee, poop, something chewed, little damage in the garden…it is part of the puppy essence, but if you train well you can have soon a good dog. I highly recommend people to go to dog training centers to learn how to train and educate the puppy.
Which type of food would you prefer, Homemade or Store-Bought?
Homemade. I strongly believe a natural diet is much better than a commercial one. But the natural diet is not easy to handle by the owner, it is more complicated if you compare it to a bowl of commercial food. The natural diet, cooked of barf, must be done by a specialized vet because a natural diet can be also bad for the dog and create a lot of problems if it is not properly balanced.
How about the process of feeding when they are puppies and when grown-up?
Puppies nurse from the mother until 3-4 weeks old, then I start to wean them. You start with artificial milk and then slowly introduce something more hard and big that they should bite and not lick. Puppies eat 4 times a day, then it becomes 3 times a day when they are ready to leave the breeder and go to the new home. Puppy buyers should continue the same food of the breeder for at least 2 weeks, then in case, they can change it. When they are 4 months old they can change into 2 meals per day but continue with puppy diet until 6 months old at least. Then they can change into the adult diet, but for this is better to see the single puppy development.
What is your best grooming advice for a dog that you can give us?
My advice is to get the dog used to the brush from the puppy age. If you train the Shetland Sheepdog puppy for that you will not have a problem in the future. Keeping the coat clean, without knots will be easy if you have a dog happy when you brush it, or neutral. I recommend to wash them also, it is important to use good shampoo quality. If you can’t do it at home go to a dog groomer from the young age of the dog so as it can get used to it. Ask your breeders advice and to teach you how to groom. For a Shetland Sheepdog you should cut the only fur around ears and near paws: inside to avoid them slipping and outside to have clean and rounded paw.
What ingredients are most commonly the cause of food allergies in dogs?
I think food allergies are now too common in dogs. This is caused by weak bodies of dogs and bad food quality. A well-bred dog is a strong dog, no big health issues. A lot of people buy cheap food at the supermarket, this is not good. A lot of commercial foods are made with poor ingredients, a lot of famous brands are expensive but low quality. With Google, we can all easily learn how to read ingredients and be good owners choosing the best food. Always ask your breeder a good quality food and change the taste sometimes, do you really think your dog can eat the same food for all the entire life??
How many dogs do you own and what breed are they?
I have 6 dogs, all shetland sheepdogs. I breed shelties with the kennel name Fillory. They are 2 males and 4 females, different ages and colors.
What type of training do you offer?
I offer training for the education of the dogs, puppy or adult age and agility dog and don’t work with behavior problems because I am not specialized in that. I offer my puppy buyers to follow them and help them during the growth of the puppy and I usually sell the puppy with a little booklet with a lot of advice and rules to follow to have a good dog.
How do you deal with good and bad behaviors?
I use positive reinforcement. I strongly believe the key is asking ourselves why the dog is doing bad behavior. Sometimes you stop the behavior with your body between the dog and the stimuli, sometimes you need to act before the dog starts the behavior and work on the distance between the dog and the stimuli. The 3D rule usually helps: work on distance, duration, and distractions.
Do you use discipline or positive reinforcement to train?
Positive reinforcement always. Especially with shelties, they are so sensible dogs.
Do you participate in dog shows? If the answer is positive tell us more about that experience?
Yes, I breed my shelties focusing on 2 characteristics: follow the standard so to have beautiful dogs but also follow the natural herding instinct. So I do participate with my dogs to both dog shows and herding training and competitions.
For the dog shows, I like them, but there are big problems of corruption and no respect for the dog. Of course, I talk about my country, Italy, and my experience. I have achieved different championships with my dogs, in Italy and abroad. When i started to take part in dog shows 5 years ago and I have usually at least 2 weekends at dog shows per month.
Dog shows are important to keep the quality of the dogs, breeders need to have a judgment from a professional and expert judge to know the faults and the good things of their dogs. We have standards to follow and we must follow them to keep the dogs into the breed qualification. Unfortunately, the reality is different from that dream because mostly all the time judges are a friend of some exhibitors: the winning dog is not the best dog but the dog of the friend of the judge.
A lot of judges are “all-rounder” I do not believe in this, how could you be prepared on such a big amount of dog breeds and know them all in details? I would put the limit of 2 groups for a judge, so as a judge can be really professional in that. Sometimes on Facebook, you see funny pics of dog handlers with a mask on the face. This would not be a bad idea so the judge should judge the dog and not the handler.
So we have problems with judges but also problems with respect to the dogs. A lot of dogs spend all day in the kennel. I am not against kennels I love them but you should use them in a proper way. Respect the dogs means to not strangle the dog while you are the ring and to let them walk and pee quietly outside before and after the competition, minimum.
Tell us a story or personal anecdote?
I want to share with you my happiness with the big achievements I had last year. I was competing with one of my dogs in a herding competition and I was so anxious and unsure, I suffer the competition emotions. In that competition, she was so good, we were such a perfect team, she was listening to my indications, she was like a machine. We won 1st place with the best score, against bigger dogs like German shepherds, Beaucerons. That day will always be such a lovely memory. 6kg dog but such a power. Love it!!
What would you like to say to our readers?
Be a responsible dog owner. Look for professional breeder if you want to buy a dog, be careful the breeder test the dog, check the health, cares about the character and follow the puppies growth. If you want to adopt a dog, not spending money go to a shelter, avoid private litter, your neighbor litter. Black or white.
Don’t ask suggestions on Facebook, if you have a problem go to a professional person specialized in it: behavior, food, grooming. Nowadays we have the opportunity to study and have all the information to avoid bad people, liars, people who only make money on the wellness of dogs.
Then, enjoy your dog. They are such pure soul’s animals, they love you unconditionally and live for you. Give them the best life you can they will be grateful forever.
If you want to follow me, my website and you can find me on Facebook Martina Ossola and Instagram @filloryshelties
Thank you for taking Ms. Martina for your effort and time, we enjoyed this interview, it really meant a lot to us.