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Martin is proving you can teach an old dog new tricks – once you know how!

February 13th, 2022 8:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Martin Murphy with his sheepdogs Ted and Hanita and, right, Ted (right) and Hanita round up the sheep. (Photos: Martin Walsh)

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A WEST Cork man is encouraging more local people to get involved in the sport of sheep dog trials.

Ballinascarthy-based Martin Murphy is a renowned sheep dog trainer who trains dogs from all over the country including Meath, Galway and Armagh.

For the past 10 years or more he has also been part of the Munster Sheep Dog Trial team, and he’s urging others to come on board.

Martin is currently training his dog Hanita for the nursery trials later this winter, and he has three other pups in training for trials next year.

He learned his skills from a local farmer, and says that it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, once they have the right temperament.

‘Genetics are also really important. When a sheep dog sees sheep its whole demeanour and body language changes.

‘Any dog can be a chaser, but I can tell which ones will make a herder and naturally that’s what you want,’ he said.

The benefits of owning a trained working dog are huge, both for sheep and dairy farmers: ‘Sheep farmers in the likes of Castletownbere and Durrus who are bringing large numbers of sheep down from the hills can save a lot of time.

‘And I’ve also heard from a dairy farmer that his cell count improved as his cows were less stressed working with the dog, then when he used a quad,’ said Martin.

The Munster team currently has three Cork people, and Martin says they have both male and female members.

‘We have a really good team ethic going on; competitions are always a good day out and it’s a healthy past time – you just need a bit of patience,’ he said.

All that’s required is a dog, some sheep, a pen and some land and Martin said he’s happy to help anyone interested in finding out more.

When he’s not training sheep dogs or competing, he also trains regular dogs.

And rather than the owner telling him about a dog, Martin says it’s usually the reverse!

The 2023 International Sheep Dog trials will be held in Glenealy, Co Wicklow.

For more see irishnationalsheepdogtrials.org.uk

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