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Dog breeder, international competitor, show dog trainer and speaker
Ia O’Shea has been a dog fanatic since childhood. Very experienced with an unusually broad variety of dog breeds. Co-owner of the successful kennel Just Ask and rescent years known as an international competitor, showdog trainer and speaker.
I’ve been dog crazy since I was a kid and I’re constantly begging my parents to get a dog. In my dreams, it was a golden colored Golden retriever male, like Tim in “The famous fives”. A dog that could become “the dog and I”, just as it was for George and Tim in the books. The thing is that both my parents are hopeless when it comes to dogs. They still hardly know what is front and back. So, my attempts to influence the family about what kind of dog we would get did not go so well. To their defense I would like to add that they have loved every dog we have had over the years. My mom thought that if it would be a dog, it would be a Cocker Spaniel girl – a Lady, this beautiful little lady from Lady and Trump we all used to watch as a Swedish Christmas eve TV tradition every year.
My ability to persuade, with help from a few external circumstances, gradually began to give results and I managed to convince the family that we would go to the big Stockholm dogexhibition in Älvsjö. Once there, my parents looked closely – at almost everything – except Golden Retriever males. They stated with disappointment that English Cocker Spaniel did not look like the Lady they were expecting (?!). In retrospect, I understood that they were not even watching the English Cocker Spaniel… but stood by the American Cocker Spaniel without understanding that they were two different breeds….
Anyway, they came across the Welsh Springer spaniel which with its beautiful gentle expression made my mother melt.
Luckily for me, my family eventually got a DOG. And the reality was of course different to my dreams and wishes. It became a Welsh springer spaniel girl, Freckles Agatha Christie “Aggie”. But I was just as happy about it – it was finally a DOG. This bitch was also Carina Arvidsson, kennel Freckles first litter. I have Carina to thank for much, as she aroused the genuine interest in dogs in me that has followed me all these years and that she was always there for the big and small questions I had.
Look for chanterelles and other skills
With Aggie, I attended various obedience courses at our local Working Dog Club. It was far from the positive training offered today. There was a lot of checking and hardness, chook chains and heavy hands. For a while it took away my lust for training. And even though I was only 13 years old, it was not difficult to understand that this was the wrong training philosophy, especially for a young spaniel puppy and her devoted owner.
So, I changed direction, trained with positive reinforcement and instead taught her to look for mushrooms with guidance from the famous Anders Hallgren. It was amazing. For those of you who have been around for a while know that Anders Hallgren was a great pioneer of modern dog training. Today it is more or less the norm and those who know understand the balance between positive reinforcement and setting boundaries. This was a very much needed contrast to the brutal training methods that many used.
Anyway, Aggie got really good at finding mushrooms. Better than me! So, we enjoyed our wonderful time together finding mushrooms..
My passion for the dog and its behavior continued and I read everything I could come across about dog’s behavior. Studding the behaviors and similarities between with the wolf and the dog as always fascinated me. At school I did special work about the dog vs the wolf’s behavior and the passion continued.
My new beginner show career
Then I thought there was something called dog exhibition. We had been to one ourselves to watch. Carina, who had a sister to Aggie, was often showing with great success. I also wanted to try this. Again, a persuasion campaign on the family, and then off we went to Skokloster for one of SSRK´’s classic shows. The place is dazzlingly beautiful and the weather was glorious. I was now 14 years old and had zero knowledge of what to do. Into the ring, tried to imitate the others, and did most things wrong. Unfortunately, the judge, who I do not intend to mention by name as she is still active judging, was terrible. She was brusque and not helpful at all. Before I left the ring, she said that there was no point in me coming back showing as I was so bad at it. I was a child and a beginner and a judge’s task in addition to the assessment is to be nice and helpful. Of course, I cried rivers when I got home. Most had probably ended their show career there and then. But I thought no one should control what I would do with my dog. So, on it again, new persuasions and new exhibitions. We quickly reached our limits as Aggie did not have the qualities that a winner at dog show needed. But we had fun and I loved it.
The years passed, Aggie and I moved from home and I was finally able to buy another dog, also from Carina. Aggie found it completely unnecessary to have another dog in the home and she did what she could to scare him away. Lancelot, as he was called was not show material, but what temperament. A godsend of a dog. Later he moved to my parents in-laws and saved my father-in-law as he was attacked by a group of teenagers in a park. That night he was no ordinary spaniel but rather a fighting dog. Without Lancelot, that situation would never have ended as well as it did. And Lancelot was forever the hero of my father in-laws’. He, on the other hand, with the fantastically stable temperament he had, remained completely unaffected by the situation he had been in. And was always the same safe, kind-hearted dog for the rest of his life.
The years in Vienna
More dogs came, the next a female from Kennel Umaniora`s, Siw Konradsson named Umaniora’s Guineviere, “Freja”. Nor did she become the show companion I had hoped for. But when I moved abroad, to Vienna, Siw and I agreed that she could take a litter of puppies on Freja before she moved with me. We discussed here and there about male options. I mostly listened, I still had so little knowledge. The combination was a hit – and gave Umaniora´s Ruth who, together with her mother, moved down with me in Vienna.
The period in Vienna was for me as a dog person a real stroke of luck. I ended up in a local dog club which was absolutely amazing. I trained obedience and Agility like crazy. Showed at both the breed club’s specials and ÖKV large shows. Freya won a little, but Ruth was a star. She managed to become Best in Show puppy at one of ÖKV´’s biggest shows. And she won countless group wins. To the extent that a show without group placement was disappointing. Unfortunately, my time in Vienna ended with me being involved in a serious car accident on the autobahn. So, dogs and dog training had to stand aside for a long time.
To become a breeder
Back in Sweden I steered my dog interest in a new direction – breeding. I cannot thank Siw Konradsson, kennel Umaniora´s for being the mentor she has been Especially during my early years as a breeder. Having stable, sound and wise mentor is a gift I wish everyone to have.
I bred a number of Welsh litters, but my physical health put a stop on both grooming and most dog activities. I had to start thinking about what I could do if I wanted to continue with the doggame at all. During my years in Vienna, I had encountered a breed that I was completely fascinated by – the Xoloitzcuintle. At that time, it was not relevant, because I was busy with the Welshes. But now? Maybe it was a breed that could work. No fur as nudity is one of their signatures, not as intense as the Welsh and not so much hunting instinct. But a primate dog breed where the knowledge and understanding of the dog’s behavior was very helpful. The Xoloitzcuintle is one of the oldest breeds in the world, Mexico’s national breed and not just a breed, but a piece of Mexico’s history. A breed that the Aztecs worshiped for the sun gods several thousand years ago and which was then tviewed to show the way to the realm of the dead.
After convincing my ex-husband that we would pay a visit to the kennel that I had encountered in Vienna, the decision was crystal clear. I wanted this breed. Kennel Xibalbas, with Anita Larsson and Göran Granlund, let me buy my first Xolo, even though the breed was actually advised against families with children at that time. Moa as she was called was a tough dog. Not at all bent and reserved like so many others. So, I really had to use my dog skills, but in a different way than I expected.
From Anita Larsson I learned to dare to go outside the box. To dare to change and not allow oneself to be governed by current norms. To go those extra miles that are necessary to achieve the results you strive for. Countless are the conversations, advices and discussions we have had about thinking and choosing breeding material.
Breeding was already something I loved. And in this breed, it was a huge challenge. To broaden the genetic base, improve temperament so that more dogs could function well in society. Tooth status and bite (naked gene and tooth gene are connected) Follow the breed standard, breed high quality dogs for show. Yes, the list was long with what I was trying to achieve. I imported several dogs from Mexico to get more breadth in the breeding material.
One of my young males turned out to be my “One in a life time dog” – Tlacatl (Retana). An absolutely outstanding beautiful male with an incomparable temperament. When he entered the ring, it was as he said: I am here now – glad you came. Always happy, always friendly and always a wagging tail. Such an ambassador for the breed!
Tlacatl (which means masculine in the Aztec language Nahuatl) became my door opener in the big show community. Already at his first SKK puppy show, he was placed Best in Show and after that it was a straight curve upwards. World Winner title, multiple groups wins and placements. Twice BEST IN SHOW breeding group at the World Dog Show, French winner and countless other shows.
Two years in a row, he and his offspring became the best progeny group in Denmark. In fact, so many times that he became the Breeding Dog of the Year, all breeds both years. In the first year, he and his offspring won 58 out of a possible 60 points. And during all the Best in Show wins as a progeny group, he and his offspring were never put up by the same judge. But different judges each time. A completely incomparable result. His progeny group was always placed in any Best in Show final in any of the countries they competed in. After his show career I continued to compete with several of his offspring as they also achieved completely unbelievable results with several Best in Show placements, titles and group wins in various countries.
Practice makes perfect
After my first win at the World Dog show I realized – this will never be able to happen again. I do not understand how to handle a dog at a show. I just shoot from the hip and chances. And with this breed that is so reserved for judges and handling, it will never be able to go as well as I wanted it to without knowing more.
So, I started looking for show training. After a while I found Gerard. It turned out that when he had moved to Sweden was quite accurate when I moved abroad. I had never heard of him. Which we both think is a little bit funny today, considering how incredibly well-known and talented he is and already was back then.
Anyway, I started training all my dogs for him and it was a great development. Several of my dogs were reserved and had difficulty when the judge would go through them. But with Gerard’s concept, I got tools needed how to act in the show ring. And my dogs got the peace of mind understanding what was expected of them. The dogs and I grew to the better. The culmination came when I for the second year won at the World Dog Show.
I got a taste of blood and continued to show other breeds as Chinese crested, Basenji, Miniature Bullterrier and Miniature Schnauzer to several great successes. When I think back, I have to stop for a moment – how incredibly fun and educational these years have been.
It is now almost 12 years since I started training my dogs to the concept I learned from Gerard. Over the years, I have also held courses in show training, both with and beside Gerard. The philosophy is the same and we of course work with the same concepts and techniques.