Dog trialling for 64 straight years at A & P Show

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2009
NATASHA MARTIN/ The Timaru Herald
WORKING DUO: Alister McKenzie will be dog trialling at the Mackenzie A & P show on Monday _ for the 64th successive year. With him will be 3-year-old Pete.

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Come Monday Alister McKenzie will do just what he has done for the previous 63 Easter Mondays go dog trialling at the Mackenzie A & P show.

For him that is where it all started. The 86-year-old retired Cannington farmer was only 22 when he and Mist went to the show for the first time.

And he just keeps going back.

Just because he no longer farms and doesn't need dogs, hasn't stopped Mr McKenzie competing at the show.

There's been the Bens, the Glens, Cloud, Mist and Rose, but come Monday it will be 3 1/2-year-old Pete that's in the ring with him.

Mr McKenzie quips about their combination "an old man and a town dog" and always asks the judge if there is any concession for such a pairing.

Pete might be a town dog, but he is a town dog with very good trialling parentage.

For the last 30 years Mr McKenzie has been breeding his dogs with those of New Zealand dog trial championship winner Ginger Anderson, of Omarama.

While some might think dog trialling is all about training, Mr McKenzie is adamant the dog's lineage makes all the difference - with a dog's temperament counting for 60 per cent and its training making up the remaining 40 per cent.

In the past there have been the pups he knew just didn't have the trialling temperament, so instead, they were trained as working dogs.

He's had his share of winners. Twice Mr McKenzie was selected as one of the two South Island competitors to take part in the Tux dog trial event at Auckland's Easter show.

But he was always home in time to go to Fairlie on Easter Monday.

Ask him about the language needed to work a dog, and he quickly points out swearing will see a competitor disqualified in competition.

He doesn't believe there is any need for uncouth language to get the best out of a dog. Quiet commands are all his dogs need.

When you see the way Pete looks at his master it probably comes as no surprise that Mr McKenzie tells you there is no need to hit a dog either.

For Pete, being a town farm dog means walks around Geraldine twice a day and during trialling season there's also the sheep in a couple of nearby paddocks to be worked.

The pair compete about eight times during the trialling season. Believing the best training for any trial dog is everyday farm work, Mr McKenzie also goes to his son's farm periodically to work the sheep.

It's also good socialising for Pete to spend time with the other farm dogs.

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The pair have had their share of successes, but as Mr McKenzie is quick to point out, on the day, the sheep can have a major influence on the result.

With Monday marking Mr McKenzie's 64th year competing at Fairlie, it begs the question of how much longer he plans to stick to his Easter Monday ritual.

The answer is simple. He doesn't plan to train another dog, but then dogs usually trial until they're about 10 meaning come Easter Monday 2013 a 90-year-old dog triallist called McKenzie could be Fairlie-bound.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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