By Beckie Wilson
“It is hard to come by a good heading dog,” says Wayne Cheesman, but he never thought his hobby would end up servicing the national and international farming community.
After 15 years in the business he is renowned for his top-quality heading dogs that he breeds on his 30-acre block in rural Featherston.
Over the past five years, he has built up what he believes is the ideal genetics for the perfect heading dog.
“Long legs and long body for high [performance] running and is more the type of dog I want to breed.”
To have one of his puppies compete in the national dog trials competition would mean he has “done something right”.
Mr Cheesman breeds heading dogs specifically for on-farm and dog trials.
However, just because of the right breeding does not mean the dog will perform, he said.
“Some dogs don’t get on with people, it’s about how they are trained too.”
Mr Cheesman said he has a “niche market” for his puppies, but is careful who he sells them to.
“I don’t sell them for the sake of selling them, I have enough interest [to be picky].”
The time spent on caring for the puppies, travelling to and from vet visits, and the cost of food means it is not a “money making venture… [but] is something that I have enjoyed.”
Since he left school at 15 and came over the hill from Wellington to work on a farm in Pirinoa, and has always owned his own dogs.
Before the dog-breeding venture, he owned a few pubs in the area, in Carterton and Palmerston North, but is now semi-retired and devoted to his hobby.
He uses Surgical Artificial Insemination, which can guarantee up to a 99 per cent chance of the female dog becoming pregnant — this means he can prepare for regular litters of puppies throughout the year.
A lot of business comes from word of mouth, with significant interest through his website. Website views can span from Chile, to Alaska, France and even Africa.
He has shipped puppies to Hawaii, England, Canada, and also Japan for the dogs to be trained a for frisbee competitions.
He has a system set-up with farmers; once a puppy is old enough a farmer will take it on, train it on the farm. Then Mr Cheesman sells that puppy on and in return, the farmer gets first pick from the next litter.
It takes about two years for a dog to be fully trained, and this way he can sell fully-trained dogs.
He can sell over 100 puppies a year depending on demand and breeding cycles.
Puppies are usually sold at about eight to 12 weeks old, and from about $500, but top quality ones can go for up to $1200.
Some people who bought dogs off him five or six years ago, are coming back to buy another one as they trust his breeding.
“That’s an achievement in itself.”
“I’m servicing the farming community — the dogs have come to come from somewhere,” he said.