Mr. and Mrs. John Blankenship of Rutherford county are firmly of the opinion that no stock farm should be without an English Shepherd dog.
The Blankenships, whose farm is located southeast of Murfreesboro, have been raising shepherds for some ten years now. They claim that a well trained dog has saved them as much as 30 minutes a day in bringing sheep in from pasture, in addition to perform a number of similarly useful services.
Their first English Shepherd, a sable-colored dog, was acquired during the war years, when farm labor was impossible to get and a four-footed assistant was better than none at all. Since then they've become more and more attached to the breed.
Nine year old Henry and seven year old Mary Ann Blankenship agree with their parents, Duke and Major, two of the eight English Shepherd dogs currently on the Blankenship premises, are their cherished pets. Mary Ann and Henry have broken Duke to pull a little cart about the farm, and Henry and Duke have frequent friendly wrestling matches too.
All the Blankenship dogs now are of the black and tan variety, since dogs with that coloring make better stock dogs than the sable-hued beasts, the Blankenships have decided.
"Work with stock comes naturally to the English Shepherd," Mrs. Blankenship says, although Duke was not much of a stock dog until jealousy put him on his mettle. He just wouldn't respond to their commands at all until they acquired Bo. But Bo worked the stock so well that …
Mary Ann breaks the dogs to lead, but she has even more ambitious plans for Chigger, a puppy who is her present favorite…
A puppy's training as a stock dog should be started at about four or five months, Mrs. Blankenship says. By the time he's a year old, he should be working stock like a veteran.
"If they won't do it by then, they never will," Blankenship agrees.
Among the services an English Shepherd can – and if properly trained, will – perform are those of herding cattle from pasture and putting them into barns at night; herding sheep from pasture; catching and holding hogs; and loading livestock into loading chutes.
The latter service is particularly valuable in the case of hogs since the farmer who has to whip a hog to urge him into a loading chute may bruise his flesh and thus lower the price received for the animal, Mrs. Blankenship explained. The dog's gentle nipping and barking have no ill effects on the porkers but they accomplish the desired results.
Also, on the credit side of the dogs ledger is their facility at catching possums, 'coons, groundhogs, skunks, rats, and other small animals the farmer would rather be without.
Some breeder ads and photos of Blankenship dogs from the 1950s:
Although frequently advertised as cattle dogs and natural heelers, photos such as the one to the left show that black/tan English Shepherd breeders expected their dogs to be all purpose stock dogs, capable of working baby lambs as well as tougher stock.
Photos below show Blankenship-bred dogs working flock of sheep (below right) and treeing raccoon below (left), illustrating the "all purpose" character that the Blankenships advertised.