NEWPORT SHEPHERD Paul Walker with his dog ‘Billy’.
Name: Paul Walker
Lives: Originally from Chile but now living in Deradda, Newport
Occupation: Sheep dog trainer
I am a very early riser. I am normally up at 5 in the morning. It is good to be up at that time because early in the morning is when your mind is the brightest. It is also a magical moment, during the summer there is always beautiful light at that time in the morning.
I like to have porridge in the morning and stay healthy but I have kids and I normally I find myself scavenging after them and eating what they don’t eat. In the morning I am all go after I have a coffee. Then I check on the dogs and start cleaning kennels and taking care of the bedding of the pups and feed them.
We have different groups of dogs and the groups have different activities so we set out what we will do for the day. When the weather is good we work all day. Some dogs need every day work while others need less work with more time in between sessions. There are some dogs who need to get fit so we bring them to the mountain to run. It is dogs all day really.
I try not to keep too many dogs and try to keep the ones I can work. I normally have three or four dogs from other people I train. Some dogs just need a few weeks to solve a few problems but others you have to start from scratch and it can take some up to seven weeks.
There is no quick fix with dog training. In dog training there has to be a good relationship of trust and respect and you cannot make that overnight. Even with good breeding, the work has to be done and the time has to be taken and all the steps done with the same care.
Dogs have a short attention span. Some people work them a lot but I think short sessions of ten to 15 minutes are better than long sessions when they end up tired and they stop concentrating. When a dog is tired and stressed they stop learning. The key is to know when to stop.
Work can be very tiring mentally so I work for two or three hours and stop and have a coffee or something else and then I go again. When your mind is in another place the dog knows it, so you have to be fresh and in good sprits.
Because I am so busy during the day, I eat on the go and eat whatever is available. In Chile we have a drink called maté which is a beverage similar to caffeine, and we drink a lot of that. I can buy it here online so I can drink it with my son. Drinking maté is a social thing really and we share that habit together.
I am originally from Chile in South America. My dad was from Liverpool and my mother was Chilean, who also had a bit of Scottish descent. I am not a typical Chilean, I am a cross breed. I came to Ireland seven years ago. First of all I was breaking horses for a dealer for three years and then I moved to Mayo, catching the wild goats in the mountains around Mulranny.
Following a dream
I lived in the Andes all my life but I always had this dream of coming to Ireland and learning how to train a good dog. Through the twists and turns and ups and downs of life, I ended up in Ireland and together with Alan Moran we formed The Newport Shepherds.
We have our own dogs and we also breed, train and sell dogs and train dogs for other people. We do sheep demonstrations for tourists and we also started doing demonstrations for schools. Nature was always present in my life and together with Alan we feel it is so important to get children to have nature in their life and not be stuck in computer games. We go to the schools and take dogs, sheep, pens, lambs and we integrate the activity with the kids and it is a beautiful experience for them. Our message is to bring farming life back to the schools and getting nature back into their life.
My dad was an outdoor educator and we were always in the mountains. In the Andes, life is still semi-nomadic for the people living in the mountains. They make goat’s cheese in the summer and in the winter go down the valley and live a very simple life.
I fell in love with that simple life and ended up living like that. I finished my career and ended up as a goat keeper and went 15 years working with them.
I love Mayo, the nature here is very clean with many similarities with the southern part of my country. I always tell people this, Ireland with sun is a paradise. It is the closest to paradise you can be and I have never got bored of saying the same thing. It is so beautiful and clean and healthy. It is a lovely place to live in.
Here in Mayo with the mountains full of sheep, no quad or motorbike will ever do the job of a good dog. It is an essential part of reality here.
In the evening I might watch the news but sometimes I like to visit my neighbour and hang out with him and talk with him and have a beer. I would wind down that way. I would be in bed for about ten to be up early to start another day with the dogs.
In conversation with Anton McNulty
If money was no object what would you do?
I would take my kids to Chile for a holiday with the dogs
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I am very good at working with horses and it is the reason I first came to Ireland
A good steak with a salad
Unusual thing you have eaten?
In Chile we eat the testicles of animals. We fry them with special sauces and they are very good
What makes you angry?
Lying, I am a very hot and cold person
A man worked for dad with mules carrying equipment for expeditions. He lived in the mountains and I learned a lot from him when I was a kid
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Freedom and not having problems and compromises
What is you most prized possession?
My kids, they are the centre of my life
Favourite place in the world?
Anywhere where my kids are happy. That is where I want to be
What makes you nervous?
When my daughter is running a trial
Best advise you ever got?
Follow your dream
What is your favourite TV show?
I don’t watch TV
What do you look forward to most when Covid restrictions end?
Going to Chile