Erin O'Shea, Scientist & IGP Champion
Erin O'Shea is an IGP competitor, former professor at Harvard University, and current President of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a x2 WUSV World Universal Sieger Champion and x4 American national IGP champion with three separate dogs. Erin has a quiet, understated demeanor. She radiates an intense passion for life. Whether you consider academic, professional or dog sport achievement, Erin is one of the most accomplished people one will likely meet. Erin’s accademic and professional background focused on intellectual endevours are an fascinating contrast to the physical activity of dogs competing in bite sports (IGP). This unusual combination inspired me to write this story.
2023 AWDF IGP National Champions
Erin grew up in a small town in upstate New York with German Shepherds as family companions. She left home to attend University, which kept her busy and unable to have a dog for a spell. Things changed in 2008 when she saw a working-line German Shepherd in the Denver airport, which rekindled her interest in dogs. Soon after, she bought her first German Shepherd, Zambo vom Riedschlurgi, a show line import puppy from Sabrina Hatfield. She trained Zambo from puppy to x2 WUSV Universal World Champion (2011-2012)! This is impressive, but doing so with a first dog and a show line makes this astonishing.
When Erin was ready to have another dog, she unsuccessfully tried to find another show-line German Shepherd like Zambo. She eventually decided to go with a working line suited to dog sports. She found Jonhboy Vikar, a young dog with an excellent foundation from Vit and Jana Glisnik in the Czech Republic. Erin trained with T. Floyd and then with Christian Mieck. Johnboy became GSDCA IGP National Champion before the age of three.
As Johnboy enjoyed success, Erin became enamored with Christian Meick's dog, Vegas von der Burg Hinte. Vegas had confidence, power, drive, and of course, excellent training from Christian. Christian earned 3rd place with Vegas at the German National IGP Championship (BSP). Vegas was only 2.5 years old then, and Christian agreed to let Erin take over training with Vegas. Christian stayed heavily involved in the training with both Erin and Vegas. As a team, they became the 2018 USCA IGP National Champions. The following year they placed 15th at the WUSV World Championship.
Christian had started a super female, Gala von der Mohnwies. She had a terrific foundation in place when he sold her to Erin. Again, Christian stayed involved with the training, and together as a team, Erin trained Gala to IGP3.
Gala bred to Vegas at the beginning of the pandemic. This was Erin's first breeding and produced her current competition dog Joker von der Beizjagd. COVID made it impossible to continue training with Christian, who lives in Germany, so she had to find another way. Erin discovered Canemo, a series of videos from Sarah Prelle and Marko Koskensalo, which teaches handlers how to train various parts of protection and obedience – from the puppy stage to adult. She started the Canemo system with Joker when he was eight weeks old. She then worked with Marko Koskensalo one weekend each month for essentially all of 2021 to train protection and some obedience. The Canemo system changed her approach to training. Instead of waiting for the dog to make a mistake then apply correction, the system shifts focus to elevating communication and utilizing and channeling the dogs emotions into the work. She also realized that dogs want to do right. When they don't, it is because they don't understand. Erin spent some time with T. Floyd and Mike Sweeney in preparation for the 2023 AWDF National Championship, working on small details. The hard work paid off, and Erin won her 4th National Championship and a spot on the USA FCI World Championship Team. She will be teamed with Sarah Prelle of the Canemo team, and Marko will be the team captain.
Top flight helper support has played an essential role in Erin's dog sports journey. However, no one has provided more encouragement and support for her passion than Doug. He has been there through all the travel, training, and trials. Doug is now training his own dog and doing well with Java, who is Joker's littermate. Erin and Doug are a loving couple who interact respectfully and share in each other's joy.
Erin is a scientist. She discovered a love of science after her first research experience as a freshman at Smith College. Captivated by the idea that there was so much we did not understand about the natural world. Her passion for science and research led to a Ph.D. in Chemistry at MIT and then to faculty positions, first at the University of California at San Francisco and then at Harvard. Erin is the President of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the largest biomedical philanthropy in the U.S. They support scientists all over the U.S. at universities and research institutes, and they have a research campus in Ashburn, VA, where Erin has does much of her work.
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