Photo by Michelle Lawrence
What is a Sheep Dog Trial?
The first sheepdog trials were in the United Kingdom in the 1870's. They arose from the natural admiration of the great dogs working the flocks, and a natural desire to prove one's own dog against the fine dogs from neighboring farms. Early trials in the United States were mostly auxiliary events to agricultural fairs. Over the years the trials became more organized and well attended.
This event will have trials on the main field for the national champion, as well as a separate field with competition for very talented young dogs. In addition, there will be vendors for both food and merchandise.
The preliminary round will consist of the gather, drive, shed, then pen. The gather further breaks down into the outrun, lift, and fetch. In the Outrun the dog is sent from the handler's side with a single command.
Outrun - 20 points
The job of the dog is to cast out wide and get behind the sheep in the perfect position to bring them straight to the handler. The dog should not disturb the sheep until it is in position to bring them in the correct direction. Since this job belongs entirely to the dog, any commands are penalized.
Lift - 10 points
The lift is the moments when the dog makes contact with the sheep. This is not physical contact, but rather the time when the presence of the dog begins to effect and move the sheep. Though brief, this is very important. The best dogs present with confidence so that the sheep do not question their authority, while also presenting with control so the sheep do not feel physically threatened.
Fetch - 20 points
The fetch is a straight line from the point where the sheep were lifted, through the fetch panels set on the field, then on to the handler's feet. Any deviation from the straight corridor of travel will lose points, as well as any sheep that do not travel through the panels.
Drive - 30 points
The dog will take the sheep around the handler and post, then in a straight line to the first set of drive panels. All sheep must go between the drive panels or points will be lost. The sheep are then turned and taken across to the second set of drive panels (cross drive panels), again straight lines and all sheep through the panel for full points. Finally the sheep are brought back to the shedding ring.
Shed - 10 points
At the direction of the judge, the dog and handler will separate the sheep. Usually it is to remove two sheep from the group.
Pen - 10 points
After the shed the sheep are gathered into a group again and taken into a freestanding pen. The pen is completed when all sheep are in, and the gate is closed. Neither handler nor dog can touch the sheep, and the sheep cannot be pushed into the pen with the gate.
Single - 10 points
In the Semi Final round, the sheep will be removed from the pen and a single ewe will be removed from the group, as specified by the judge.