Sheepdog trials

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Sheepdog trials were originally started to encourage shepherds to train their dogs. They demand a very high level of obedience from dogs and a strong partnership with the handler. They are great fun to watch, which explains their popularity in the UK and Ireland, as well as the Antipodes, South Africa and the United States. We looked at the basics of sheepdog trials at the start of this chapter.

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While there may be minor differences between countries, the basic premise remains the same the world over: one or two dogs herding a group of sheep under the supervision of a single shepherd. Dogs are responsible for three to six sheep, which they must steer through a gate into a pen before shedding two sheep, within a specified time limit. This is very difficult, because of the small size of the flock.

Dogs may also work in tandem with two flocks of ten sheep each. Each dog is responsible for one of the flocks. The dogs have to herd ‘their’ sheep along the course and into separate pens without allowing them to form a larger group, which they are naturally inclined to do.

In some trials, dogs are required to herd a larger flock (120-150 sheep) into a pen, get them to pass through a narrow opening, cross a road with traffic and pass through arable land around 400 metres in length. Courses are specially designed to mirror natural working conditions. As with other trials, there are three classes of increasing difficulty. Professional shepherds, sheep breeders and enthusiastic amateurs may supervise the dogs, which must be at least one year old.

The mission of the International Sheep Dog Society, which was founded in 1906, is to encourage the breeding and training of sheepdogs. Each national society is responsible for the official trial regulations and for certifying working dogs and champions.

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Sheepdog trials
    Sheepdog trials

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