The first sheepdog trial was held in Bala, South Wales in 1873. This same trial has been running for over 100 years . Since the beginning, these trials have spread to every major sheep producing country of the world. In the United Kingdom alone there are over 400 trials a year. They are held in conjunction with fairs and other agricultural events or anywhere there is a field and sheep.
The sport of “dog trialing” evolved from agricultural roots much the same as the sport of rodeo in America. The purpose of a sheepdog trial is to test a dog and handler’s ability to move sheep over a prescribed course made up of practical obstacles found in everyday work.
These trials have also served to aid in the development of the Border Collie dog. These dogs were first bred in the “border lands” of England and Scotland. You will notice several different coat patterns, ranging from a white body with black markings to black with very little white. Within the breed, dogs also range from red to chocolate, but they are not very common. You will also notice that these dogs do not bark at the stock while working. Quietness, smoothness and style are emphasized.
Pups are generally started at a year of age. This allows a pup time to develop mentally and physically before taking on the challenges of working stock. Voice commands are taught first. The traditional commands are “away to me” (go right), “come by” (go left), “walk up,” “take time,” “down,” “stand” (stop standing or get to your feet) and “look back.” The most important command and the first one taught is “that’ll do.” It means stop whatever you are doing immediately and come to me. Whistles are added later to allow the handler to work the dog from a greater distance away.
Since the farms are small they usually cannot support more than the immediate family in most cases. The land is so rugged that a man on foot or motorized vehicles are of little use. A well-trained dog is the only way they can effectively harvest their crop. Anyone who has chased livestock on foot can really appreciate a good dog. One dog can literally replace several men.
Sheepdog Trials in the United Kingdom have “nursery” (novice) classes and open” for advanced dogs. Handlers and dogs compete for the honor of representing their county on its national team. England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland each send teams of 15 to the International Supreme Championships. The “International” rotates between the four countries. Those winning their respective classes have achieved the highest honor in the trialing world.
We hope you enjoy our trial. Please feel free to talk to the handlers. CAUTION: For your own safety, do not approach an unattended dog even if it appears friendly. Also, please stay back away from the fence.
For more information on sheepdog trials, training of stockdogs, or memberships, please feel free to contact: