ORGANIZATIONS AND PROGRAMS
IN NORTH AMERICA
United States Border Collie Handlers' Association, Inc.
The trials sanctioned by the USBCHA follow the pattern of the trials of Great Britain's International Sheep Dog Society, the original registry for Border Collies. There are also many non-USBCHA-sanctioned trials held along these lines, but some of these may vary according to local organizers. There may be classes for different levels of training; for instance, in novice classes the handler may accompany the stock throughout the course, while at the higher levels the handler remains in a fixed position until moving to the pen to assist the dog in penning. The higher levels also include "shedding" or separating designated sheep from the group. Specific requirements may vary from trial to trial, as may the name of the class. There are trials for cattle as well as for sheep. Titles are not given in connection with these trials.
Australian Shepherd Club of America
The ASCA Stockdog Program offers three levels of arena trials, an open field "post advanced" course, a ranch trial course, and a farm trial course. There are several arena courses from which the organizer can choose, each with a standard layout but differing somewhat from one another. For instance, the "A" course requires taking stock from a pen, guiding them through obstacles and repenning; the "B" course starts with a small outrun or gather, then the stock are guided through obstacles and penned in a free-standing pen, followed by a repen; the "C" course also begins with a gather, but all the obstacles are off of the fence, whereas on "A" and "B" courses, two of the three obstacles are on the fence. Additional arena courses have other variations. The titles Started Trial Dog (STD), Open Trial Dog (OTD), and Advanced Trial Dog (ATD) can be earned on sheep, cattle and ducks -- small initials after the title indicate the type of stock -- with each title requiring two legs. The Ranch Trial courses (RTD) take place in a ranch setting and vary from location to location; they may be held on sheep or cattle. Farm Trial courses (OFTD and AFTD) also vary from location to location, but may take place in combinations of arenas as well as more open areas, and in addition to being held on sheep or cattle, may also use mixed types of stock, including ducks, worked consecutively, indicated with the initial "m." The Working Trial Championship (WTCh.) is earned when the Advanced title on all three types of stock has been achieved. The Post-Advanced class (PATD) is held in a large field. There is also a Ranch Dog (RD) certification earned by a dog being judged on proficiency in its regular work at home. ASCA is a registry for the Australian Shepherd, but its trials are open to approved breeds. Approved clubs may apply to hold ASCA events.
American Herding Breed Association
The AHBA program offers four types of trial classes, each with three levels, and also includes a test program. The Herding Trial Dog program, with levels HTD I, II and III, takes place on a standard course with outrun, lift, fetch, wear and/or drive and pen. The Herding Ranch Dog program, with levels HRD I, II and III, takes place on ranch/farm courses which vary in detail while including specified requirements. The Ranch Large Flock program, with levels RLF I, II and III, is similar to the HRD program, but requires larger groups of stock. The Herding Trial Arena Dog Program, with levels HTAD I, II and III, takes place in arenas with set minimum and maximum sizes. There are four basic courses to choose from, each of which includes an alternative of either a gather or a take-pen, three obstacles of various types, a drive section at levels II and III, and a sort of varying kinds; there also is a fifth option where the sponsor can design their own a course within certain parameters. All AHBA titles require two qualifying scores under two different judges. Progression of difficulty in the trial classes echoes the progression in the training of a versatile working dog. Titles may be earned on sheep, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, or cattle, with a small initial after the title indicating the type of stock on which the title was earned (ducks are used only on the HTD and HTAD courses, and mixed types can be used on HRD and RLF courses). A Herding Trial Championship is earned by obtaining additional qualifying scores after any Level III title is earned. Test levels include the Herding Capability Test (HCT) and the Junior Herding Dog Test (JHD), both of which are run on a pass/fail basis and require two passing runs under different judges. These events are open to all herding breeds and herding breed mixes. Clubs or individuals may apply to hold tests/trials sanctioned by the AHBA.
Kennel Club Programs
The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club offer test and trial classes with titles for dogs registered with them. Rules can be obtained by contacting those organizations.
In addition to the events held by the above organizations, many events are held by local organizations according to local rules. There are also informal events, work days, fun days, as well as organized "herding instinct tests"
ORGANIZATIONS AND EVENTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Trials have long been held in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Trials in Great Britain generally follow the pattern set out by the International Sheep Dog Society. The trials are held in large fields, with the handler remaining in a fixed location through most of the trial, until the sheep are ready to be penned. At these trials, the dog gathers a small group of sheep set out at a distance, brings the group to the handler, moves them away from the handler and through two sets of panels, then brings them to a small free-standing pen, after which the sheep are taken from the pen for the "shed," or separating designated sheep from the group. ISDS Course Description and Guidelines for Judges
Trials in Australia follow several patterns. There are yard trials which emphasize working a group of 18 or more sheep in pens and runways, moving them through the course and sorting them. Utility trials incorporate work in a larger field as well as in the yard. “Three sheep” trials have obstacles and a free-standing pen in an open field or arena and, as indicated by the name, the size of the group of sheep is limited to three. The home page for West Australian Working Sheep Dog Association provides trial rules and other information. New Zealand has trials for "heading dogs" which gather the sheep, and "huntaways" which push the sheep away from the handler, barking.
Traditional French trials involve the shepherd and dog conducting a flock of 50 to 80 or more sheep over a "cross-country" course meant to reflect situations found in daily work. In French trials, one dog is used and judging criteria primarily relate to accomplishing the tasks in an efficient, calm manner. The shepherd and dog may take various positions relative to the flock, according to circumstances. Thus, the dog may be behind or ahead, on one side of the flock or the other, wherever its presence is needed, remaining as discreet as possible when all goes well. The dog is expected to work with a great deal of initiative, the shepherd only commanding the dog for particular maneuvers. Trials are also held on cattle.
Trials in France including rules in English for sheep trials; rules in French for sheep and cattle
Commission d'Utilisation Nationale Chiens de Troupeau (in French)
Shepherding practices in France
A French-style Trial in California
In Germany there are trials held by sheepbreeder's organizations and similar trials held by the German Shepherd breed club, the SV (Schaeferhund Verein). Two dogs are usually used in HGH (Herdengebrauchshund, or Herding Utility Dog) trials -- a "main dog" and an "assistant dog." The HGH trials emphasize boundary work -- the dog patrolling along a field edge or furrow to contain the sheep as they graze, needed in a situation where the large flocks being taken out for daily grazing were being moved through fairly populated and cultivated areas where sheep could not be allowed to trespass. In practical day-to-day work, however, sheepdogs and cattledogs in Germany often work similarly to farm and ranch dogs of other countries.
Training and Working German large flock dogs
HGH rules and guidelines
Various practices in day-to-day shepherding work in Germany
There were a few trials in Belgium at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century, similar to the French trials, but these were not continued. Some trials have been held in Spain for the Catalonian Sheepdog (Gos d'Atura), on the order of British trials. ISDS-type trials are now being held on the continent of Europe also, as Border Collies are increasingly being used there.
FCI All-Breed Sheepdog Competitions – Traditional-style Trials:
In 2008 the Fédération Cynologique Internationale established rules for all-breed sheepdog competitions. The program is divided into two sections: One division for Border Collies and Kelpies, with the trial course modeled on the British trials, and one division for the European sheepdog breeds and those that work similarly (essentially, the loose-eyed, upright breeds), with the trial courses being similar to the traditional trials that have long been held in France. The first Championship was held on October 19, 2008, at Saint Gervais d’Auvergne, France. Participants at Saint Gervais included four Beaucerons, three Pyrenean Shepherds, two Gos d’Atura Catala (Catalonian Sheepdogs), a German Shepherd, a Malinois, and a Mudi. Handlers and dogs came from France, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Switzerland.
Slide shows of participants’ runs at the 2008 FCI championship (click on the picture to start the slideshow; clicking on a photo within the slideshow will enlarge it).
Videos of some of the participants in the 2008 FCI championship: Beauceron; German Shepherd; Mudi
Rules in English
ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS
Calendars of Events for Trials
American Herding Breed Association
Australian Shepherd Club of America
United States Border Collie Handlers Association - sheep
United States Border Collie Handlers Association - cattle