CQA – Sheepdog Trials, Tutorial Comments

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Sheepdog bringing sheep towards the camera in a sheepdog trial

Sheepdog Trials

Competing in your first sheepdog trial can be a daunting experience - there are so many things to remember - and so many things can go wrong!

This tutorial will give you a great understanding of how a sheepdog trial is run and how to prepare for your first trial.

There's lots of information on where to go and what to do when you arrive at the trials field for the first time - as well as getting your dog ready for its run.

In the first tutorial of the series, you'll learn what each stage of a sheepdog trial is called (and what happens) how many points you can retain for each stage and how to avoid the common mistakes that will lose you valuable points.
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8 Replies to “CQA – Sheepdog Trials, Tutorial Comments”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! These trial videos were great! Now I have some understanding of how trials work and can watch and have some knowledge of what is being done and how it is judged. I have not found anything that explains it the way you have. Bravo! These tutorials have been so informative and clear. From being a newbie and barely understanding the language etc… I now feel like I am no longer that green beginner. Still a novice, but at least I now feel like I can speak the language and I have such a better understanding of sheep dog trials and working sheep.

    1. That’s great! Thanks for taking the time to let us know, Rachelle; it’s always good to get feedback. And don’t forget to tell us when you’re approaching your first sheepdog trial…

  2. Excellent video Andy, one of the best so far and very useful :)
    Ive been trying to find out about trials and their rules for a while now but even on the isds site its not exactly made clear so this has been very useful.

    One question I have is knowing when a dog is ready to try a trial? do you set up a course at home to try out, or just turn up and risk a disaster?

    thanks again

    1. It’s good to know you found the videos useful Stuart – thanks for the feedback.
      Setting up a trials course at home will help, but it’s best to try your dog on new ground too. If the dog gets excited by working somewhere new, you might not be able to stop it – particularly at a distance.
      If you take the dog to some trials for experience, you could ask the organisers if you can do some “taking off”. To do this, you wait by the exhaust pen and when a run is finished, send your dog to collect the sheep and put them in the pen. It’s very good for finding out how your dog will behave at a trials ground with people, vehicles and other dogs around.
      If all else fails though, as long as the dog works well and you’re fairly sure it can get around a trials course, just go for it. Try to choose a fairly easy trial if you can – certainly not a double-gather or a very long outrun as a first trial.

  3. Love your tutorials – very helpful. It would be great to see how you train a dog to understand the ‘steering.’ My dog will flank from a driving position to head the sheep, but will not flank off the balance – I guess that’s where he feels he should be! Any suggestions?
    Caroline Harding

    1. Hello Caroline,
      It’s good to know you find the tutorials helpful.
      To gain control of the dog when it’s learning to drive can be frustrating because, of course, the dog’s natural instinct is to bring the sheep back to you – but if you study the second and third Driving Tutorials you’ll see they both cover this issue extensively.
      Part two is subtitled “Learning to Steer” and shows that by positioning your body while walking behind the dog, you can control its direction.
      Part four shows that when flanking commands don’t work, using the recall command often will, so it enables the trainer to bring the dog back onto line.
      Just as with any other sheepdog training, by applying the relevant command at the same time, the dog will learn to do what you want, and you can gradually phase out the training techniques.
      I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more information.

      1. Thank you Andy. Jack actually drives quite well, and doesn’t run round to head the sheep unless told to. I suppose the difficulty is in getting him to flank freely, regardless of where I am. I use the ‘that’ll do’ to get him to flank towards me, then add my flank command, but we don’t seem to be able to progress any further. He has quite a strong eye I think. Will try to get some lessons – shame you are too far away.

        1. Hello again, Caroline,
          If you want the dog to flank off the point of balance, try walking out to one side, then calling him to you. As he gets the idea, you can reduce the amount you walk out, until eventually, he’ll just do it on command.
          Soon we will be releasing a tutorial about how to get the dog to circle the sheep at a distance – this should help a lot!

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