Sheepdog trials – getting started (1 of 2)

A beginner’s guide on how to start, and take part in sheepdog trials

Subtitles: French*, Spanish* or English, click CC on viewer (*translation errors).



Photo of a dog working sheep at a sheepdog trial

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Video Highlights

Get ready to compete in sheepdog trials!

If your dog’s training is going well, you might like to try competing in sheepdog trials
Take a look at the layout of a typical trials field.
A judge’s-eye view of a trials field.
What a competitor needs to do when they arrive at a trials ground.
Suggestions to ensure you don’t miss your turn!
Provide a secure place, good ventilation, and water for your dog.
Keep your dog quiet so that it doesn’t affect other competitors’ runs.
Watching the runs before your own can teach you a great deal.
Make sure your dog is capable of a long outrun before you compete in a trial.
Gripping is not tolerated without very good reason.

Win or lose points

Points allocation (or deduction) for each stage of a sheepdog trial.
Use voice commands or a whistle.
The ‘holding’ and ‘letting-out’ area.
The number of sheep you’ll be working.
A few words about the number of sheep at at sheepdog trial…
Two trials at the same venue, in one day.
Sheep at the peg.
It’s well worthwhile volunteering to help with letting out sheep.
Why it’s important to watch some runs before your own.
Don’t overstay your welcome when you’re at the ‘post’.
The ‘fetch’ and ‘drive’ gates.
The ‘post’.
On some trials grounds, the dog cannot see the sheep from the post.
How to make sure the dog knows roughly where the sheep are – every time.
Ways to make sure the dog has seen where the sheep are, on a particular trials ground
Make sure your dog won’t need to relieve itself during its run.
Once the dog leaves the post, the sheep become the responsibility of the handler.
The handler must secure the sheep in the exhaust pen, at the end of the run.
The outrun – and which direction to send the dog.
Ways to lose points on the outrun!
The Lift.
The Fetch.

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How to start and take part in sheepdog trials

This is our two-part beginner’s guide to sheepdog trials, for people who want to learn more about sheep herding competitions.
Preparing your dog and yourself for your first sheepdog trial is not a simple task. There are so many things to remember. Where do you go when you arrive at the field? What happens during the competition? What should I avoid? Who can I ask for help and what sort of things the judge will be looking for during your runs.

As well as knowing what to expect, where to go, and what your responsibilities are as a competitor, the videos cover every stage of the more common types of sheepdog trial. Learn how to start and take part in sheepdog trials.

These two tutorials delve deeply into how to start and take part in sheepdog trials in the UK, and many other parts of the world. They’ll give you a great understanding of how a sheepdog trial is run, how to prepare for your first trial, what to do, and what to avoid – such as getting eliminated part-way through your run!

Sheepdog Trials – getting started 2 | (top ⇧)


7 responses to “Sheepdog trials – getting started (1 of 2)”

  1. Peter Bangarth avatar
    Peter Bangarth

    Thanks! I’m going into a ‘fun’ trial at my trainer’s farm in a few days, along with some of her other students and friends. Your guidelines reinforce hers and help me clarify a few hazy bits. This will be my and my dog’s first go at it.

  2. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Hello Andy. I’m just about to start training my dog for herding trials. your personal stories will sure lower the tension, thanks.
    I’m from Israel. what are the trials abroad, that I can participate in?

    1. I can only suggest you look at the ISDS website, Arye. If you go through the various links, you will find some trials listed, but searching on Google is probably better for you.

  3. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Hello Andy. will you make a tutorial on brace work?

  4. Arye Ehrenberg avatar
    Arye Ehrenberg

    Greate tutorrials, thanks.
    I wonder, when your at the the trials do you use your training stick or something else?

    1. A stick of some kind can be really useful at sheepdog trials – especially for penning and shedding the sheep. A shepherd’s crook is the usual stick to use for this.

  5. Jane Hart avatar
    Jane Hart

    Thanks for the videos on trials. They are really helpful.

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