Training – An Overview
Sheepdog Trails began in part to test amongst shepherds to see who had the best working dog but also – an indication of the very singular lifestyle led by the shepherds of long ago – as a social event. It gave ‘the lads’ (male only in the far off days) a chance to meet up with their fellows and ‘chew the fat’. Many shepherds of long ago were also poets and singers and these gatherings gave them a chance to shine amongst their peer group. These Trials started over 100 years ago in North Wales (and also New Zealand) and by 1906 the International Sheep Dog Society had been formed and had held their first Trail in Scotland. This event was commemorated in 2006 with a return to the area of the first Trial and which was attended by HRH The Princess Royal – who has since become the Patron of the ISDS.
The ISDS remains the governing body of Sheepdog Trialing throughout the world and oversees a vast register of Border Collie dogs and bitches, information about which is available through their office in Bedford. They also produce a magazine – The International Sheepdog News – available to members every two months. Trialling is a hobby amongst shepherds and is a means by which they can watch the progress of their young dogs as they gain experience over courses that reflect the sort of daily tasks that shepherds encounter.
Most important to all Trialling participants is the welfare of the sheep. As we live in an increasing culture of health, safety and welfare, making sure that the sheep and the dogs are not stressed is the handlers’ and event organisers first priority. There are plenty of animal activists who will seize upon any hint of ‘cruelty’ to impose their views on the whole world of Sheepdog work.
It takes many years to acquire the sort of ease of work that the top Trialists display but they know that it is time spent well. By demonstrating what can be achieved by dedicated training, the trialing elite act as examples of what you could achieve with application, time and patience.