Rules of Trialing



 Ohe Rules of Trialing are drawn up by the ISDS Council and most Sheepdog Trialling societies abide by these. Each Trail is overseen by a Judge who deducts points from the maximum for each section. In order to compete at National or International Level a good understanding of the Rule Book is essential!

A Trial usually consists of ‘Open Driving’ and in the South West of England and in south Wales, the ‘Maltese Cross’ is popular. In most cases there are ‘novice’ classes to accommodate the less experienced dog and/or handler. During the winter months the young dogs have their own series of Trials called ‘Nurseries’ which are run outside the ISDS Rules but following them as guidelines and have the additional classes of ‘nursery driving’, ‘nursery Maltese cross’ and ‘cradle’ classes for the really inexperienced handler.

In order for dogs to compete at National or International level an agreed number of points have to be accrued during the preceding ‘Open’ season. Points are awarded to the first six competitors at these trials. If too many people qualify for the restricted National Trials places then the ‘bar’ is made higher. Many people can be disappointed that one or other of their dogs has been displaced despite having collected a good number of points.

The sections of an ‘Open Driving’ competition are as follows:

20 points

10 points

20 points

30 points (or for Maltese cross 20 points)

10 points

10 points

Single after pen
10 points

Generally, The Outrun will start with the full 20 points and points deducted for each error made so that a dog and handler team might end up with only 6 points for the Outrun having made a bit of a pig’s ear. They then begin the next section with a full complement of points for that section. And so on…

In each section errors are noted and points deducted by the Judge for the Trial and that decision is final. In the event of a tie then the highest marks for the Outrun will be declared the winner. The whole ‘run’ is timed with a loud bell or whistle announcing that ‘time is up’. The time given to compete depends upon what is to be achieved and is decided by the Judge before the Trial begins. For example a ‘double gather’ plus a shed and a pen will require more time than a single and earn more points. The single is usually run after the Pen in the more senior Trials.

In some parts of Great Britain the scoring is in reverse.

The length of ‘Outrun’ will vary with the National and Internationals having the longest. These can be anything up to 1000yds in length and the sheep invisible to the handler! About 250 yards is the usual length of a Club Outrun.

Learning the ‘Ropes’
There are around twenty commands that can be used in sheepdog work by either voice or whistle, but many handlers like to use as few as possible so as not to confuse the dog. The whistle is favoured as it is much clearer to the dog and can be heard over long distances.

Dogs who are used to Trialing can display a most uncanny understanding of their surroundings and of the different sets of sheep they encounter. It seems to us that over anxious competitive handlers can spoil a dog’s trialing work without realising! Even so, some dogs can be completely overwhelmed at a high level competition and display the most out of character behaviour. We saw one dog grip a sheep at a World championship and had a lot of sympathy with the handler!

We are pleased to report that over the years many people that attended our Training courses have taken up Trialing! Some are seriously competing at Club level and National level as well!

For a list of some Trainers in the UK please see the Resource section. The also has lists of Trainers.