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Activities you can to do with dogs - Herding



What is a Herding Trial?

What is a sheep/cattle trial?

What is a Yard Trial?

Links to Herding Information

Clubs & Organisations


Herding is the act of bringing individual animals together into a group, maintaining the group and moving the group from place to place—or any combination of those. While the layperson uses the term "herding", most individuals involved in the process will call it "working stock" or "moving" and not herding.

Herding can be performed by people or trained animals such as herding dogs. Some animals instinctively gather together as a herd while some predators, such as wolves and dogs have instinctive herding abilities. Herding can also be done using wire through which electricity is sent.

Herding is used in agriculture to manage domesticated animals. The people whose occupation it is to herd or control animals often have herd added to the name of the animal they are herding to describe their occupation (shepherd, goatherd, cowherd). These -herds may use dogs to assist them and a competitive sport has developed in some countries where the combined skill of man and dog is tested and judged in a Trial.

Herding Dog
A herding dog or pastoral breed is a dog that either has been trained in herding or that is a member of a breed developed for herding. Some herding breeds work well with any kinds of animals; others have been bred for generations to work with specific kinds of animals and have developed physical characteristics or styles of working that enhance their ability to handle these animals. Commonly herded animals include cattle, sheep, and reindeer, although it is not unusual for poultry to be handled by dogs.

Herding dog is also sometimes used to refer to dogs whose primary job is to guard the herd from predators and to be sure that it does not go astray. A Maremma Sheepdog is an example. For more information about dogs of this type, see Livestock guardian dog.

In general terms when categorizing dog breeds, herding dogs are considered a subcategory of working dogs, but for conformation shows they usually form a separate group.


Herding behavior
Dogs can herd other animals in a variety of ways. Some breeds, such as the Australian Cattle Dog, typically nip at the animals' heels (for this reason they are called heelers). Others, notably the Border Collie, get in front of the animals and use what is called eye to stare down the animals; they are known as headers. The Koolie has been observed to use both these methods and to jump on the backs of their charges. Koolies are therefore said to 'head', 'heel', and 'back'.

All herding behavior is modified predatory behavior.

Most herding breeds have physical characteristics that help them with their work, including speed and endurance. Shorter breeds, such as Welsh Corgis, were bred so that they would be out of the way when cattle, their primary charges, kicked at them.

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What is a Herding Trial?

These are yard trials with a small number of livestock in a confined area. The dog is required to complete a certain number of tasks during the trial including maneuvering the livestock through obstacles and into a pen at the competition of tasks. The dog commences the trial with 100 points and points are deducted for non-completion of tasks or general deductions. For a dog to have a qualifying score it can not loose more than half the points allotted to any compulsory task or element of the trial. E.g. penning stock is worth 10 points if the dog didn’t pen any stock it would loose all 100 points and not receive a qualifying score event if it did the rest of the course perfectly.

Herding Titles
HTD 1 Started - Herding Trial Dog
HTD2 Intermediate - Herding Trial Dog
HTD3 Advanced - Herding Trial Dog
HTDX Champion – Herding Trial Dog

Some of the General Regulations
(for a copy of these regulations in full please contact your states controlling body)

Section 1. Purpose.
The purpose of non competitive herding tests is to offer herding breed owners a standardise gauge by which a dog's basic instinct and trainability are measured.

The purpose of the competitive herding trial program is to preserve and develop the herding skills inherent in the herding breeds and to demonstrate that they can perform the useful function for which they were originally bred. Although herding trials are artificial simulations of pastoral or farm situations, they are standardised tests to measure and develop the characteristics of the herding breeds.

Dogs must have training and prior exposure to livestock before being entered in tests or trials. This should be obtained through a recognised herding trainer or club.

A dog is not required to work in a particular breed style according to its breed. A dog may compete on whichever course its handler chooses.

Herding tests and trials are sports and all participants should be guided by the principles of good sportsmanship both in and outside of the test and trial arenas.

Section 2. Herding Tests and Herding Trials.
A Member Herding Test is a test at which qualifying scores toward awards are awarded, given by a club or associate which is a member of The Australian National Kennel Council.

A Member Herding Trial is a herding test at which qualifying scores and championship points toward titles are awarded, given by a club or association which is a member of the Australian National Kennel Council.

A Licensed Herding Test is a herding test at which qualifying scores toward Herding Trials are awarded by a club or association which is not a member of The Australian National Kennel Council, but which has been licensed by The Australian National Kennel Council to give the specific herding test designated in the license.

Sanctioned Herding Tests and Trials are informal herding events at which dogs may participate, but not for championship points or qualifying scores toward titles, held by a club or association by obtaining the sanction of The Australian National Kennel Council.

Section 3 Eligibility of Dogs.
All dogs six (6) months of age or older that are registered with their state affiliated body of The Australian National Kennel Council and are classified as Working Breeds (Group Five) or an associate registered working breed dog are eligible to participate in herding tests and trials.

ALL The Australian National Kennel Council Rules and Regulations applying to Registration, Discipline and the Rules applying to Dog Shows where applicable, shall Govern the Conduct of Herding Tests and Trials, and shall apply to ALL Persons and Dogs participating in them except as The Herding Regulations May Provide otherwise.

There is no prerequisite for entry in a Pre-Trial Test. But a dog must gain two passes in a (Herding Instinct Test) to qualify for a Trial entry. If a dog is entered in a Herding Started Trial class and then a Herding Intermediate Trial class at the same event and runs in the Intermediate Trial class it may run in Started Class at the Handlers option, but the entry fee shall not be refunded if it is scratched from the Started Class. If a dog qualifies in a Intermediate Class and attains the second pass towards it's Herding Intermediate certificate, a trial certificate and title will be issued provided the dog is otherwise eligible, but the dog is no longer eligible for entry in a Started Class as the result of qualifying in the Intermediate Class.

Section 9. Breeds eligible for Herding Test Program.

Australian Cattle dog, Australian Kelpie, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgium Shepherds (All Varieties), Border Collie, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Collie Rough and Smooth, German Shepherd Dog, Finnish Laphund, Norwegian Buhund, Old English Sheepdog, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puli, Pumi, Shetland Sheepdog, Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Swedish Vallhund, Welsh Corgi Cardigan, Welsh Corgi Pembroke

Other Herding Breeds
Bernese Mountain Dog, Canaan , Keeshond, Kerry Blue Terrier, Norwegian Elkhound, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Tibetan Terrier

MIXED BREEDS mixed breeds may be accepted provided they are a mix or apparent mix of herding breeds These must be Associate Registered dogs.


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What is a sheep/cattle Trial?

A Sheepdog trial is a competitive dog sport in which herding dog breeds move sheep or cattle around a field, fences, gates, or enclosures as directed by their handlers.

Basic Rules of 3 sheep/cattle trialing

15 minutes (maximum)
Starts when the judge is satisfied with the release of the sheep/cattle
3 new sheep/cattle per dog. Sheep/cattle only used once
Maximum score possible of 100 points if all obstacles completed.

Must remain at starting peg or obstacle ring until sheep/cattle are clear of balance peg.
Must move between obstacles at an even pace.
Must not obstruct sheep/cattle or assist dog.

Must never cross between sheep/cattle and worker.
Must not bite.

For best points and advantage the sheep/cattle are to remain in a 10 metre line on pull to worker.
Sheep/cattle must go around worker's left and then remain on worker's right for the remainder of the course.

Points Lost
Deviation from 10 metre line on the pull.
Deviation from 10 metre line on worker's right for remainder of course.
1 point for any part of the Sheep/cattle past the obstacle.
2 points for any part of the Sheep/cattle past the middle of the obstacle.
3 points for the Sheep/cattle passing the obstacle.

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What is a Yard Trial?

A yard trial is a competitive dog sport in which herding dog breeds move sheep around the sheep yards or enclosures as directed by their handlers.

Details of Competition

1. 16 sheep are used in the competition
2. 8 sheep in a portable yard area
3. 8 sheep let out on to arena where dog will bring them to the yards
4. They will then be joined with the 8 in the yards, forced into a drenching race then through a drafting race where 8 sheep will be drafted off. 4,8,4
5. 8 sheep will be returned to the let go pen via a gate on the side of the arena.

Rules for Competition

1. Time allotted: 10 minutes.
2. Dogs will lose 5 points if wearing a muzzle.
3. Dog and worker mistreating sheep liable to disqualification at judges discretion.
4. Dogs breaking bell and can't be called back to start will lose points.
5. Dog crossing on the cast will lose points.
6. Dog biting sheep when working will lose points.
7. Handler helping dog will lose points including drafting mistakes.
8. Sticks up to 2 feet long can be used, but now whips.
9. Worker may stand and walk anywhere after he has brought his sheep to yard.
10. Worker has to take his sheep off the grounds to return yard if time runs out before trial completed.
11. No bitches on heat will be permitted to work.
12. Judge's decision is final.
13. No responsibility taken for worker and dog on the grounds.

# Photo taken by:
Rod Scott - The Petographer

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Links to Herding Information

The Working Kelpie Council of Australia Inc.

NSW Yard Dog Association - Working Dog Sporting Club in NSW


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