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Herding Organizations and Programs in North America


Kennel Club Programs -- Herding Instinct Tests

Ranch/Farm and Large Flock Trials
Herding Organizations and Events in Other Countries
Great Britain -- Australia -- Continental Europe

Activities and Calendars of Events




United States Border Collie Handlers' Association, Inc.

The trials sanctioned by the USBCHA follow the pattern of the trials of Great Britain's International Sheep Dog Society, the original registry for Border Collies. There are also many non-USBCHA-sanctioned trials held along these lines, but some of these may vary according to local organizers. There may be classes for different levels of training; for instance, in novice classes the handler may accompany the stock throughout the course, while at the higher levels the handler remains in a fixed position until moving to the pen to assist the dog in penning. The higher levels also include "shedding" or separating designated sheep from the group. Specific requirements may vary from trial to trial, as may the name of the class. There are trials for cattle as well as for sheep.  Titles are not given in connection with these trials. 

Australian Shepherd Club of America 

The ASCA Stockdog Program offers three levels of arena trials, an open field "post advanced" course, a ranch trial course, and a farm trial course.  There are three arena courses from which the organizer can choose, each with a standard layout but differing somewhat from one another.  The "A" course requires taking stock from a pen, guiding them through obstacles and repenning. The "B" course starts with a small outrun or gather, then the stock are guided through obstacles and penned in a free-standing pen, followed by a repen. The "C" course also begins with a gather, but all the obstacles are off of the fence, whereas on "A" and "B" courses, two of the three obstacles are on the fence.  The titles Started Trial Dog (STD), Open Trial Dog (OTD), and Advanced Trial Dog (ATD) can be earned on sheep, cattle and ducks -- small initials after the title indicate the type of stock -- with each title requiring two legs.  The Ranch Trial courses (RTD) take place in a ranch setting and vary from location to location; they may be held on sheep or cattle.  Farm Trial courses (OFTD and AFTD) also vary from location to location, but may take place in arenas as well as more open areas, and in addition to being held on sheep or cattle, may also use mixed types of stock, including ducks, worked consecutively, indicated with the initial "m."  The Working Trial Championship (WTCh.) is earned when the Advanced title on all three types of stock has been achieved.  The Post-Advanced class (PATD) is held in a large field.  There is also a Ranch Dog (RD) certification earned by a dog being judged on proficiency in its regular work at home.  ASCA is a registry for the Australian Shepherd, but its trials are open to all approved herding breeds.  Approved clubs may apply to hold ASCA events.  

American Herding Breed Association

The AHBA program offers four types of trial classes, each with three levels, and also includes a test program. The Herding Trial Dog program, with levels HTD I, II and III, takes place on a standard course with outrun, lift, fetch, wear and/or drive and pen. The Herding Ranch Dog program, with levels HRD I, II and III, takes place on ranch/farm courses which vary in detail while including specified requirements. The Ranch Large Flock program, with levels RLF I, II and III, is similar to the HRD program, but requires larger groups of stock.  The Herding Trial Arena Dog Program, with levels HTAD I, II and III, takes place in arenas with set minimum and maximum sizes; there are four basic courses to choose from, each of which includes an alternative of either a gather or a take-pen, three obstacles of various types, a drive section at levels II and III, and a sort of varying kinds. All AHBA titles require two qualifying scores under two different judges. Progression of difficulty in the trial classes echoes the progression in the training of a versatile herding dog. Titles may be earned on sheep, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, or cattle, with a small initial after the title indicating the type of stock on which the title was earned (ducks are used only on the HTD and HTAD courses, and mixed types can be used on HRD and RLF courses). A herding trial championship is earned by obtaining additional qualifying scores after any Level III title is earned. Test levels include the Herding Capability Test (HCT) and the Junior Herding Dog Test (JHD), both of which are run on a pass/fail basis and require two passing runs under different judges. These events are open to all herding breeds and herding breed mixes. Clubs or individuals may apply to hold tests/trials sanctioned by the AHBA.

Australian Shepherd Trial Association 

ASTA courses vary according to what the event organizers determine best suits their location, livestock and personal preferences.  Trials use only point/time or time only scoring, rather than a judged system.  The stock used are sheep and cattle.  Awards and placements are given but not titles.  While focused on Australian Shepherds, other breeds may enter as well.  

Kennel Club Programs

The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club offer test and trial classes with titles for dogs registered with them.  Rules can be obtained by contacting those organizations.  A United Kennel Club Herding Yahoo list has been established to revise a previously-written herding program, with the goal of obtaining approval for a UKC herding program; the list is at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukcherding/ 


Ranch/Farm and Large-flock Trials

In contrast to the more common trial courses that have a specified, unvarying design, ranch/farm courses allow variations in layout so as to reflect and accommodate the characteristics of the particular ranch or farm where the trial takes place, with a sequence of tasks that likewise may vary, but within a framework of overall requirements, and the option of using larger numbers of animals; in the U.S., ASCA and AHBA hold these kinds of trials.



In addition to the events held by the above organizations, many events are held by local organizations according to local rules. There are also informal events, work days, fun days, as well as organized "herding instinct tests"



Herding trials also have long been held in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Great Britain

Trials in Great Britain generally follow the pattern set out by the International Sheep Dog Society. The trials are held in large fields, with the handler remaining in a fixed location through most of the trial, until the sheep are ready to be penned. At these trials, the dog gathers a small group of sheep set out at a distance, brings the group to the handler, moves them away from the handler and through two sets of panels, then brings them to a small free-standing pen, after which the sheep are taken from the pen for the "shed," or separating designated sheep from the group. ISDS Course Description and Guidelines for Judges

Australia/New Zealand

Trials in Australia follow several patterns. There are yard trials which emphasize working a group of 18 or more sheep in pens and runways, moving them through the course and sorting them. Utility trials incorporate work in a larger field as well as in the yard. “Three sheep” trials have obstacles and a free-standing pen in an open field or arena and, as indicated by the name, the size of the group of sheep is limited to three. The home page for West Australian Working Sheep Dog Association provides trial rules and other herding information.  New Zealand has trials for "heading dogs" which gather the sheep, and "huntaways" which push the sheep away from the handler, barking.

Continental Europe

Traditional herding trials in France involve the shepherd and dog conducting a large flock of sheep, up to 80 or more head, over a "cross-country" course meant to reflect situations found in daily work. In French trials, one dog is used and judging criteria primarily relate to accomplishing the tasks in an efficient, calm manner. The shepherd and dog may take various positions relative to the flock, according to circumstances. Thus, the dog may be behind or ahead, on one side of the flock or the other, wherever its presence is needed, remaining as discreet as possible when all goes well. The dog is expected to work with a great deal of initiative, the shepherd only commanding the dog for particular maneuvers. Trials are also held on cattle.

In Germany there are trials held by sheepbreeder's organizations and similar trials held by the German Shepherd breed club, the SV (Schaeferhund Verein). Two dogs are usually used in HGH (Herdengebrauchshund, or Herding Utility Dog) trials -- a "main dog" and an "assistant dog," working a flock of 200 to 300 sheep.  The HGH trials emphasize boundary work -- the dog patrolling along a field edge or furrow to contain the sheep as they graze, needed in a situation where the large flocks being taken out for daily grazing were being moved through fairly populated and cultivated areas where sheep could not be allowed to trespass.  In practical day-to-day work, however, herding dogs in Germany often work similarly to farm and ranch dogs of other countries.

FCI All-Breed Herding Competitions – Traditional-style Trials

In 2008, after several years of preparation, the FCI established rules for all-breed herding competitions for the European herding breeds and other herding breeds that work similarly (Border Collies and Kelpies being excluded).  The trials are similar to the traditional trials that have long been held in France.  There are three competitive trial levels, plus, as a preliminary to the trials, the Herding Working Test (FCI-HWT).  The Herding Working Test is a simpler version of the trial courses; dogs must first pass the HWT before they can enter trials.  

The first European Traditional Style Championship was held on October 19, 2008, at Saint Gervais d’Auvergne, FranceParticipants at Saint Gervais included four Beaucerons, three Pyrenean Shepherds, two Gos d’Atura Catala (Catalonian Sheepdogs), a German Shepherd, a Malinois, and a Mudi.  Handlers and dogs came from France, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Switzerland.  

ISDS-type trials are also being held on the continent, as Border Collies are increasingly being used there.  In the FCI program, in addition to the Traditional Style trials mentioned above there are separate trials for Border Collies and Kelpies, called Collecting Style trials, using a course similar to the ISDS course.  There is a Collecting Style Herding Working Test that is a preliminary for that course type.

Some of the European countries, such as Hungary, also have their own local types of trials on occasion.  ASCA trials and AHBA trials are now being held in Europe as well.  



Calendars of Events for Herding Trials






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