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Ok now here's another weird one from Tea. Please bear with me as I maybe a bit dim in my old age.

We raise sheep. We have dogs to help with that.


I went to my first trial to watch the other day. It was a fun and relaxing time for Pete and I. Everyone there had a good time with the dogs and the set up was well run.

So I know what that looks like.


Later that week two groups of people came out to the project to tour the educational part.


One volunteer was bringing in 40 sheep from browsing the unfenced land adjacent to us. This is heavily forested. We teach the interns this on horseback for our sustainible ag programs. The volunteer had both dogs with him. Nothing very interesting there, except the conversation it started amongest these two groups. Turns out one group did dog trials and one was ranching .


One guy claimed that the dog trials were very different from the work that my volunteer did with our dogs. I asked him why?


He told me that we use almost no commands. I explained, because you cannot see the dogs gathering sheep that wander off into deep forest. So we have to just rely on their natural ability to gather.


The other rancher guy got kind of huffed and said, well let the dogs work don't run them on all those commands.


The other guy replied, the trial, Its just a test.


The rancher then asked me how many commands I put on the dogs.


My reply was


Hold- Stop where you are


Easy- go slower than you are.


Walk up- walk up to the sheep in a line or back and forth depending on the size of the flock.


Find the sheep- Because I don't know where they are.






Get 'em- grip


That one- keep that sheep there


Guard the gate or whatever- don't let sheep thro here


Get the lamb- catch a little lamb without gripping (That one is hard for Gunny.)


Get to the front- stop the flock I don't care how


Lie down-


Here- Come to me or the horse


Wait- stay with me or the horse



He was sort of surprised I had that many? I told him when we browse the sheep we don't have to use many commands because of the nature of that work.

But work before we milk the sheep is tough. We have to separate them alot!


The rancher then asked the other guy.


Well at the trials do you herd rams.


He said, generally no


The rancher asked then -at the trial do you herd little lambs and ewes.


The other guy said generally no.


The rancher asked me if I herded rams and little lambs with ewes. Which I thought odd as of course you have to.


The rancher seemed to think he had made a point somehow.


Am I missing something? What was this about.


I would sometime like to dog trial if I ever get a break to do it. But I am afraid that I am missing something here? I figured if I wanted to do a dog trial I would go into the open fields and teach my dogs to go wider etc? Am I wrong here?

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I think its an age old arguement.


Frankly, most people I know that trial well, use the same dogs for farming. The farming gives the dogs experience for trialing, and trialing polishes up the work.


I (and most farmers and shepherds) who have had the chance to see the difference between "average farm dog" and "trial quality" wouldn't want to farm with a dog of lesser quality. It's just easier, on the human and stock, with a well bred, well trained, dog.


I can get the cows in with old Shep and riding the neighbor's old nag horse. But the work will be done smoother and if things don't go 1-2-3 (and what farming day does) I have the dog and the horse that can handle it.


You don't use ewes with lambs or rams at a trial out of respect for the livestock. It would be unncessary stress on animals already under natural stress (feeding lambs, breeding, etc). Also the monetary value of good rams would preclude most trials from keeping a flock of them big enough for an event. Dry ewes or wethers are the most available, and them most even challange for a competitive event.


Your farmer wants to feel good about his dogs, and that's just fine. It's too bad he can't do it on the quality of their work and training, instead of using negative comments about other dogs as a leg up.

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^^What she said. You hear the same tired argument all the time from people who don't trial. No, clearly a trial is not an exact test of all the work you might encounter at home, and at home I'm not as likely to use as many commands as I would at a trial (and I think I command less than most). But, like Wendy, my trained trial dogs are also my absolute best helpers for the day-to-day work around the farm. There doesn't have to be a dichotomy here, but for whatever reason, there is. I really think it stems from the amount of work (or lack thereof) a person is willing to put into training a dog....



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