... praise indeed from an International Sheepdog Trials handler.
A few days after arriving back home with the new member of the pack we went to our first Open Sheepdog Trial, organised by friends of ours. We went along to watch the experts at work. On arriving at the trial, I found myself chatting to a tall, friendly gentleman. I asked if he’d run and if he’d had a good one. He seemed to be quite happy with his run. I was asked if I was entered … “no, not today, maybe next year we'll be starting” ...
I got New Boy out the car, he stuck his nose in the air and instantly started whining in excitement. This is good, he’s smelling familiar smells and he’s keen. The tall gentleman took a look at him and said to his friends “that’s a bonny looking dog”. I felt pleased. I felt even more pleased when I was later told who it was I’d actually been speaking to - only one of the top handlers in the country. He won the Trial that day.
The trial ended and my friends took New Boy and I to the sheep pen. 14 sheep were let out. “Not that many, surely” I exclaimed. I was used to training my two part trained dogs, Café Latte Girl and Handsome Lad, on smaller groups. However, New Boy at the grand age of 19-months had already been working large flocks of sheep for his living on the Shetland Isles. He was let off his lead to run round the sheep. Wow, he knows what he's doing. A few times he yawned and stopped working to go and piddle … signs of anxiety. I’d had him for less than a week and there had been a lot of changes in that time, so that was to be expected. As he moved around the sheep, his tail was very relaxed and he worked calmly. I was told he was working in quite close, which is the norm for the way he would have been required to work so far. I asked Alan what he thought to him, he replied with “what do you think?”. “I’m impressed” says I. I think Alan was pleased with him too. It looks like I’ve got the makings of a fine young Nursery dog. We’ve got a lot of work to do, he needs his confidence building, he needs to get used to a crook and not be afraid of it, and I need to be taught how to get him working out.
I’m looking forward to being trained myself, and to training New Boy as well as trying to get more regular sheep work in with Handsome Lad and Café Latte Girl – they need to catch up now!
Entering the world of sheepdog trialling isn’t quite so simple when you don’t come from a farming background, don't have land or sheep. However, many of the people taking part in trials are non-farmers and come from all walks of life. All you need is enthusiasm, commitment to do the training on a regular basis, a pocket of land, some sheep, lots of patience and just a little bit of know-how. Easy!