AKC’s Herding Program offers both tests and trials
The herding test is offered in a non-competitive pass/fail format as an Instinct Test, Herding Test and Pre-Trial test. All are conducted within a fenced arena and includes the use of livestock such as ducks, sheep or cattle.
Demonstrate moving and controlling livestock
During a test, a dog must demonstrate the ability to move and control livestock by fetching or driving and be sufficiently trained to work at the proper balance point to move the stock forward on the course. Herding Trials are competitive and dogs are scored on their herding abilities according to test level, course type and livestock type. There are three test levels – started, intermediate, advanced. There are three courses to choose from A,B,C with each course type focusing on various aspects of herding work such as versatility, control and movement of stock in an extended area, or tending to the flock in an unfenced area such a road or in grazing flock management. Throughout all field trials the teamwork between handler/shepherd and dog is essential.
The purpose of noncompetitive herding tests is to offer herding breed owners a standardized 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 functions for which they were originally bred. Although herding trials are artificial simulations of pastoral or farm situations, they are standardized tests to measure and develop the characteristics of the herding breeds.
Training a must
Dogs must have training and prior exposure to livestock before being entered in tests or trials. Both parent and local clubs should provide opportunities for such training and exposure.
A dog is not required to work in any particular style. 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. (AKC Herding Regulations Handbook, Chapter 1, Section 1, page 3).
The first step to getting started in Herding Test and Trials is to request a rulebook from AKC so that you are familiar with what will be required of you and your dog at these events. You can request a book of regulations be sent to you or you can pick one up at an event or you can copy it from the webpage in the link.
While waiting for your rulebook to arrive, you can contact your National breed club or a local herding breed club by going to the club search section of the AKC website. Then it is time to start working with your dog.
The initial test is called Instinct Test and it is a test for herding breeds, Rottweilers, Samoyeds, Standard and Giant Schnauzers, Pyrenean Shepherds, Swedish Vallhunds, Norwegian Buhunds and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. The dog needs no training before entering this class and may be handled by the judge, owner or a designated handler. The judge is looking for the dogs ability to move and control livestock by fetching or driving. View an actual HI Evaluation Form.
Test your puppy
As soon as you get a puppy, you can get them to chase things and then get them to stop on command. Have them stay while you throw that favorite toy. Basically you are putting rules on the game of chasing. Take your young dog to a facility and just get them use to listening to you while around livestock and pens. It is important that you own the game.
Each dog is different. Some need encouragement while others need to learn to listen while livestock is being worked around them.
Learn more about Herding at the American Kennel Club.