All Australian Shepherds can take part in Working Trials, provided they are fit and healthy. The different levels of competition are called stakes, and to take part they must be registered with the Kennel Club and a minimum of 18 months old.
Working Trials date back to 1924, long before Aussies were worked in the U., In 1961 The Working Trial tests were changed into a format which has continued until the present day.
The exercises are divided into three groups:- <Nosework.> <Agility.> <Control.>
In the PD Stake there is a fourth group of exercises <Patrol.> also referred to as man work.
Nosework comprises Search and Track exercises (in CD there is no tracking but a retrieve exercise instead).
The dog follows a track laid by a ‘tracklayer’ (who is a stranger to the dog) walking a set pattern designed by the judge and is identical for each dog. The track is approximately half a mile long, laid on grassland, arable fields or heather land with each competitor working on similar terrain to others in the stake. As the dog follows the track it has to seek out and recover articles placed along the track by the tracklayer. In UD the track is laid half an hour before the dog works and in TD the track is three hours old. The other exercise in nosework is Search where the dog has to search for and retrieve articles placed in a marked area.
To test its Agility the dog must clear three obstacles:- a three foot hurdle, a six foot high wooden scale and a nine foot long jump. Below are Aussies showing their capabilities of making these exercises look simple.
The Control exercises vary according to the stake. All stakes include heelwork, sending the dog away and a stay. In TD and PD Stakes the send away can be over a considerable distance and includes a redirection to the left or right, and the TD and PD Stakes also include a “speak on command” test. The CD stake includes retrieving a dumbell and recall, and all but the CD Stake include a steadiness to gun shot. In the PD Stake , which is only open to dogs which have qualified in the lower Stakes, in addition to the control, agility and nosework exercises, the dog has to quarter the ground for a hidden person, complete a test of courage, escort a person following a search by the handler, detain a running person and perform a recall from a running person. As the first picture in this article stated, Gob performed all of the above and in most cases beat well seasoned dogs of GSDs and BCs in this sport which year upon year has a growing number of Aussies competing successfully.
Working Trials require perseverance and some hard work, but at all levels they are a rewarding and fulfilling activity for handlers and their dogs alike.
The initials after a dog’s name are CD (Companion Dog), UD (Utility Dog), WD (Working Dog), PD (Patrol Dog) and TD (Tracking Dog). To gain these a Certificate of Merit has been awarded in Open. If the initials are followed by ex (excellent), a certificate of Qualification is awarded in Championship. If all are present and you win 2 of the TDex or PDex you become WT Ch (Working Trials Champion).
Article by kind permission of John West
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