How Does the Sport of Herding Work?
Herding is an exciting sport that you can participate in with your purebred dog. With AKC herding, you can choose to enter tests or trials depending on the level that you and your dog are at. There is also the ability to work with several different types of livestock such as ducks, sheep and cattle. During a herding test or trial, you will be judged on your dog’s ability to handle and move the livestock based on your level.
Eligible Herding Breeds
To participate in a herding test or trial, your dog must be a purebred and registered with the AKC (PAL and FSS are accepted) and at least 9 months of age. Further, only certain breeds can compete. All breeds in the herding group as well as several breeds in the working and terrier groups are allowed to enter competitions. If you are interested if your breed qualifies check out the link at the bottom of the page.
If you are interested in herding the best place to start is by going to a herding trial to watch some dog/handler teams compete. By doing so you can get a feel for the sport and meet some great people that can help you get started. You can then look to find a facility or trial site offering instinct tests. To participate in an instinct test, your dog does not need any formal training. During the test the judge will watch to see if your dog shows interest in the livestock and is able to move them around the ring. Once you and your dog have more training you can then enter formal trials.
Training and Equipment
To train your dog for herding, you need to have access to livestock. Depending on the livestock used you will also need a field or pen large enough to comfortably and safely train in. If you are just starting out in the sport, it is highly recommended that you find a herding trainer who has experience working with your breed to help you succeed.
Titles and Recognition
As you progress in herding, there are several titles that your dog can receive. A good place to start are herding tests, which are judged on a pass/fail basis and require two passes to earn a title. In herding trials, dogs receive a score and you need three passing scores to earn a title at each level.
-HIC (Herding Instinct Certificate)
-HT (Herding Tested)
-PT (Herding Pre-Trial)
For each of these titles, you can compete in either A course, B course or C course and use either sheep, ducks or cattle. The A course is a small arena whereas B course is generally a large field. C course is used for tending breeds that are trained on boundary work such as German Shepherds.
-HS (Herding Started)
-HI (Herding Intermediate)
-HX (Herding Advanced)
You can even continue to advance and receive a herding championship!
For more information on herding test and trials and to locate trials in your area you can visit https://www.akc.org/sports/herding/.
Erin Rakosky is a dog trainer and a member of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline team. The Helpline provides seven-day-a-week training and behavioral advice to its clients. Professional dog trainers man the line. The service is good for the life of your dog, and there is no limit to calls or questions. For more information: https://www.akc.org/products-services/akc-gooddog-helpline/