Sheepdog trials highlight Trailing of the Sheep Festival

Relationship between dog and handler is seen as the key to success
Published: Oct. 9, 2021 at 6:40 PM MDT
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HAILEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Handlers and their dogs traveled from as far as Texas and Vancouver, British Columbia to compete at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival Dog Trials. It’s an event that has developed a reputation of featuring some of the West Coast’s most talented Border Collies and handlers.

“When you’re looking at the scoreboard, those dogs getting big scores are really experienced dogs,” said handler Kelly Ware.

Ware attended the event looking to gain experience with her four-year-old Border Collie Becca, who was competing at the event for the first time. Ware said it’s the relationship between the dog and handler that is the key to success.

“Somebody asked me earlier ‘will your dog run for anybody’ and most dogs will not,” Ware said. “Most dogs will run for the handler they have a relationship with.”

Attendee Jen Gode said understanding how the dogs and their handlers work together as a team is an important aspect of enjoying the event as a spectator.

“Once you get that it’s a relationship between the handler and the dog and just watching how specific the course is, I think getting that nailed down. Everything else becomes fun and interesting from there,” Gode said.

With uneven terrain and windy conditions complicating matters at times, many handlers communicated to their dogs using a shepherd’s whistle, as the dogs work with what made this trial truly special: the sheep.

The Peavey sheep stock was supplied from Flat Top Sheep Company. Several handlers spoke of the presence and attitude of these sheep adding a particularly difficult wrinkle to the event.

“They are sheep you wouldn’t be able to work with anywhere else,” Ware said. “The fact this festival goes on and they allow us to have this dog trial is really special.”

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