Dog trials and tribulations
Farmers, shepherds and dogtrial enthusiasts came to Marlborough in droves last week for the Tux South Island & New Zealand Championships sheepdog trials.
‘‘We host a South Island competition every five years and a New Zealand competition every 10 years,’’ publicity manager for the Blenheim club, Fred Gane said.
‘‘It circulates between a few main centres.’’
‘‘Next year it is up in Kaikohe. After that, Southland.’’
‘‘We have the biggest event because we’re right in the middle of the country, it’s not too far to come,’’ he said.
The event attracted around 800 people.
Marlborough trialists, unfortunately, didn’t take home any prizes from the week-long event. Maurice Haakma of Blenheim enjoyed some time on the board but was edged out by the competition.
Alex Matthews of Wanganui achieved a rare distinction, winning the zig-zag hunt with one dog, followed by a win in the straight hunt with a different dog. A feat which may never have been done before.
‘‘We would have to go back and look at the last 50 years of results,’’ Gane said.
The dog trials took place at Meadowbank Station, up Taylor Pass Road.
‘‘They’ve been hosting dog trials there since 1937,’’ Gane said.
Most dogs are working dogs in their day to day life, and most trainers are farmers or shepherds.
‘‘Trial dogs tend to be worked in a slower more controlled fashion, whereas work dogs are often encouraged to hurry up in order to get the job done. There aren’t any style points on the farm.’’
‘‘For me, they’ve got to be work dogs first. I’m aiming to finish a couple thousand lambs this winter so I need the dogs to be workers,’’ he said.
Most dogs are typically to respond to at least eight commands, with some dogs knowing many more.
‘‘Everybody is different in how they manage their commands. Each dog will have unique commands, typically their ‘sides’.’’
‘‘They’ll have a stop or a sitdown command and they’ll have a call back command, which tends to be a universal command,’’ Gane said.
Each dog has to be qualified to enter the New Zealand compe- tition, requiring six points which they can earn from local events.
‘‘There are a few guys who are really into it, who will have four or five dogs qualified for the New Zealand championships.’’
Anyone can attend the Blenheim club meetings at the Woodbourne Tavern, and you don’t have to be a farmer. ‘‘If anyone is interested in doing it, the group is more than happy to help with training and dogs.’’