Dog tri­als and tribu­la­tions

Marlborough Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - MATT BROWN

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.’’

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