The art of sheep herding will be on display in Gillette this weekend and the stars of the show will be man’s best friend.
From 40 to 50 dogs are expected to take part in sheep dog trials in an arena at Gillette’s Cam-Plex on Saturday and organizer Wendy Auzqui said those who attend will get a chance to see specially trained dogs show off their talents at herding sheep through a series of obstacles, guided only by audible commands from their handlers.
The dogs used for herding are bred for their ability to move livestock, said Auzqui, who owns Creekside Stockdogs in Clearmont.
“Your job is to put words to what the dog already knows so we can tell the dogs how to move the livestock,” said Auzqui, who owns Creekside Stockdogs in Clearmont.
In the trials, three sheep will be put at one end of the arena, while the dog’s handler will stand at the other end, using words or whistles to give directions to the dog as it herds the sheep through a series of obstacles.
The dog that completes the task in the shortest time is the winner.
The event is open to any breed of dog, but the most commonly seen breed in trials is the border collie, Auzqui said.
“They’re high drive, intense and their intelligence level is one of the top three for dogs,” she said. “All that together, brains, intensity and the desire to work, is the thing that makes them amazing.”
Among the competitors at the trials, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be Auzqui’s own “Frank,” a 5-year-old border collie who this summer won the championship at the sheep herding trials at the Calgary Stampede in Canada.
Competitors will be divided into four divisions — an open class for any dog and handler, a division for novices, an intermediate class and a “nursery” division for dogs under the age of 3.
There is no admission for people who wish to watch the trials, which are sanctioned by the Mountain States Stock Dog Association.
For more information, visit Auzqui’s Facebook page or CreeksideStockdogs.com.