Standard Schnauzers LOVE Herding

Like everything else the standard schnauzer does – he takes on herding with a great deal of enthusiasm. Do not expect to see a Border Collies’ hard eye, low to the ground approach to herding in your standard schnauzer; nor the Old English Sheepdogs’ droving style, nor the German Shepherds demanding approach to herding. The Standard Schnauzer herds up close and personal and reminiscent of his history as a small farm and stockyard dog and they herd with vigor and voice.

The American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA) welcomed Standard Schnauzers into their organization in the late 1980s and many regional schnauzer clubs, as well as the Standard Schnauzer Club of America, have been gaining AHBA herding titles and passing AHBA herding tests ever since. Currently over 50 Standard Schnauzers in the United States possess AHBA Herding Test or Trial titles and the number grows every year. In 2004 the AKC permitted the Giant Schnauzer and the Standard Schnauzer to compete in AKC Herding Tests (and AKC Herding Trials as exhibition only). This has been a boom for standard schnauzer owners, to be able to compete with the likes of Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, and the Briards in AKC events.

As of July 2004, only three Standard Schnauzers in the United States have passed the first levels of Testing with the AKC. AKC Herding Test titles are: HI, HT and PT (Herding Instinct, Herding Tested and Pre-Trial Tested). Once these Test titles are secured we begin the long process of finding Trials that are not filled to capacity to show off our herding prowess at the Trial level for Exhibition only (in other words – for fun). For more information on AKC Herding Test and Trials, check out http://www.akc.org and for information on AHBA Herding Tests and Trials, log onto http://www.ahba-herd.com

Whether you pursue your herding career under the AKC or the AHBA rules and regulations, every dog and human should have some basics before you introduce them to livestock for the first time. These basics include:

Any recognized herding breed may enter a trial or test after 6 months of age (AHBA) or 9 months of age (AKC). The initial test phase under either organization’s auspices is the Herding Instinct Test. This test determines the dog’s interest in the movement and the controlling of the livestock in a restricted area with a long line attached to the dog’s collar. The owner (shepherd), the dog, and the Judge are in the pen with the livestock and what the Judge is looking for is the dog’s sustained interest in what the livestock are doing and the dog’s balance to the livestock (does the dog want to move the livestock or does the dog want to eat the livestock). The Judge is also watching the dog’s eye, gathering style, and how they move the livestock. This test lasts 10 minutes or until the Judge determines that the dog has the instincts to go further in his testing and training to be off the long line and work with the shepherd.

The second Test phase is the Herding Capability Test. This test takes place in the same size arena as the Instinct Test and involves the shepherd and the dog working off line in the arena without the Judge’s help beyond some verbal directions. This test requires the dog and shepherd to enter the pen and the dog is removed from the lead and told to STAY. The shepherd then proceeds to the livestock (usually sheep) and begins to walk toward a marker at one end of the arena. The dog must remain in the Stay until called by the shepherd to engage the livestock. Dog, Shepherd and livestock pass by Marker #1 using either the center of the arena or the side of the arena; they walk the livestock to a second marker at the opposite end of the arena. Once at the second marker, the dog halts the livestock and turns them back towards the first marker. If the shepherd, dog and livestock go beyond Marker #1 before the dog engages the livestock in the beginning, then they must turn the livestock again when they reach Marker #1 and go back to Marker #2. The dog and shepherd must turn the livestock around each marker so that they demonstrate a change of direction two times while in the arena. The dog must then stop and sit and then be recalled to the shepherd and not engage the livestock once the shepherd has called the dog to him. There must be a noticeable decision by the dog to leave the stock and return to the shepherd. This test can take up to 10 minutes to complete and dog and shepherd Qualify or Not Qualify in 5 areas: the controlled pause or stay at the beginning, controlled movement of the livestock, two changes of directions at or near the markers, stop upon completion of the course and the recall.

The final test phase is the Pre-Trial Test (PT in AKC) or Jr. Herding Dog (JrH in AHBA). This test is also 10 minutes long and is similar in form and function to the Capability Test in a much larger arena and rates the dogs Qualified or Not Qualified in a more controlled setting. This test begins with a stop (stay) of the dog and the removing of the lead. The shepherd then gathers the livestock near a holding pen and begins to walk toward two “gates” at the opposite end of the arena. Gates are usually 6’ aluminum panels standing independently of one another on either side of the arena that is the furthest distance from the holding pen. The dog then engages the livestock and controls them as they pass through (or around) the first gate. The Shepherd may PAUSE the dog at either gate along the backside of the arena. After the pause the dog controls the livestock through the second gate and up the other side of the arena. Half way up the second side of the arena, the shepherd will pause the dog a second time and engages the dog to turn the livestock back toward the two gates. The dog, shepherd and livestock then proceed through both gates and up the side of the arena toward the holding pen. The dog must stop the livestock from bolting for the holding pen as they near it. The dog must position himself near the holding pen to allow the shepherd to open the pen gate and then the dog must move the livestock into the pen for the shepherd to close the pen door.

Part Two of this Series will involve Herding Trial Work – once we are actually training and preparing for that level of competition.
Watch for that information in late 2005