Introduction: The purpose of the ASCA stockdog program is to preserve the inherent working ability of the Australian shepherd. It provides different levels and courses which allow owners to demonstrate the skills of their dogs on varying tasks and ranges from arena trials with set courses to ranch dog inspections for dogs who actually assist their owners in earning a living. Except for the ranch dog inspection, classes are run on preset course and are timed. Dogs must accumulate points to qualify and must qualify under two different judges in order to earn titles. In addition to the dog completing each task, judges are looking for attitude, obedience, power, and teamwork. Although the advanced levels require extensive training, the started levels may be accomplished with minimum training and make stockdog work attainable by the owner who has limited time for training and wants to demonstrate his dog’s ability as well as have an activity in which they can work together.
Arena Trials: Arena trials are conducted on set courses which test the dog’s ability to handle stock in situations which require several skills such as gathering, driving and penning. The different courses are labeled with letters and diagrams and descriptions are included in the rulebook. The courses may be run on sheep/goats, ducks/geese, or cattle. In the started level, handlers may walk with their dogs and provide assistance and encouragement, but at the higher levels, the handler must stay farther from the dog and the dog assumes more of the responsibility of getting the work done. A dog which achieves advanced titles in all three classes of stock is awarded the coveted title of Working Trial Champion (WTCH)
Farm Trials: The farm trial program provides a chore oriented venue which displays all around practical skills of a working farm dog. Although each course has specific required tasks such as penning or driving, the courses vary and are designed to meet the needs of the location. The tasks included are those which might be found in the daily jobs done on a working farm.
Ranch Trials: As ranches vary, the courses in ranch trials also vary. They may be run on sheep/goats or cattle. Again, the purpose if to demonstrate the dog’s ability to assist his owner in accomplishing the tasks required on a ranch. The requirements consist of pen work, sorting, chute work, and pasture work. The main objective in a ranch trial is to get the job done in the most efficient and stress free manner.
Ranch Dog Inspection: Ranch trial inspections are only open to dogs who assist their owners in their work. Owners must qualify as a farmer, rancher, outside day worker, rodeo worker, etc. , and the dog must have proven to be an asset his owner in the period prior to the inspection. The test may be conducted at the owner’s place of work or a similar place and consists of exercises designed by the owner and approved by the judge to demonstrate the required skills.