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AKC’s Herding program offers both tests and trials. The herding test is offered in a non-competitive pass/fail format as an Instinct Test, Herding Test, and Pre-Trial test. All are conducted within a fenced arena and include the use of livestock such as ducks, sheep, or cattle. During a test, a dog must demonstrate the ability to move and control livestock by fetching or driving and be sufficiently trained to work at the proper balance point to move the stock forward on the course.
Herding Trials are competitive and dogs are scored on their herding abilities according to test level, course type, and livestock type. There are three test levels – started, intermediate, and advanced, and three courses to choose from: A, B, C, with each course type focusing on various aspects of herding work such as versatility, control, and movement of stock in an extended area, or tending to the flock in an unfenced area such as a road or in grazing flock management. Throughout all field trials, the teamwork between handler/shepherd and dog is essential.