General Rules

General Rules of the AHBA
Herding Program



AHBA Herding Trial Program

The AHBA Herding Trial Program allows herding dogs and their trainers to demonstrate herding skills at graduated levels of herding training. The emphasis is on accomplishment of requirements rather than on competition.

The Herding Trial Program is run on a system utilizing numerical qualifying scores. The “Herding Trial Dog” section, using a standard course, leads to the title “HTD” followed by numerals indicating the dog’s level: HTD I (started level), HTD II (intermediate level), and HTD III (advanced level). The “Herding Ranch Dog” section, using a variety of courses held in a ranch or farm setting, leads to the title “HRD” similarly followed by numerals indicating the dog’s level: HRD I, HRD II, and HRD III; this section also includes the “Ranch – Large Flock” title, RLF I, RLF II, and RLF III, for courses involving larger groups of stock. The “Herding Trial Arena Dog” section, using one of several courses in an arena, leads to the title “HTAD” followed by numerals indicating the dog’s level: HTAD I (started level), HTAD II (intermediate level), and HTAD III (advanced level). The Herding Trial Championship (HTCh.) is earned after dogs have earned an advanced title on any one of the trial courses.

AHBA Herding Test Program

The Herding Test Program is run on a pass/not pass system. The Junior Herding Dog section leads to the title “JHD.” The Herding Capability Test section leads to the title “Herding Capability Tested” (HCT).

Sanction Of Events

  1. Events may be open to all breeds or limited to a specific breed.
  2. Clubs or individuals wishing to obtain sanction from the AHBA must complete a sanction form and return it to the AHBA Sanction Coordinator at least 60 days before the event, along with a sanction fee of $15.00. The fee will cover all test and trials classes held over consecutive days. Sponsors must carry insurance. Sponsors will be notified as to granting of sanction; if sanction cannot be granted the fee will be returned. Refund of the sanction fee for a canceled event is at the discretion of the AHBA board and will be provided only in the case of extreme weather, disasters, or unusual circumstances preventing the holding of the event.
  3. Copies of the AHBA score sheets will be provided to the sponsor or individual requesting sanction, from which the necessary number of individual score sheets needed for the event can be made. Trial and/or Test Recording Forms (for recording runs) and Trial and/or Test Report Forms will also be provided.
  4. The language set out in Appendix B to these Rules [see below] must be incorporated into the entry form/release form which must be signed by each entrant of an AHBA event. The original forms must be kept by the sponsor for a period of six months after the test so as to be available to the AHBA upon request.
  5. Judges/testers must be approved prior to the event by the AHBA Sanction Coordinator and must be selected from the list of approved judges of the American Herding Breed Association. Application forms and information regarding requirements can be obtained from the AHBA Secretary. At the discretion of the board, in exceptional circumstances, someone not on the judges’ list may be approved for a one-time judging assignment on a case-by-case basis. If judges are paid, they should be paid by the sponsor or a designated representative of the sponsor.
  6. The flyer or premium list should provide complete information regarding the event, including starting times for classes and indication of any ribbons or other awards which may be provided to qualifying dogs. It must also include a description and diagram of any HRD or RLF course or HTAD Course number 5 offered.
  7. After an event is sanctioned, any changes in the judge, stock, course or other sanction information must be provided to AHBA and the participants as soon as possible. Where changes are made, participants shall be allowed to withdraw and receive their entry back with the exception of occurrences such as severe weather, fire, riot or other similar circumstances.

Organization And Recording

  1. The event secretary or a designated assistant to the secretary must be present throughout the event. The judge must be provided with an assistant or assistants to serve as scribe and timer. The event secretary and the judge must have a copy of the current AHBA rules with them at the event. A copy of the rulebook can be obtained by contacting the AHBA Secretary. Rules can also be found at:
  2. A designated stock supervisor must be in charge of the stock and must be present throughout the event. There must be a designated course director, whose responsibility is to see that the course is set correctly for each class.
  3. Total entries per day are not to exceed 50 dogs per judge for trials and Junior Herding Dog tests, 25 per day for Herding Capability Tests, not to exceed eight hours of judging per say. If a tester is also judging a trial or Junior Herding Dog Test on the same day as a Herding Capability Test, the total number of entries for the trial and for the test must be reduced accordingly.
  4. Waiting dogs and people must keep a sufficient distance from the arena where a run is taking place. There shall be no outside interference or double-handling.
  5. Good sportsmanship is to be shown at all times. The sponsor and sponsor’s representatives have the responsibility for the overall conduct of the event; the judge has the responsibility for conduct of the event in the arena(s). Should any controversy develop, the following shall apply: The sponsor or their representatives shall first do all in their power to minimize any interference with the event and any other participants at the event. This shall include but is not limited to providing a quiet private area in which to resolve such controversy or dispute. The nature of the controversy/dispute shall be taken down in writing and statements by any witnesses or evidence available collected. The sponsor or their representatives and all other parties involved shall make every effort to ascertain the facts and resolve the issue. If a resolution is not possible or further action is necessary, all details shall be put into written documents and sent to the AHBA Secretary and it will be taken into consideration by the board. AHBA will only consider those items which fall under the rules and regulations of AHBA, and not any other controversy or dispute.
  6. Awards and ribbons are provided at the discretion of the sponsor and the details must be clearly stated in the entry flyer or premium list. It is recommended that ribbons/and or awards be given for first through fourth place in each class and that all other qualifiers receive qualifying ribbons or awards.
  7. Participating dogs shall have score sheets filled out in full. The original score sheet must be given to the owner of the dog or the owner’s agent. A complete record of entrants and results must be kept by the sponsor for a period of at least six months after the event; this record may be one or more of the following: copies of the score sheets, copies of the Trial and/or Test Recording Forms, or a completed catalog.
  8. A Trial and/or Test Recording Form must be completed in full for each qualifying dog. A Recording Form may accommodate multiple scores for an individual dog, but scores for more than one dog may not be put on the same form. Owners should use one consistent name when entering a dog at AHBA events. For dogs which are registered, the dog’s registration number must be included. If a dog is registered in more than one registry, the owner must choose which registry number to use and use it consistently for AHBA events. For dogs which have no registration number, the owner should obtain and fill out an AHBA Request for Tracking Number form and send it to the address listed on the form. The owner will be sent a Tracking Number to use for entering AHBA events. Incomplete Recording Forms will not be processed; sponsors should make this clear to entrants. After the event, one set of the original completed Recording Forms is sent to the AHBA Sanction Coordinator.
  9. A Trial and/or Test Report Form shall be completed by the Trial Secretary for the event and sent to the AHBA Sanction Coordinator. The full information specified on the form must be provided for each class, including class start times.
  10. Sponsors of sanctioned events shall pay a recording fee of $3.00 per qualifying run for those dogs to be recorded by the AHBA.
  11. It is the duty of the sponsor to see that all score sheets and forms are completed and that the Recording Forms, the Report Form, and the recording fees are sent to the AHBA Sanction Coordinator no later than 30 days from the date of the event. A fine of $75.00 will be assessed for forms and recording fees submitted after the 30-day period, and other penalties may be imposed by the AHBA Board of Directors.
  12. Failure to conduct the event according to these Rules may result in suspension of the judge and/or sponsor. Failure to provide the required reports and/or fees and failure to pay an assessed fine will preclude future sanctioning.


  1. The Trial Program and Junior Herding Dog Program are open to all dogs 9 months of age or older. The Herding Capability Test Program is open to herding breeds and multipurpose breeds with herding background on the list at the end of the Test Program rules, six months of age and older.
  2. Spayed bitches and neutered dogs may participate.
  3. Bitches in heat may take part. In trial classes, bitches in heat need not wait until all other dogs have participated. In test classes, bitches in heat must wait until all other dogs have participated.
  4. Dogs must be sound and in good health. Any dog which appears to be unfit will be removed at the judge’s discretion; examples are: lameness, injury, illness, advanced pregnancy.
  5. Owners of participating dogs need not be members of any club or organization.
  6. A dog owned or co-owned by the judge or any member of the judge’s immediate family or household may not be evaluated by that judge, nor may a judge evaluate a dog of which that judge has been the owner, co-owner or primary trainer/handler within the last six months.
  7. Owners of participating dogs need not be members of any club or organization.

Title Requirements

  1. A dog may enter at any level for which it is trained. No title is a prerequisite for another. A sponsor of a particular event may, however, limit entries to dogs with specified accomplishments.
  2. For each title, two qualifying scores are required, each score earned under a different judge during separate runs. Upon completion of the second leg, a certificate will be issued awarding the title.
  3. A dog may not be entered at different levels on the same kind of stock on the same trial course at the same trial, with the exception of a dog entered in a “mixed stock” class (see no. 6 below). A dog that is entered in a Junior Herding Dog Test or a Herding Capability Test may not be entered in a trial class on the same kind of stock at the same trial/test, nor may a dog that is entered in a Herding Capability Test be entered in a Junior Herding Dog Test on the same kind of stock at the same trial/test, with the exception of a dog entered in a “mixed stock” class (see no. 6 below). The dog may, however, be moved up upon the completion of a title. A dog may not be entered more than one time in the same class at the same trial.
  4. Once a dog has earned a leg toward a particular title, it may not enter at a lower level in regular classes on the same type or stock or same course. Because titles are earned separately on different types of stock and on different courses, a dog may enter at a lower level on a different course or a different type of stock in regular trial classes. For example, a dog with a leg toward HTD II-s may not enter HTD I on sheep, but it may enter HTD I on ducks or RLF I on sheep or HRD I on mixed stock. The only exception is that, with permission of the sponsor, dogs may enter at any level on any type of stock or course for exhibition-only runs (see no. 9 under Trial Requirements in the Herding Trial Program rules).
  5. The score needed to qualify in trials is a minimum of 70% of the total score available. Within that total, no scoring section may be zero. The total score available is 90 for HTD/HRD/RLF/HTAD I and II (63 or above qualifying) and 100 for HTD/HRD/RLF/HTAD III (70 or above qualifying). The Junior Herding Dog title (JHD) and the Herding Capability Test title (HCT) are earned on a pass/not pass basis.
  6. Trial titles are earned separately on different types of stock/different courses, with two legs being required, under two different judges, for the title on the particular type of stock/course. “Mixed stock” titles, which may be earned only in HRD or RLF classes, are separate titles from individual stock titles such as “geese,” “sheep,” or “cattle”; thus, a dog that has a higher level HRD or RLF title on sheep may be entered at a lower level in a mixed stock class that includes sheep. The type of stock on which the title was earned will be indicated by use of small initials after the title: “s” for sheep, “c” for cattle, “d” for ducks, “g” for goats, “ge” for geese, “t” for turkeys, “m” (“Mixed Stock”) for mixed stock classes using hoofed stock or a combination of hoofed stock and poultry, “mp” (“Mixed Stock – Poultry”) for mixed stock classes using poultry only. Trial titles on different types of stock or different courses may be earned concurrently or consecutively, at the same level or at a different level. Junior Herding Dog Titles and Herding Capability Test titles require two legs, earned under two different judges. For the JHD title, the legs must be on the same type of stock. The HCT may be earned on the same type of stock or on two different types, with a small initial indicating the stock type on which the second leg was earned. These titles go after the dog’s name.
  7. From the date a title was earned, a dog in Level I or Level II may continue to run competitively at that level for up to 12 months, after which it must move up on that course and stock type. Dogs which have earned a level III title may continue to run competitively in that class indefinitely.
  8. After a dog has earned at least one advanced title on one type of stock, the dog becomes eligible to earn points for the title Herding Trial Champion (HTCh.). This title goes before the dog’s name. To earn the HTCh.:
  • the dog must earn 10 points, each point obtained by achieving a score of 80 or above in an advanced class.
  • points may be earned on any trial course.
  • points must be earned under at least three different judges.
  • points may be earned on one type of stock or on more than one type of stock, but no more than three points may be earned on ducks, geese or turkeys; this three-points restriction applies to mixed stock classes using poultry only, but does not apply to mixed stock classes that include poultry in addition to hoofed stock.
  • in some cases it may happen that a dog is entered in more than one advanced class on the same day, finishes a title and then subsequently, on the same day in another class, earns a score qualifying for a point. Scores qualifying for points that are earned on the same day but subsequent to a title being finished, will be recorded as points only upon written request of the entrant with a verification by the sponsor; otherwise the point count will begin on a separate day after the earning of the advanced title.

General Requirements For Trials And Tests

  1. Trials and tests may be held on sheep, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, or cattle. HRD and RLF classes may not use ducks, with the exception of mixed stock classes as indicated in the Trial Program rules. Unless otherwise noted, requirements for sheep also apply to goats and cattle, requirements for ducks also a pply to geese and turkeys. Stock must be healthy and in good condition and accustomed to being worked by a variety of dogs. No animals shall be used that are under four months of age. No animal that is suckling shall be used. Poultry must have full adult feathering. Sets composed entirely of young animals should be avoided, particularly for test or novice dogs. In most cases, more mature animals are less stressed when being worked.
  2. Total number of stock present must be at least one head of stock, preferably more, per every run, plus reserves. Multiple entries of one dog are counted as separate runs.
  3. Stock must be kept in identifiable groups and rotated after every run in trial classes and Junior Herding Dog classes; see Herding Capability Tests, paragraph 5, for requirements relating to Herding Capability Tests. There must be at least two groups for a small number of entries and three or more groups for larger numbers of entries, as needed to meet the requirements of how often stock may be used. In RLF classes and in HRD classes using the RLF minimum numbers, a single group may be used (multiple groups are still preferred), but the animals must have a rest period of 30 minutes between runs. The number of times an animal may run is limited as follows: In the case of hoofed stock, no animal may be used more than four times per day in HTD classes or in HRD classes using numbers below the minimum used for RLF; no animal may be used more than six times per day in RLF classes and in HRD classes using the RLF minimum numbers; no animal may be used more than five times per day in HTAD classes. In the case of poultry, no animal may be used more than four times per day. Any animal being used more than three times per day must have a rest period of at least 30 minutes between runs.
  4. Arenas must be well fenced, have good footing and be free from hazardous obstructions. If two adjacent arenas are being used simultaneously, visibility screens must be set up between them.
  5. Safety and humane treatment of the animals are of utmost importance on all courses and in all situations. There must be a separate, secure rest area for the stock, with shade and water. The area should be secluded, with dogs and people kept out of sight of the stock. Food must be provided for stock kept overnight. Water must be available for dogs. During the event, animals are to be removed from the arena at any sign of stress and promptly given any necessary care. A veterinarian must be in attendance or on call.
  6. The judge is to provide time before the first class or before each class for a handler’s meeting, at which questions regarding the class or course may be asked. For each run, the handler should check with the judge just before entering the arena or field to see that the judge is ready to begin.
  7. Dogs may wear only plain buckle or snap-lock collars, or may work without a collar; protective boots are acceptable but must fit correctly.
  8. Handlers in trial classes, Junior Herding Dog classes, and second-leg Herding Capability Tests may carry only a standard herding crook or stock stick — wood, fiberglass or aluminum — no more than approximately five feet in length; see Herding Capability Tests, paragraph 8, for requirements with regard to first-leg Herding Capability Tests.
  9. Judging begins when the handler and dog enter the arena or trial course area and stops when they exit; however, time starts when the take pen gate opens/outrun begins and time ends when the exhaust pen gate closes or the recall is completed if the final element is a recall.
  10. The dog may be removed or excused at any time for unnecessary roughness, overrunning of stock, or lack of control. The dog may be excused for nonproductive work after 5 minutes. In trials, if all or a majority of the stock leave the designated course limits, the dog is to be retired with no score. The handler may retire the dog at any time.
  11. At all levels, a dog which enters the re-pen before or after the gate has been closed at the end of the run or which cannot be recalled if the final element is a recall, will not qualify.
  12. Should an animal need to be removed during a run for a reason unrelated to the behavior of the dog (e.g. lameness, excessive stubbornness or flightiness of an individual), or should outside interference occur, the dog may be given a rerun at the discretion of the judge.
  13. A class should be judged by a single judge, except that a very large class may be divided between two judges, but will still be considered a single class with one set of placements and only providing one leg.
  14. Up to two separate trials and/or tests may be held per day. A trial may consist of either the full range of classes, courses and stock types, or a more limited range of classes, courses and stock types, one class for each level for each stock type and/or course. The two trials and/or tests should be held in succession, with “Trial/Test A” being completed before “Trial/Test B” begins. For two trials held on one day, each class is to have its own set of placements and, if offered, placement awards. High score awards, if offered, may consist of separate High in Trial awards, or one overall “High in Event” or “High Score of Day” or “High Overall” award. Information about awards must be clearly stated in the premium list/flyer.

Trial Requirements

  1. A minimum of three head of stock must be used for each run for HTD classes. A minimum of five head must be used for HRD classes; larger numbers are preferred. For RLF classes, minimum numbers are 25 head for sheep or goats, 15 head for geese, and 10 head for cattle, again with larger numbers preferred. For HTAD classes, for all stock types except cattle, a minimum of four head must be used, with five head or more being preferred; the minimum for cattle is three head.
  2. HRD/RLF courses may include “mixed stock” classes. Mixed stock classes are run identically to other HRD/RLF classes, but may use more than one type of stock during the course of the run. All stock types used in AHBA trials may be used in mixed stock classes, including ducks. Mixed stock elements may be run consecutively (e.g. work with sheep, then work with cattle, then work with ducks), or in the case of sheep/goats and ducks/geese, two types of stock may be in the same group. Hoofed stock may not be present in the same enclosure where poultry is being worked, and vice versa, nor may cattle be present in the same enclosure with other types of stock. When ducks are included, care must be taken to ensure that the section of the course using ducks is suitable for ducks, and total length of the section using ducks may not exceed 800 linear feet. When any obstacles are being used for more than one stock type, the dimensions should be suitable for the largest of the types.
  3. In mixed stock classes with two types of stock, each type must be used on at least 1/3 of the course. In mixed stock classes with more than two types of stock, there is no minimum proportion of time that the third or other additional types must be used.
  4. In mixed stock classes when two types of stock are worked consecutively, each group must consist of the minimum number required for that course for non-mixed classes – i.e. a minimum of five head for all types of stock in HRD, minimums of 25 sheep/15 geese/10 head of cattle for RLF (if ducks are used in a mixed stock RLF class, the minimum number is the same for that of geese). If more than two stock types are used, two of the groups must be the minimum number for non-mixed classes, but the additional type or types may be less than the minimum number, although not less than three head. When groups of sheep/goats or ducks/geese are worked in the same group, the total number may be the minimum for that type of stock on that course – i.e. a group of hoofed stock in an HRD class may consist of three sheep and two goats, or three ducks and two geese. In such groups there may be no fewer than two individuals of any particular type of stock in groups totaling five to ten, no fewer than four individuals of any particular type of stock in groups above ten. The course description must indicate the numbers of each type of stock in the groups.
  5. On any course where a handler’s post is used, in cattle classes the handler need not remain at the post as the cattle are brought near it, but may move away a short distance to the side or behind the post while the cattle are brought to and around or past the post.
  6. In the event of a tie between classes, the tie shall be broken in favor of the dog entered in the higher class. In the event of a tie within a class, the tie shall be broken in HTD classes with the best fetch score, followed by best pen score, then time. In HRD and RLF classes, the course designer shall specify ahead of time which scoring section will be used for breaking a tie, with two sections listed in order, followed by time. In HTAD classes, the tie will be broken with the best gather/take pen score, followed by best repen score, then time. In the event of a tie between courses, the tie is broken based on the highest percentage of the score on the tie-breaker elements on each course.
  7. If time runs out before the course is completed, the handler shall retain the points earned up to that point.
  8. Each obstacle or section of a course must be attempted, although not necessarily completed, for a qualifying score to be earned. In a case where it is not certain whether an attempt has been made, the handler may ask the judge, or the judge may inform the handler, whether an attempt is considered to have been made.
  9. All runs are to be regular trial runs, with the exception that in certain circumstances and with approval of the sponsor and judge(s), noncompetitive runs and/or exhibition-only runs may be allowed. Noncompetitive runs will be conducted and judged as regular trial runs, except that the run is judged solely for the earning of a leg and is not eligible for any placements or prizes. Exhibition-only runs are handled similarly, except that no leg is being sought, and are likewise not eligible for any placements or prizes (a qualifying ribbon may be given). Score sheets for noncompetitive or exhibition-only runs will clearly indicate that the run is noncompetitive or exhibition only. Noncompetitive runs may be allowed for such circumstances as an individual who already has a leg under the regular judge for that class, or an individual who is judging that class at an event. An individual who owns the property and/or stock or is otherwise closely involved with holding the trial may also run noncompetitively if they desire, but this is not a requirement. Exhibition-only runs are allowed in the case of an individual who wishes to run in a class for which their dog has already earned a title, in order to gain more experience before moving up to the next level. A dog doing stock handling/pen work at an event may run either: (1) competitively if it completes its run or runs prior to any stock handling work; (2) noncompetitively if it is to run at any time after it has begun any stock handling work. Dogs entered in regular classes at a trial may not have noncompetitive runs or exhibition-only runs in those classes in addition to their regular run. No dog may have more than one noncompetitive run or exhibition-only run per trial in the particular class.

Appendix B

Language to be incorporated into entry or release form and signed by entrants:


In consideration for participation in an event sanctioned by the American Herding Breed Association (AHBA), I agree to assume all responsibility for any claim, loss or damage, of whatever kind or nature, whether to person or property, which may be caused at or near this event, either directly or indirectly, by me or the dog or dogs I have entered in or brought to this event. I further agree that I will hold the AHBA, its officers, directors, agents and members harmless and defend them from any and all liability for any injury, claim, damage or loss, of whatever kind or nature, whether to person or property, caused at or near this event, whether directly or indirectly, by me or any dog I have entered in or brought to this event. I agree to indemnify the AHBA, its officers, directors, agents and members for any loss, cost or expense including attorney fees and costs, to which the AHBA, its officers, directors, agents or members might be subject as a result of any claim, suit, loss or damage caused in any way by any act or negligence on my part or on the part of any dog or dogs I have entered in or brought to this event. I acknowledge that while the AHBA may provide sanctioning for this event with regard to the issuing of titles, it does not have and does not exercise control over the conduct of the event or those present. I certify and represent that the dog or dogs I have entered in or brought to this event is/are not a hazard to other dogs, other animals, or to people.