- Herding Capability Test titles may be earned on any single type of stock or combination of stock types. The title indicates the stock type on which the second leg was earned.
- Herding Capability Tests should be held in the setting of a clinic. Where stock numbers and lower entry limits allow, a short instructional run may be given to each entrant earlier in the day, with a second run constituting the formal test held later, entrants going in the same order each time. Herding Capability Tests must be held at the facilities of a herding trainer, utilizing experienced stock regularly employed in training herding dogs. Special permission must be obtained for use of any other venue, and any such venues must be set up similarly to a training facility with sturdy fencing and stock regularly used for herding training; public venues such as fairs or similar general public events are not accepted.
- Dogs must have prior training to come reliably when called and to down, sit or stand-stay; this requirement must be made clear to owners before they enter. For first-leg Herding Capability Tests, it is highly recommended that dogs have had prior supervised exposure to livestock, although it is not a requirement that dogs have had prior herding training. Second-leg tests require that dogs have had some basic herding training; this is to be made clear to prospective entrants.
- Arena size for Herding Capability Tests should be a minimum of 50 x 50 ft., up to approximately 100 x 100 ft. Corners should be rounded.
- Groups of at least three head of stock must be used for each run; larger numbers may be preferable. Stock must be kept in identifiable groups and rotated frequently: preferably after every dog, and at least after every two or three dogs. There must be at least three groups, preferably more, for rotation, except when the number of dogs is less than four, in which case there may be two groups. Lengthy rest periods must be provided. No animal may be used for more than four runs during the day; no more than three runs is preferred. Any animal being used more than three times per day must have at least a half-hour rest period between runs. Any animal that has been pressed too hard or particularly stressed during its run must be given at least a half-hour rest period and a reevaluation by the judge as to recovery before it can be used again.
- No other dog shall be in the arena with the dog being tested, other than under exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the tester, a well-trained backup dog.
- The tester may handle the dog during first-leg tests. For second-leg tests, the owner or owner’s agent must handle the dog. The tester may provide any verbal assistance felt necessary and a brief intervention is acceptable.
- In first-leg tests the handler or tester may carry a bamboo pole or light PVC pipe or similar flexible training aid with a flagged or taped end. In second-leg tests the handler may carry only a standard herding crook or stock stick — wood, fiberglass or aluminum — no more than approximately five feet in length.
- In order to pass, dogs must be tested off lead or with lead dragging in first-leg tests, off lead in second-leg tests, and may not be held or physically touched by any person or tied to any object.
- First-leg tests may take the form of a basic instinct test and are fairly free-form, with no set path of travel.
- The dog is brought in on a long line approximately 6 to 15 ft. in length. At some point while on the line, the dog must demonstrate a stop (down, sit or stand) and a recall before the line is dropped or removed. A dog which cannot be recalled shall not be let off line.
- Dogs may not be struck or have objects thrown at them with the intent to strike them during a test. If it is necessary to do this to protect the stock, the dog must be immediately removed from the arena and will not pass.
- Second-leg tests require a more controlled passage from one end of the arena to the other (easily visible markers, such as ribbons or placards, may be placed on the fence at opposite ends of the arena to help indicate direction, or cones may be set on the ground 10 ft. in from the fence at opposite ends of the arena). The stock should be set out clear of the fence, well away from any corner.
- The dog is put in position and the lead removed; the dog should hold a brief stay (pause) before being sent to collect the stock.
- The stock are moved across the arena to the opposite end, then returned to the vicinity of the set-out point, then taken again to the opposite end of the arena, and brought back a second time to the vicinity of the set-out point (approximately four traverses of the arena).
- The dog is given a final stop command, and recalled.
- Dogs are not to be allowed to harass, chase, rough up, trample or grip stock. Dogs evidencing aggression are not to be let off lead. Unruly, uncontrollable dogs or dogs which attempt to attack the stock must be taken from the test area immediately. Dogs which are excessively fearful of the stock should be removed. In second-leg tests, dogs showing lack of progress should be removed from the arena after five minutes.
- Tests are to be conducted in a consistent and fairly standard manner. Each dog’s formal test session shall be a maximum of 10 minutes, within which time the session should be concluded upon the dog fulfilling the requirements for passing.
- The tester must provide detailed comments on each passing form, and spend time with each participant providing guidance and information regarding the particular dog and herding in general; comments and information should be presented to spectators also. Education is of great importance in herding tests.
Qualifications for passing herding capability tests
A dog which, after a period of introduction, shows sustained interest in herding livestock, either going around them, gathering them and moving them toward the handler, or moving them ahead of the handler to drive them, or a combination.
A dog which works quietly, a dog which barks (a little or a lot), a dog which may feint as though to nip, or actually nips if on larger animals providing it is appropriate for the situation and not a threat to the health or safety of the livestock, are all acceptable. A dog may be loose-eyed or may show some degree of eye. A variety of approaches and styles are acceptable.
It is to be remembered that many dogs through inexperience will make mistakes in their early exposures to livestock, but at all time the tester must see clear cut evidence of herding instinct, with the dog attempting to keep the animals grouped and attempting to control their movement. Dogs which merely chase, play or push stock around, not really herding, must not be passed; distinction must be made between herding behavior and chasing. Dogs should show some responsiveness to direction.
In addition to the above, the dog must exhibit the following: moving the stock in a controlled fashion from one end of the arena to the other; a stop; and a recall.
A dog which, after a period of introduction, fails to show sustained herding interest in livestock. A dog which repeatedly leaves or attempts to leave the working area. A dog which makes little or no attempt to control the grouping and movement of the stock.
A dog which shows aggression toward the livestock so strong and of a nature to be considered a threat to the health or safety of the livestock. Any dog which repeatedly splits the group and attacks one or several animals, or grips any animal and holds on. A dog which evidences chasing rather than herding behavior.
Any dog which, for whatever reason, cannot be tested off lead or with lead dragging in a fenced area.
Any dog which shows fear of the livestock in such a fashion that the dog cannot demonstrate herding instinct.
In addition to the above, a dog which fails to demonstrate the required additional skills, which does not move the stock in a controlled fashion, which constantly and unnecessarily circles the stock, which cannot be tested off lead, or cannot be handled by its owner or owner’s agent.
Dogs not passing may be retested at another time.
NOTE! It must be remembered that while basic herding tests may provide a starting place, their scope is very limited. They may give some picture of possibilities, but passing such a test cannot be taken as proof of a dog’s herding abilities. Only time and experience will provide a clear picture of a dog’s abilities. A lot of groundwork, time and education are required to produce a skilled herding dog.