The Junior Herding Dog Test is designed as a bridge between early testing and training, and the more complete training required for competition in herding trials. The judge may give verbal guidance and suggestions to the handler as needed before and during the test, but does not take an active physical part in handling the dog.
Although the dog may not show complete refinement of commands, it should be demonstrably capable of performing the basic elements of herding sufficient to control stock through a simple pattern. The Junior Herding Dog test form provides for designations of “Good,” “Fair,” “Insufficient,” and “Not Accomplished” for a series of tasks. “Good” or “Fair” designations must be earned on each task for the dog to qualify.
The educational aspect of the Junior Herding Dog test is of primary importance.
Ideally, during the pause the dog is given one command and stays in position until released to begin its approach to the stock. The dog may lie down, sit or stand. A dog which creeps a little may still be given a passing designation, although creeping is not desirable. Excessive creeping or simply breaking the command and running into the stock will result in an “Insufficient” or “Not Accomplished” designation. If a dog starts to break, but a second command causes the dog to stop and remain in place until released, the dog still may be given a passing designation.
In collecting and controlling the stock, the dog should not split the group or otherwise cause excessive disturbance. The dog should approach the stock in a calm manner, moving smoothly and maintaining an appropriate distance in relation to the stock. A little abruptness of movement may still allow a passing designation, but the dog will not be given a passing designation if it charges into the stock, splitting and completely scattering them. Likewise, if the dog has difficulty moving the stock, it may still pass if it does get the stock moving with some assistance by the handler, but should not pass if it is unable to move the stock without a great deal of assistance.
In moving the stock though the course, the dog ideally should pace itself to the stock, maintaining an appropriate distance, using sufficient but not excessive force, with the stock neither being rushed nor balking. The dog should move the stock in the path as directed by the handler, neither rushing the stock nor allowing it to balk. The line of travel should be fairly straight between obstacles. Turns should be smooth and definite, without disturbance of the stock. The turns may be gradual or at a sharper angle, according to the situation.
The handler should use as few commands as possible, allowing the dog to demonstrate its natural abilities. A dog may still be given a passing designation, however, despite a little rushing, incidences of balkiness, some repetition of commands, a minor split, some raggedness in the line of travel, some circling of the stock, etc., depending on the extent of these occurrences. An “Insufficient” or “Not Accomplished” designation will result from the dog rushing the stock continually, repeatedly splitting or excessively disturbing the stock, ignoring commands or requiring continual commands, continually circling the stock throughout the course, backing down at slight resistance by the stock to the extent that the dog is unable to move the stock after several minutes, etc. If the stock break away and the dog readily recovers them, the dog may still be given a passing designation, but if the stock escape entirely and cannot be recovered and set back on course in a reasonably efficient manner, or if the dog loses control repeatedly, the dog will not receive a passing designation.
Either the corner panels or the center panel may be negotiated first, then the stock are taken to the pen. All of the stock should be taken through each obstacle, but a passing designation may still be given if one animal misses the obstacles when three or four head are used, or two animals miss when five or more head are used. The approach to and passage through the obstacles should be smooth and controlled. There may be some raggedness and weaving in negotiating the obstacles, but this should not be excessive, nor should the passage of the stock through an obstacle be mere happenstance, for a passing designation to be given.
The stop may be a down, sit or stand. The dog may be stopped as necessary during the course of the run. Upon nearing the pen, the dog is stopped and holds the stock while the handler opens the gate. The dog should hold the stop until released to continue the penning. A little creeping or starting to break may still allow a passing designation if the dog immediately responds to a subsequent command to stop. A dog that refuses to hold a stop or requires continual commands will not be given a passing designation.
Repenning should be accomplished efficiently and smoothly. A dog may be given a passing designation despite some bouncing around at the pen, the stock going past the pen entrance a few times, the dog entering the pen but immediately coming back out, etc., but will not be given a passing designation if there is excessive disturbance at the pen, the dog completely enters the pen after the stock and does not immediately respond to a command to come back out, or is unable to complete the penning exercise.
The comments section is particularly important. Strong points and areas needing improvement with regard to the dog’s performance and the handler’s handling should be noted, suggestions given, and notations made of the difficulty or cooperativeness of the stock — anything that has a bearing on the dog’s performance and the understanding of what transpired during the run. Overall comments are to be made in addition to comments under the different sections.
The behavior of the stock should be noted to provide background regarding the dog’s behavior, because the nature of the stock can have a strong bearing on the dog’s reactions, especially the less experienced dog. With regard to uncooperative stock, it should be indicated whether the stock were still controllable, or not only uncooperative but of such a nature as to be uncontrollable. Uncooperative stock may be either difficult to move (heavy) or inclined to bolt (flighty).