Stock dog trials are growing in popularity across the nation, said Guy Maberry. He is organizing the first Open Stock Dog Trial competition at the Montana Winter Fair in Lewistown, Mont. The competition will be held Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, at the Central Montana Fairgrounds pavilion.
“It only costs $30 to run a dog, so it’s not a high-money competition. We want to do it to have fun,” he said.
Still, that ‘fun’ event is bringing in champion stock dog trainers from Montana, Wyoming and, hopefully, South Dakota.
Betty Williams, of Lewistown, will also be there. Williams and her Australian Shepherd, Spur, won the High Com-bined Championship at the National Stock Dog Finals in Texas this October.
“High Combined is where the dog has three runs each on cattle, sheep and ducks. The dog with the highest combined score wins,” Williams explained. In addition to having the highest combined score on all three, Spur won the championship in both cattle and sheep.
“He doesn’t like herding ducks very much,” she said. “For awhile, when we first started training him on ducks, he wasn’t interested in them at all. He couldn’t figure out what they were for. Now he handles them very well, but cattle are still his favorite.”
Williams has been training and competing with her dogs for several years. Maberry has only been doing it for three years. That is part of the enjoyment of the events. They draw people together from all over. “I have made friends from all around the world because of these dogs,” said Williams.
“Stock dog owners are friendly. They love their dogs and are willing to help someone out and answer their questions,” Maberry said.
Maberry is hoping a lot of people will bring their dogs to compete and even more will come to watch and learn how to use dogs properly.
The dogs will be tested on cattle. They will be asked to gather a herd and drive a herd. They will move them up an alleyway and between panels, even pen the animals.
Though there will not be any seminars during or after the trial, both Maberry and Williams said people can ask questions of the trainers.
“We’ll be more than glad to help them with something after the trial is over,” said Maberry.
An open trial, like this one, means any breed of dog or mixed breed can compete. “We’ll have Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and others. I run Hangin’ Tree Cow Dogs, myself,” Maberry said. “This trial is for fun and for people to learn.”
Maberry, like Williams, started into the stock dog competitions simply because he needed dogs that would work well on his ranch.
“Competing teaches the handlers to have more control of their dogs. On the ranch my wife and I can work cows all day long without help. We can gather pastures, run gates and sort, all with just a couple of dogs. We don’t have to hire anybody or get the neighbors to help us gather and sort them. This year we gathered and sorted all our cows and calves for shipping by ourselves with just our dogs. It saves us a lot of time and money,” he said. “We have five dogs with one in training all the time. We consistently always take one or two dogs with us when we work cattle.”
Williams got her first dog while in college.
“My goal was to train him to be helpful on the ranch. He turned into a real nice dog. Then, when I lost him, I found an Australian Shepherd puppy and, again, my goal was just to make him functional on the ranch,” she said.
Williams has a cattle ranch and also runs about 100 head of sheep.
“There is getting to be more and more demand for good stock dogs. It’s expensive now to hire help. Most ranchers are cutting back and don’t have the hired help they used to have. That’s also the case on our place. We used to use four or five horseback riders and take a couple days to go gather one pasture we have.” she said.
The ranch runs easier now with his cattle handler stock dogs.
“Now I can go out there on a four-wheeler with a dog and gather the whole pasture myself in one day,” she said. “Dogs save you a lot of time and money. With a dog you don’t miss much either. We have quite a bit of brush up there. The dogs will go into the brush and make sure nothing is in there. It saves me the time and frustration of getting off the horse and going through the brush pile myself. For that alone, dogs are worth their weight in gold. I’m taking more calls all the time from ranchers looking for started and finished dogs.”
Williams said, though there will not be any seminars or clinics at the Montana Winter Fair, there are several held throughout the year in Montana.
“I know the Australian Shepherd Club of Montana has them and I do cow camps each August.”
Her cow camps are held at her ranch for four days.
“The handler and dog come to the ranch and stay with us for four days and we get the dog started on working cattle. Last year we offered three cow camps during August. We’ve had people come from all over the world,” she said.
If anyone is interested in learning about training, using or competing with stock dogs, Maberry and Williams encourage them to come to the open trial at the Montana Winter Fair.
They can also contact Maberry at 406-350-1167 or 406-538-3634 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Williams can be contacted at 406-535-7342; on the Web at www.wlazyj.com or e-mail at email@example.com.
The Australian Shepherd Club of Montana can be found at the Web site at www.ascofmontana.org. H