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Houston Rodeo Sheep Dog Trials

One of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the Sheep Dog Trials competition. These are competitions from teams of owners and their faithful canine companions from all over the country and really show off the skill, timing and obedience that makes a great sheep dog.

Sheep dogs that are entered into the Trials are trained from a very early age. Normally they are placed with livestock as puppies to imprint on the specific animal that they will be working with, in this case sheep. In fact a sheep dog won’t normally be very good if the job is to protect goats or cattle because of this very fact. The imprinting is necessary to make sure that the dogs remain non-predatory and protective of the animals. Bonding with sheep is actually easier for most dogs than with other types of animals, especially cattle.

In any case the sheep dogs, and their owners/trainers at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are all tested on their ability to herd sheep as well as listen to and obey the commands of their masters. They are controlled with the use of verbal commands from their master as well as specific whistles. The whistle itself is unusual in that it has 3 holes only and makes different sounds depending on which are used.

The master, or handler as they are called, actually has a very restricted role in the movements that the sheep dogs make as they herd a group of sheep around an obstacle course and into a holding pen. It’s actually quite brilliant and one of the highlights of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

While all of this is taking place the dogs are being timed also and the dog/handler team with the most impressive skills and best time are usually the winners. The average time it takes to complete the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo course is approximately 2 minutes. The average time it takes to train a dog to do this is much longer.

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