The purpose of the herding test, a limited version of a sheepdog trial, is to safeguard the future development of the Border Collie by emphasising the importance of the breed's natural herding abilities.
Border Collies which achieve show champion status in the breed ring need to succeed in the herding test before being made up to full champions. However, any registered Border Collie may take the herding test.
What does the test consist of?
The herding test consists of four principal elements - outrun, bring/fetch, balance and drive - working a group of five to ten sheep.
Each dog should pass each section. If a dog fails one section then it will be at the judges' discretion whether they will be allowed to attempt part of the test again. As it is the dog's herding ability which is being tested, dogs may be handled by anyone, not necessarily the owner.
There are exemptions for dogs which have been successful in certain trials affiliated to the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS).
What is the reason for herding tests?
The objective of herding test is designed to assess a dog's instinct to herd sheep in a controlled manner and under instruction of the handler.
The principal elements
With the handler standing at a starting point, the dog should be sent on an outrun to left or right at handler's choice, to collect the sheep (which will preferably be in sight) approximately 100 metres away.
The handler would be required to be at the post from the start and not move too far away.
The dog to bring/fetch the sheep to the handler in a controlled manner.
The dog should turn the sheep around the post and handler ready for the drive, in the direction decided by the judges prior to commencement of the test and confirmed to handlers at the judges' briefing.
The dog (and handler should they wish) should drive the sheep in a controlled manner, approximately 50-70 metres in the direction decided by the judges prior to the test (and confirmed to handlers at the judges' briefing). The test will end as soon as all the sheep have been driven to the judges' satisfaction, to a designated point.
Each dog should pass each section. If a dog fails one section, then it will be at the judges' discretion whether they will be allowed to attempt part of the test again. As it is the dog's herding ability which is being tested, dogs may be handled by anyone, not necessarily the owner.
How can I enter?
Owners wishing to enter their Border Collie in a herding test should apply online. Alternatively, if you need a paper form sent out to you, please email The Kennel Club or phone on 020 7518 1013. The entry fee is £125. Dogs must be at least 12 months old at the date of the application. There is no limit on the number of herding tests for which a dog may be entered.
Once the application form has been received, the office will contact the breed council secretary who will then contact the most local breed club of which the handler is a member. The club will then be requested to assist in the organisation of the test, by booking one of the three UK venues available situated in the North, South and the Midlands and the judges.
Are there any exemptions from the test?
There are exemptions from the herding test for dogs which have already proved their herding abilities and instincts in sheepdog trials and tests affiliated to the ISDS (International Sheep Dog Society).
The following are exempt:
- dogs qualified for entry in international or national trials
- dogs placed in the first 10 in an open sheepdog trial (where a minimum of 40 dogs competed)
- dogs placed in the first six in any nursery or novice trial (where a minimum of 25 dogs competed)
- from 2009, dogs which have passed the ISDS working test for registration on merit