Have you ever tried to teach your dog to lie down on command? How about come when called while playing with his favorite toy? Now try it from 500 yards away.
Sheep herding with dogs is an ancient art and the pinnacle of dog intelligence. Come see some of the best shepherds and sheepdogs in the country compete at the Wisconsin Working Sheep Dog Association's Sheepdog Trials Sept. 1-4 at Badlands Sno-Park in Hudson.
Calvin Jones, from Wales and 2015 judge called the location, "One of the most spectacular courses he has ever seen in the USA or the UK."
A judge last year, Gordon Watt, commented "The Trial field is one-of-a-kind and great for handlers and spectators to see everything."
Shepherds from across the USA and Canada will gather to test themselves and their dogs against the terrain and the sheep. Some notable competitors include Alasdair MacRae, the LeBron James of sheepdog competitions. Originally from Scotland, MacRae won the highest honor in the sport, the International Supreme Championship in the UK, before coming to the USA. Since arriving, he is the 12-time National Champion and has won all the "majors" many times over. He was champion here three years ago with a spectacular run on the double-gather course on the last day, fetching two groups of ten sheep each 500 and 750 yards away, combining them, and then sorting off five marked sheep inside a marked area; a true test of skill, stamina, and partnership between dog and handler.
Sophie Hemmings of Lake Geneva is the youngest competitor at 15. She has been working dogs since she was 5 before she moved to America in 2015. She was asked to represent England at the International and asked to appear on the popular BBC TV program, "One Man and His Dog."
Other handlers are farmers, architects, scientists, accountants. All share a love of these dogs and the supreme challenge of forging a bond with their animals that allows them to communicate with one another and cooperate to work sheep. You will be amazed at what these dogs can do, how they work using their own talents and in partnership with their handlers to gather livestock and move them with care and precision over hills, through standing alfalfa, around gates and obstacles and into pens. They don't make noise. They don't use teeth. They move their flock with the power of the Border Collie "eye", and the best brain in all of dogdom.
So, bring a lawn chair and a picnic and sit on a sun-drenched hillside pasture, or gather under the big tent with a lamb brat or burger and listen to the play-by-play explain what each dog is doing and what the judge is looking for. Bring the entire family and friends and make a day of it. You will be amazed. You'll cheer for your favorite dogs and groan as a wiley sheep escapes at the pen and your favorite needs to give chase and bring her back.
The event is open to the public 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at the Badlands Sno-Park site at 772 Kinney Road, Hudson. Cost is $8 per person. Under 10 are free. Check WWSDA.org for updates.
Hudson High School agriculture teacher Cyntha Landers will bring her FFA group to help in the sheep pens this year.