Gone to the dogs: Molong hosts state sheepdog championships

In its 86th year, the NSW State Championship Sheepdog Trials are underway in Molong.

Competitors from Queensland and Victoria have joined NSW breeders to tease sheep around the course, urging the dogs with whistles, commands and hand singles.

Judge Phillip Swain keeps a keen eye on the three sheep competitor Jayne Parker’s Border Collie Diesel, is trying to keep within the lines.

“She just lost one point,” Mr Swain said as the sheep crept across the mowed strip, “They have to stay in that corridor and move them forward into the rectangle.”

The 75 competitors are mostly breeders who use the trial circuit as both a social outing and a way of selling their dogs.

“Most compete mainly for the prestige,” secretary Janelle Fessey said.

“We run an auction here on Saturday towards the end of competition. The highest price paid has been $4,000.”

Predominantly the dogs are border collies, with a smaller percentage of the venerable kelpie.

“Kelpies are mainly used as working dogs as their temperament is better suited for that,” explains president Andrew Heath.

“Border collies are more likely to follow directions, kelpies have an independeant streak in them.”

To get a dog to the stage where it can win the trials can take up to four years.

At Molong they have two sections, one for the beginners and another for the seasoned performers.

A trialler himself, Mr Heath compares the dogs to any other athlete.

“You have to keep up their fitness and training with around three sessions a week of trial work, and also just general athletic work,” he said.

“They also get stressed during competition so the temperament of the dog is also really important.”

The finals run at the Dr Ross Memorial Recreation Ground on Saturday from 8am until 2pm with the auction being held at noon.

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