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Border collies head of class at annual Fosterfields trials

AFP Correspondent

MORRISTOWN (June 15, 2014) — The bumper stickers read “My Border Collie is Smarter Than Your Honor Student.”
After watching the Sheepdog Trials at Fosterfields Living History Farm, the statement makes even more sense.
Each entrant has a timed trial to get three unfamiliar sheep into a pen. The handler uses a whistle and a few verbal commands to direct the dog, but the dog does most of the work.
Amanda Milliken, a handler herself, announced the trials, explaining the objectives to those unfamiliar spectators.
“An obedience trained dog looks to us all the time. A sheepdog looks to the handler, but looks at other things too,” she said.
The two basic commands are “come” and “lie down,” which doesn’t mean “lie down,” so much as to back off and take the pressure off the sheep.
The sheepdogs love to work. Sometimes they watch fellow competitors acting as if they want to go in and take over.
The Fosterfields brochure explains trials are used to compare the dogs to help assess breeding stock. The judge of the two-day trials, which ran Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8 was Wiet van Dongen.
He watched each run and deducted points for any deviation from a perfect run.
A perfect run is the straightest possible line with the dog behaving in a workmanlike manner.
Handler Emma Court of Garwood said many of the competitors are bred and trained in Ireland. Her Maia is a Jersey dog and she’s proud of it.
Regardless of where they are trained, the dogs must use their power over mean, unruly sheep to have them do what the dog and owner want them to do. They use their “style,” a combination of posture and stare, to control the sheep.