Suggested Scoring: Excessive Commands

by Carol Delsman, Executive Field Representative

Chris Mosley with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi in Minnesota

Serenity Littlefield with her ACD in Louisiana

Wade Cambell with his BC in Louisiana

Hildy Morgan with her Collie in Colorado

The Herding Regulations have a section for each course on "suggested" scoring. This is for judges and exhibitors to have a guide as to what points are deducted for a less than perfect run.

Excessive commands is one of the categories that a judge may take points off but just what is "excessive".

In order for a dog and handler to get the livestock through a course, there has to be communication between them. These communications comes in all forms and are considered commands. Some examples are but not limited to whistles, verbal commands, body language, or movement of stock sticks. Tone of voice and threatening use of a stock stick are also taken into consideration.

There is no set number of commands necessary for any given situation. Course, livestock, area conditions, weather condition and a host of other variables make each trial situation unique and there for it is a judge's call as to what a "perfect" run would be under those conditions.

Excessive commands is not a given number but more a judge's call of when a handler is commanding a dog more than desired for a perfect score.

A handler who needs to continue to encourage their dog in order to keep them moving the livestock would have more points deducted than the handler whose dog continues to move livestock without the extra commands. A handler who needs to wave or drag their crook in front of a dog to keep them back off the stock should lose more points than the handler who walks quietly without using the stock stick.

There are handlers who just babble or whistle their way through the course and the dog ignores them and does their job in spite of what the handler does. This should be penalized but not as heavily the dog that is micro managed.

There are situations where the dog hardly moves a foot without looking at the handler asking where to move to and how fast. The handler is placing the dog in strategic locations and the dog is really not working the livestock. In this case, the run should be heavily penalized and may not qualify if in the judge's opinion, the dog is not working livestock even though the stock may have gone through the obstacles.

If a handler continues to yell at their dog or continues to use their stock stick in a threatening manner, the judge may call the run for loss of control or may penalize heavily for excessive commands.

The picture you want to present as a handler is of quiet confident control of livestock. You communicate to the dog where you want the livestock and the dog puts them there. Minimal use of commands is desirable.

As a handler, you need to make choices. If those extra commands in fact get you a qualifying score where as not using them might get you a "thank you" from the judge, then it might be worth the point deductions to give them. That is part of the strategy of trialing.

As a judge, remember to reward the team that does the best work. You are judging each dog and handler team against the perfect run.