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Herding Test & Trial Procedural Manual

Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Planning

For an event to be successful, a great deal of planning is involved. The first organizational meeting is a time to consider many things.


The first consideration is the scope of your Test/Trial. Be realistic. Will your event draw club members only? Is your area one with a large number of the herding fancy allowing you to expect a large entry? A safe plan would be to hold a small event that will grow over time, as your club’s experience and the interest in the sport grows. Planning for too large of an event in the beginning can deplete your work force as well as your finances. Surmise what tests, course(s), class(es) and livestock your area can support then determine the size of event to hold.


The number of people able to work the day of the event should also be a strong consideration when planning the scope of your Test/Trial. The majority of club members will want to trial their dogs. This causes them to have much to do the day of the event in that they will have responsibilities as members of the committee, in addition to running their dogs.


Development of a timeline will be beneficial to all Committee members. When an event is separated into tasks, with start and completion dates, it allows an event to be tracked. The timeline will help to ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Monitoring the timeline will make you aware of possible problem areas and situations that can be resolved before they become critical.

There is a logical flow to planning a Herding Test or Trial. Determining the scope of your event and appointing/electing a Test/Trial Committee are the first two steps. Before a site can be considered Course(s) offered, livestock and the size of your event must be determined. Before prospective judges can be contacted or the site secured the date must be decided. The Committee officers, dates of the event, when to close entries, when to draw for run order, as well as your judges, location, classes being offered, and emergency contacts (Disaster and Emergency Plan form), must be established before you complete your application to hold an event. Before ribbons and awards are ordered you must know the classes being offered. Examine your event site to know equipment needed and the amount of work involved to prepare the facility. Your equipment list will be directly related to the type and size of your Event. When a timeline is followed, all the information and work are in place and ready for the next step.


The Chairperson as well as the other committee members must be members of the club, know the Herding Regulations, possess strong organizational skills, and have the ability to delegate jobs, positions and work. The Chairperson must be able to prepare schedules and encourage Committee members to work within designated time frames and budget. An individual with good people skills and time to communicate with committee members is highly desirable. It is also necessary that they be able to enforce AKC rules and regulations with site owner, judge and contestants.


The Committee may be appointed or elected and must consist of at least five club members including the Chairperson. Every Committee member shall have a copy of and be completely familiar with the Herding Regulations, Dealing with Misconduct and the Disaster and Emergency Plan.


The Secretary need not be a member of the club. The Secretary must be completely familiar with the Herding Regulations. The Secretary or a club officer may complete the event application. The Secretary must be supplied with all the information to be published in the Premium List. All entries will be sent to the Secretary. The Secretary will make the Event Premium List, Program and Catalog. All event information, questions or other concerns from The American Kennel Club regarding the event(s) will be sent to the Secretary. The individual selected should be well organized with strong secretarial and people skills.

Because the Secretary need not be a club member, consider hiring an individual who has experience in this area. If you decide to do this, have a contract. This contract should cover all areas the Secretary will handle including the event timeline, the work expected, reimbursement for expenses (i.e., postage, telephone, copying, Premium List, Catalog, office supplies, etc.) and the secretarial fee.


This individual, using the most current Herding Regulations, must understand how each test and course is properly laid out. This position requires examination of the event site, evaluation of equipment and understanding of the work required in making the site event ready. The Course Director shall appoint and oversee both a set-up and a clean-up Committee.


Select an individual who is knowledgeable about livestock, its behavior and temperament. The Chief Livestock Handler will arrange for the livestock used at the event. It shall be the Chief Livestock Handler’s responsibility to contract for and to ensure the livestock are healthy, and meet the specific needs of the tests and/or course(s) being offered. The Chief Livestock Handler will need a crew to handle the livestock and to ensure its proper care. A sufficient number of handlers are necessary to maintain a smooth flow of good working livestock into and out of the arenas. A handler with a pen dog is an asset.


Select a creative person to devise ways of advertising your club’s event. This person will supply information to magazines, dog club newsletters, etc., while adhering to publishing deadlines.


The Chief Steward will coordinate a crew of individuals responsible for the event-day operations. This requires assigning persons to ensure the Judge has Timers, Scribes, and refreshments. This person also assigns Gate Stewards, Runners, Parking Attendants and other helpers as the event and facility may require. One of the main responsibilities of this position is to ensure the individuals understand the role they have been assigned.


The Awards Chairperson will be responsible for securing all ribbons and trophies as set forth in the Herding Regulations. A list of awards and a brief description of each trophy must be given to the Secretary to be included in the Premium List. Should the club wish to have sponsorship of awards, the Awards Chairperson will secure these sponsorships.


This important position requires making arrangements in advance for Judges’ lodging, transportation (to and from the airport if necessary), as well as meals and refreshments during the event. If a banquet, Judges’ dinner, or other club activity of this nature is planned, the Hospitality Chairperson is responsible for making the arrangements.

The Hospitality Chairperson could also be assigned to acquire all the information for the Disaster and Emergency Plan. This information must be to the Secretary in a timely manner and should be distributed to all Committee members.


The budget is one of your first considerations. You must project your expenses, establishing realistic figures within which all Committee members can work. Obvious expenses are facility and livestock rental, the Judges’ expenses, AKC application and recording fees, insurance, publicity, ribbons and awards. Other expenditures, some of which may be donated, borrowed or rented, are: livestock transportation, feed, bedding, watering and feeding equipment, panels, pens, t-posts and other equipment necessary for setting up Tests and Courses. Also required are signs to the event; secretarial office supplies, clip boards, calculator, carbon paper, file folders, portable file box, copying, telephone bills, pens, contestant numbers, rubber bands, display board to post scores; printing and postage for Premium List, Program and Catalog; garbage cans, bags, poop scoopers, disposal; rest room facilities, toilet paper; public address system; and stop watches. Power sources may also require extension cords. The entry fees for your club’s event will be determined in large measure by the costs involved in hosting the event. Divide total expenses by a conservatively estimated number of possible entries. The resulting figure is your minimum entry fee.


The date selected for your club’s event is important. Careful consideration should go into selecting the date. Weather may be a prime consideration. Try to avoid severe weather periods. Avoid dates that are in conflict with other dog-related activities, this could affect your attendance or your work force. Teaming up with an existing event is also a possibility.


The Tests and Courses you are offering will determine the facility you select. Measure all arenas and fields to ensure they meet the sizes as specified in the Herding Regulations. Check that all fences are in good repair and are livestock tight. If repairs or other changes are necessary, negotiate with the facility owner. A club workday spent repairing fences could lower the cost of the facility. The contract for rental of the facility should include the date(s) (allow a day for set up and one for clean up), price, insurance information, and equipment that will be included – panels, water tubs and hoses, feeders, electricity, rest rooms, etc.


Judges must be on the list of active Herding Judges. You may obtain a copy of the Herding Judge Directory by calling the Performance Events office or by going to The American Kennel Club web site at


Livestock for the Test level should be well dog broke and accustomed to being worked by a variety of different breeds of dogs. Ducks, goats, sheep and cattle may be used for both the Herding Test Class and the Pre-Trial Class. Review Herding Regulations “Livestock.”

  • Herding Test: This is the entry level for the majority of contestants. The arena size can be from 100 by 100 feet to 100 by 200 feet. Review Herding Regulations for specifics on equipment and lay out.
  • Pre-Trial: Dogs entered in this Class will be preparing to enter the Trial Classes and will be more experienced than the Herding Test entrants. The arena size shall be no less than 100 by 200 feet and no more than 200 by 400 feet. Review Herding Regulations for specifics on equipment and lay out.


Livestock should be dog broke, while providing a challenge. Sheep, cattle and ducks may be used for Course A and Course B. See Herding Regulations “Livestock.”

  • Course A: At this writing this is the most popular and frequently offered of the Trial Courses. This Trial Course is held in an arena 100 by 200 feet, up to 200 by 400 feet. Review Herding Regulations for specifics on equipment and lay out.
  • Course B: This is an open field Course. The minimum size of the field for sheep and cattle is 300 by 575 feet; for ducks 200 by 230 feet. Review Herding Regulations for specifics on equipment and lay out.
  • Course C: This is an open field course and must have sufficient space to allow for a narrow road up to 880 linear yards long. Review Herding Regulations for specifics on equipment and lay out. The only livestock used on this course are sheep. They should be accustomed to being moved to grazing areas and allowed to graze. Review Herding Regulations “Livestock.”


Rest periods are required between runs and humane treatment is of the utmost importance. Review Herding Regulations “Livestock.”

  • Ducks: (Includes the use of Geese or Turkeys): Ducks are always worked in groupings of five.
  • Sheep: (Includes the use of goats in tests): In the Test Classes and on Courses A and B, sheep are worked in groupings of three to five. Course C requires a minimum of 20 head up to 100 sheep per run. In most areas of the United States, sheep are the easiest livestock to obtain. Sheep should come from one flock due to their strong flocking habit.
  • Cattle: Depending on the area, cattle can be the most difficult to locate and the most expensive of the three types of livestock to rent. Cattle are worked in groupings of three to five.


All livestock should be healthy and dog broke. The Test Classes require that the stock be heavier (close or small flight zone) and accustomed to being worked by a variety of dogs. This type of livestock can often be obtained from herding instructors. Trial livestock, while dog broke, should prove a challenge allowing dogs to demonstrate their ability to move and control them. It is best that all trial livestock are acquired from one source. This provides for uniformity between groups, making all things as equal as possible.

Always have a contract with your stock supplier. The terms of the contract should include the exact number of livestock, the approximate weight for cattle, delivery date, return date, hauling arrangements, replacement cost and feeding information (will supplier provide feed or will hosting club, the type of feed the animals are accustomed to, etc.).

The Herding Regulations contain the formula for determining the number of animals needed. Always have at least five extra head in case of injury, lameness or other unforeseen occurrence.