The field

  • If the field is prone to be wet, this will determine what time of the year you plan to hold your trial.
  • Is the field deep and wide enough to accommodate a good outrun and course?
  • Is it safe, for example, are there ponds, bogs, wire, fences. You should always risk assess it first.
  • Is there sufficient room for spectator viewing and parking?

The sheep pens

  • These should ideally be off the course if possible
  • They need to be well covered.
  • A fence or hurdle guide to the exhaust pen can make it much easier to clear sheep off the field.
  • There should be shade, water and hay feeders available in the pens
  • A ‘reject’ pen is advisable to segregate any sheep if necessary.
  • The welfare of the sheep should always be paramount.

The letting out pen

  • A number of smaller pens allows the sheep to settle after sorting and enables a good flow of sheep to be ready for setting out.
  • The least hassle, upset and stress to the sheep the better.
  • The sorting and refilling of pens/chute should be done once the dog has taken its sheep beyond hearing distance e.g. the fetch gates.
  • There should always be a minimum of 15 sheep left in the pens at all times. This should help prevent the sheep racing down the field knowing there are none left at the top.

Setting the sheep

  • A dog may be used to set out and hold the sheep at the point of lift providing it does not upset them.
  • The sheep should be held as near to the post or lift marker as possible.
  • The sheep should be kept in such a position where either one person and one dog or two persons holds them until the dog approaches the sheep on the lift.
  • If the sheep are very difficult to hold then a little feed may help. If placed on the ground the sheep may not see the dog approaching; an alternative answer to this may be to place the feed on the top of an upturned bucket so that their heads are higher.
  • There should be NO shushing, waving of sticks, arms or plastic bags as many a good dog has been ruined this way.
  • There should be no commands from the set out person which may interfere with the competitor’s dog.

Exhausting the sheep

  • It is often suggested that the previous competitor keeps/exhausts the following competitor’s sheep. This saves valuable time.
  • Care should be taken when sending a dog for sheep when a nursery or very novice dog is finishing its run.
  • Alternatively, one person may be there to open the pen gate and help with the exhausting of the sheep.

The course

  • Ideally, the setting out post should be a minimum of 50 yds. from the top boundary edge.
  • The fetch gates should be 7 yds. apart and be approx 2/3 (two thirds) of the way down from the point of lift.
  • There should be approx 30 yds between the handler’s post and the judge’s car or the fence whichever is the nearer.
  • Ensure that both the handler and the judge can see the dog at the point of lift.
  • On an undulating field, ensure that the sheep can be seen at the gates by the handler and the judge
  • The drives should be situated while taking into account where the draw/pressure is ( it may be from the exhaust pen, a familiar gate or an opening)
  • If the sheep are very difficult then avoid unnecessary obstacles such as a pull through on the drive or cross drive
  • The pen, if not used as the starting post, should be positioned so as not to hamper the line of the drive or the dog in achieving that line.
  • The pen should ideally be situated to enable the dog to be on the side of the pressure.
  • As there is rarely a course director at local trials it may be advisable to place a diagram of the course where all the competitors can see it, this can avoid unnecessary mistakes in the understanding of the course.


  • The judge can be situated either in a trailer or in a vehicle on a line with the fetch.
  • The majority of Judges put their day’s work in for no fee so some light refreshments are usually welcome.
  • To save time the toilet should not be too far away for the judge.

The time keeper

  • The time keeper should ideally be in a separate vehicle to the judge although the judge must be able to hear when time is called.
  • Ensure that a stop watch is available. Kitchen timers with a seconds count down are ideal as the alarm goes off when time is up.


  • Toilets are a must for both Ladies and Gents. Consider having two, one for each sex and to add the relevant sign to each one.

Running board

  • A board with the list of runners eases the problem of calling each competitor before they are due to run. It also prevents confusion and the need for a PA system.