Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find the rules for an ASCA trial?
The Australian Shepherd Club of America provides an annual Stockdog rule book. It is published both on-line (free) or print ($1.50 per copy from the ASCA business office). It is updated annually with June 1 being the date of the most recent rule book. Follow the link below to find the most recent rule book:
Are only Australian Shepherds welcome at the ASCA trials?
No, all working breeds are welcome as long as they have some basic training and control. A dog does not have to be registered with any organization in order to compete, though knowledge of the heritage is a good idea. A cross bred dog of herding origin is allowed to compete. In order to earn a title, a dog other than an ASCA registered Australian Shepherd must have a tracking number, but any working breed is welcome to compete with or without the tracking number.
What breeds are approved working dogs by ASCA?
A list of all recognized working breeds is found in Appendix 5 of the ASCA Stockdog rule book.
I want an Aussie but where do I find one?
Contact your local clubs and trainers. Contact the ASCA business office in Bryan, TX (6091 E State Hwy 21, Bryan TX 77808 / (979) 778-1082 / https://www.asca.org/). Evaluate what you intend to do with the dog. If you are planning on competing in the ASCA Stockdog program, finding a working kennel is important. If this is your first foray into working an Aussie, sometimes a less intense dog is easier and will be more successful. As you progress and learn to love this activity, you may want to move toward a more intense dog, though that will depend on your personality and what you are comfortable with. Remember, the more intense the dog, the more important it will be to find a job for this dog. The hard-driving working dogs generally do not do well living in a small apartment with nothing to entertain their mind. The most important factor is finding the dog that fits your personality.
How do I get a tracking number and why should I have one?
Having a tracking number is not necessary to enter a trial, but it is necessary if you intend to earn titles for your dog. Owners of many breeds enjoy the competition and atmosphere found at ASCA events and want to participate by earning a title so they may progress through the different divisions. Getting a tracking number is very simple and inexpensive. Getting the number is described in Section 2.2 of the ASCA rule book:
Can I come a watch an ASCA Stockdog Trial?
Yes, spectators are welcome and encouraged. If you have questions while attending, simply ask any of the contestants or people who are there, and they will gladly share their experience and knowledge with you. Attending an event as a spectator is an excellent way to see if you would enjoy returning as a competitor.
How do I find an ASCA Stockdog Trial?
The ASCA website (https://www.asca.org/) has a calendar of events for all states and countries. When you go to the ASCA website, you can choose the dates and states for which you are searching for a trial. Contact local clubs or trainers for recommendations. A list of clubs is also found on the ASCA website.
Are volunteers needed?
Yes! This is the best way to learn the ins and outs of an ASCA Stockdog trial. Spending time volunteering to set livestock, time for a Judge, tally scores, or any number of other tasks is the best way to become a part of what is happening. There is no better way to learn what is expected and what you need to do at an ASCA Stockdog trial than volunteering. Depending on the club, some volunteer positions are paid, but do not expect this from all clubs. Usually, the clubs are not making enough money to afford this.
What do I need to enter my first ASCA Stockdog Trial?
Yourself, your dog, and an understanding of the ASCA rules. Remember, herding livestock is nothing more than controlled prey drive, so having a solid “stop” or “down” and a good “call-off” is important. If things go awry, stopping everything is crucial. A working dog has a stronger prey drive than non-working dogs. This is found within breeds as well as between breeds. Do not be discouraged if you have a dog with a non-working lineage as many of these dogs are gems in the rough and become very successful with training.
How do I train my dog for an ASCA Stockdog Trial?
Read the rules so you know what is expected of you and your dog. Attend a trial to watch the performance of other dogs. Find a way to have access to livestock and find someone who can assist you in training your dog for a trial. Be patient. Developing an advanced, competitive dog takes time. Some breeds learn more quickly than others, but a year of training is good general rule of thumb. Of course, this depends on the frequency the dog is working livestock. The more the dog is around livestock, the more quickly they will learn.
Who can help me train my dog?
There are several trainers in Arizona, with several in the Phoenix area. Most people that are active in dog sports (Agility, Conformation, Obedience, etc.) will know of trainers and guide you to a reputable trainer. Ask around for the reputations of each and visit their facility. Not every trainer fits every person. Find the person who you feel the most comfortable with and your journey has begun.
What is involved in training my dog?
Patience. Training a top Stockdog does not happen overnight. Training is a process with the first sessions generally focused on helping you learn how to handle your dog and understand livestock. Remember, your dog has instincts that you do not and never will have. Yes, they know more than we do when it comes to livestock.
Most trainers will start you in a smaller round pen with sheep. You must have experienced training sheep who will not bolt at the sight of a dog. Usually, the dog is taught to bring you the sheep first by gently controlling the sheep. When this is completed successfully all of the time, the next steps begin.
Proper training results in a dog that wants to work with you but is still able to think on his own. A dog that can read the livestock but is listening to you as you ask them to complete a course. If you take too much control, the dog loses the desire to think on their own. If you do not take enough control, the dog works for himself, and you will find it very difficult to accomplish a course or chore.
Training should be fun and exciting for both you and your dog. Our dogs are our best friends, and they will do anything to please us, but they have no understanding of competition and why we are doing some of the things we are asking. Keep it fun, keep the training sessions short, and remember to positive when working your dog. Try to place yourself in their shoes; would you respond well to constant badgering and yelling without some positive incentive and reward?