This past weekend was the Caledonian Games in Athena, Oregon. Athena is just across the border from Walla Walla, and about a 20-minute drive. Though it's a small town, it comes alive for this event every year. You can read about our experience last year on this post. Among other things, they have the sheep dog trials. This is probably one of my favourite events, though most of the weekend is a lot of fun. There is a trailer full of sheep that none of the participating dogs know. For each dog, four random sheep are let out of the trailer for the run, and the dog then follows orders from its trainer/owner to complete the required tasks. The owners use a series of whistles and calls to tell the dog what to do. The human doesn't move from his/her spot at the end of the field - they just watch their dog and whistle/call out commands.
There are three parts to these competitions. First, the dog must herd the sheep through a "gate" made with portable railings in the middle of the field. Then, he must guide them through a specified course (made up of a couple more portable railings), and finally, he must herd the four sheep into a portable pen on the field, while the owner comes behind to close the gate. This completed, the dog is finished. It is incredibly fascinating to watch, because these dogs are VERY good at what they do.