What It Takes To Herd Sheep

“Come by!” “Lie down!” “That’ll do!” are some of the phrases you’ll hear during a stock dog trial.

Competing dogs are primarily border collies. They start training at around nine months and are ready to compete at around age two or three. It’s not just the dog that needs training, but also the handler. John Wentz raises 420 sheep in Portage to train dogs and their handlers for the sport.

He says patience is the main ingredient to train a dog.

At home, Wentz also engages in the lamb meat and wool markets. Otherwise, 400 of his 420-head are traveling Wisconsin to be used in competitions or agritourism.

Wentz is also in charge of putting on the stock dog trials at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, and has been for 19 years. He’s pleased with the turnout of competitors. He notes the numbers have exploded, and it’s mostly older folks, likely due to the time and money commitment.

Connie Brannen of Kentucky travels all over the U.S. to compete in stock dog trials. She brought four of her border collies to Wisconsin, and she came off of a good run at this year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. It takes time and patience to develop a relationship with your stock dog and train them to compete, she explains.