© Author Jane Rothert
1st Published in September 2000 Malinois Performer
The AKC B course is an open field course, no fences, or none that are close to where the dog and the sheep are supposed to be. The fencing, if there, should be far enough away so as not to affect the progress of the stock through the course. Sheep, ducks or cattle may be used in the B course, but you most often see sheep being used. Courses where ducks are the stock being used are considerably smaller than the course used for cattle or sheep. Each level has different distances required, but the minimum outrun distance for ducks is 60 feet with a maximum of 150 feet. For sheep and cattle the minimum outrun distance is 120 feet with a maximum of 1200 feet.
Course B consists of an outrun, lift and fetch to the handler who is waiting at the handler's post. The course is then laid out in a triangular pattern with the handler's post being the apex of the triangle and the two gates defining the bottom part. The triangle should be an equilateral triangle with each angle about 60o. The bottom of the triangle is the drive course line that the stock must take between the two gates. The first gate must be at a 90o angle from this line so that as soon as the dog takes the stock through the gate he must turn the stock 90o to the 2nd gate. The second gate is at an angle of 15o from the drive course line so that the handler can see the opening of the gate from the handler's post. Behind the handler's post or slightly off to the side will be a pen with a shedding ring close by.
At the started level, once the dog has brought the stock and around the handler's post, the handler may leave the post and go with the dog and the stock through gate #1 and gate #2 to the pen. The gate of the pen has a rope attached to it which the handler must hold on to until he/she closes the pen. The handler can move anywhere within the radius of the rope in order to assist the dog in getting the stock into the pen, but the handler can not enter the pen nor touch the stock. Once the stock are penned, the handler can go into the pen to remove the stock or send the dog. With the stock out of the pen, the dog must take them to the shedding ring where he must hold the stock to the handler until the judge declares a "hold" and the run is ended.
The intermediate level does not have a cross drive through gate #2. The stock is driven from the handler's post through gate #1 with the handler remaining at the handler's post. Once the stock have exited gate #1, the dog turns the stock and takes the stock directly to the pen. If the stock do not all go through gate #1 the first time, there are no retries. The pen and the hold in the shedding ring are identical to the started level pen and hold.
In advanced the handler remains at the handler's post until the stock have cleared gate #2. The dog drives the stock around the handler's post, through gate #1, and across and through gate #2. The handler may leave the handler's post as soon as the last head of stock has passed through gate #2 and go to the pen to assist the dog. The same rules apply for penning with an advanced dog as when penning with a started dog.
Once the stock are penned and released, the dog must take the stock to the shedding ring where, with the handler's help, the dog must separate one or two head of stock from the rest of the group The dog must then keep the separated stock from rejoining his mates until the judge says "that's a shed!". Once the shed is complete, the run is over.
For started and intermediate, 10 minutes are allowed for completing the entire course. In advanced you are given 12 minutes as setting up for the shed can sometimes take a while.
The B course is the only course that has a shed. An ideal shed would be the dog stringing the stock out in a line perpendicular to the handler. If this is 3 head of stock or 300 head, the principle is the same. Draw the stock out into a thin line so that you can sort out the stock you need. Once the stock are drawn out, the handler will tell the dog, often with a command of "here" or "come through" or "through", where the handler wants the dog to split the group. As the dog comes through the gap in the stock that the dog has created, the handler tells the dog to turn and hold part of the group separate from the main group. It is not easy to hold one sheep or cow away from its friends and to do this right the dog must be able to work that one head so that it can not rejoin the group. A shed is not always one head but is always a number smaller than the number left behind in the main group.
When, I can hear you asking, would you use a shed? That's easy. When you only want to work with part of the total number of stock you have! Yes, you can have the dog push the stock up to the gate, crack the gate open, let however many you want come through and then slam the gate on the rest of the stock. This works, usually. More often than not I've seen too many stock come through the gate and the same procedure is repeated going the opposite direction. I have seen a shed used successfully, though, and it was pure poetry in motion. A flock of about 30 sheep were brought up to the handler. The dog was asked to string the sheep out and then brought to one end where he was called through to separate off 3 head of sheep. As soon as the sheep were split off, the dog was told to watch. Immediately the other 27 or so sheep took off back down the field. The dog continued to hold the 3 sheep and eventually brought them over to the gate where they were needed. It was done so smoothly, so calmly that you weren't aware that the dog had just done all this work! The handler just stood there, no fidgeting, no fussing, no diving in to show the dog where to come through, no using the body to make the first separation for the dog to come through, just the dog, the sheep and the shed!
Next time you watch the movie, "Babe", you can see his shed of the sheep at the end of the movie. Of course most sheep in real life aren't buckled together by their collars, but the idea is the same. It is smooth and beautiful and is a big part of AKC Course B, advanced level herding!