Man's best friend competing for top prize

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Dogs and their trainers compete to be an Agfest Sheep Dog Champion

Speed, agility and precision are the qualities that Agfest judges look for in the Agfest sheepdog trials. 

More than 60 dogs will compete with the top six dogs competing for the title of “Agfest Open Sheep Dog Champion” on Saturday. 

Malcolm Taylor has been a sheep dog trainer for most of his life and said he loves every aspect of the sport. 

"You have to get a dog that's reasonably soft to try and keep the sheep calm so the dog can work them," he said. "You have to keep them quiet in order to chase them around." 

"The name of the game is to settle your sheep down before you try to do anything with them and then try to work them around the course”.

He credits most of the hard work to the dogs and says the best breed for this sport are border collies, with the occasional kelpie also competing.

Mr Taylor, who has represented Australia 11 times in World Championships, said he is always learning about the sport and the animals. 

 He said that the dogs do most of the work and it's amazing to see them in action.

 “The dogs know a lot more about the job than we do. We are only there to direct them a bit. He will read the sheep a lot better than us”. 

“You never stop training a sheep dog until he is finished with competing. They are three-years-old before they really hit their peak. Between three and five they are at their best. And then from five to eight they are still pretty good, then they go off at eight."

Malcolm says there is more to sheep dog competitions than just the event and that the friends you make and the people you met are a great bonus.

The sheep dog trials are at the Eastern End of Main Street, behind Eleventh Avenue.