Herding is not a skill that can be taught to any dog, but rather requires the handler to direct the dog's natural instinct to move the flock as desired. The American Belgian Tervuren Club has encouraged the preservation of this natural instinct as an important part of maintaining the whole nature of a Belgian Tervuren -- not just its appearance.
This instinct may be displayed even by puppies barely old enough to walk.
Herding tests and trials are sponsored by the American Kennel Club, as well as the North American Stock Dog Association, American Herding Breeds Association, and the Australian Shepherd Club of America (whose trials are open to all herding breeds). The ABTC's annual National Specialty Show usually includes AKC-sanctioned herding tests and trials, and some regional Tervuren clubs also conduct clinics, workshops, and sanctioned tests and trials. The ABTC awards a Herding Instinct Certificate (HIC) for untrained and inexperienced Tervs that display an instinctive herding ability. Check the ABTC Activities page for current details.
Herding Tests are beginning-level performance events that are judged as pass or fail. The AKC titles offered are:
- Herding Tested (HT) for passing two entry-level tests, and
- Pre Trial (PT) for passing two more difficult tests.
Herding trial titles are awarded by the AKC upon earning qualifying scores in three trials. Three levels of difficulty may be offered at a herding trial -- started, intermediate, and advanced. A trial may present one or more of three different course configurations -- A, B, or C; and use three species of stock -- sheep, ducks, or cattle.
The levels of difficulty, and titles for achievement through the end of 2000, consisted of:
- Herding Started (HS)
- Herding Intermediate (HI)
- Herding Advanced (HX)
Starting at the end of 2000, herding titles were expanded to specify the course (A, B or C), and the stock (s, d, or c). Thus, a dog theoretically could earn up to 27 herding trial titles from the combinations of difficulty, course, and stock. In practice, some combinations are not offered. The "Course A" configuration with sheep is an all-around farm course most often selected for Tervs. A Herding Started title for the A Course with sheep is "HSAs."
Upon accumulation of 15 points from placings in the Advanced class at Herding Trials, a dog is awarded the title "Herding Champion" (HC). See the ABTC perpetual list of HC Tervs. If the dog also earns conformation Champion of Record, he or she is designated "Dual Champion" (DC). See the ABTC perpetual list of DC Tervs.
Although the sheep industry is relatively small, dogs still assist many commercial shepherds. The Belgian Tervuren not only will herd the flock, but also will protect against such common predators as coyotes. In this respect they differ from some other popular herding breeds, such as the Border Collie, that only herd; as well as some protection breeds, such as the Komondor, that only will guard the flock.
Getting started does not require ready access to sheep. Training and trials also can be conducted in small areas using ducks. For more information, visit the AKC's "Getting Started in Herding" web page, or a web resource page such as Herding on the Web.