There will be 240 competitors with 450 dogs taking part in the North Island and New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Championships next week at Te Ahuahu mountain just north of Ohaeawai.
The championships start on Monday and will continue throughout the week. Competitors from all areas of New Zealand will be showing their dogs' skills in working the sheep in a competitive way. All dogs had to have qualifying points to enter, with those points achieved at club trials held throughout the country.
There will be four courses working simultaneously at Te Ahuahu, one being the Long Head and Pull which is about 700m in length and tests the heading ability of dogs It will be expected that a dog should head the hill and have contact on the three sheep in under two minutes. The dog then needs to carefully gather the sheep and bring them back down to the starting point in a positive controlled manner.
The other heading dog event is a on a shorter course which is very steep. After heading and bringing the sheep to the bottom of the hill the dog has to keep control and drive the sheep along the flat, through a set of hurdles then on to a pen which is two metres by two metres. Not an easy task to achieve, but it is great viewing watching a clever dog complete.
Huntaway dogs compete in two events. The first is a Zig Zag course where the dog is asked to hunt three sheep in a controlled manner up the centre of the marked course's three sets of pegs. If the dog is too aggressive and tries to hunt too fast the sheep will split up and bolt downhill and the run will be all over.
The other hunt course is the Straight hunt and, as the name suggests, the dog's job is to take the three sheep as directly as possible from the start to the marker pegs on top of the course.
It is fascinating watching a huntaway barking and moving the sheep through these courses. Make one mistake and it's "all over Rover".
Northland will have strong representation and be competitive with around 30 dogs having a go.
Among the entries will be a number of women with their dogs, including the three women who placed in the Zig Zag hunt during the South Island champs just finished.
Jo Waugh from Matawai near Gisborne will be still on a high after winning that event. She is the first woman to win a North or South Island championship event in over 100 years.
The other placegetters, Steph Tweed and Rebecca Baynes, each have three dogs entered at Te Ahuahu and will be competitive again.