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Herd about this?

Jean New is organizing the Park County Fair Stock Dog Trials July 13. In the competition dogs like Chance (in the photo) will have the opportunity to demonstrate their skill herding sheep. Jean New is organizing the Park County Fair Stock Dog Trials July 13. In the competition dogs like Chance (in the photo) will have the opportunity to demonstrate their skill herding sheep. Tribune photos by Gib Mathers

Do you own the smartest sheep dog around?

It could be a trial, but dog and master might want to test their herding skills at the Park County Fair Stock Dog Trials July 13.

It is a chance to see how a working dog fares in sheep herding competition at the fairground’s South Horse Arena. The deadline to sign up is July 1.

Dog trials are one of the events at the annual Cowboy Carnival in Hyattville that draw a sizable crowd, said Powell trial organizer Jean New of Powell.

“They hold them (trials) all over the United States, really,” New said. “I thought it would be neat to have one with the fair this year.”

The Park County Fair runs July 23-27.

In the Powell competition, dogs are allowed eight minutes to herd three sheep across a bridge, drive them into a catch pen and onto a trailer. The dog handler’s role is limited; the dog is required to do most of the work, New said.

Dogs will place separately in open and ranch classes. Open class consists of dogs that have competed in herding competitions before. Ranch class are, well, ranch dogs handy at herding stock, but with no competition experience under their collars.

The entry fee is $40. Of that:

• $15 from each entry fee will be earmarked for first- and second-place winners. 

• Another $15 goes to Clay Dietz of Powell for hauling his sheep to the fairgrounds and using them for the trials.

• Park County Fair gets the remaining $10 of each entry fee for providing the facility.

First- and second -place also win 50 pounds of donated dog food each. Third- and fourth-place wins 10 pounds of dog food each, plus their choice of a donated dog collar or leash, she said.

So far, owners have signed up 10 open class dogs and five ranch dogs. New said she would like to have 10 to 12 open and five to six ranch class dogs in the contest.

The late Chauncey McMillan taught New how to work with dogs, she said. Hyattville’s dog trials are in honor of McMillan.

Jean and Giles New run 64 sheep southeast of Powell with a little help from two canine friends.

Stock dogs seem to have an instinct for herding and knowing what the wishes of their human partners are in the field. They don’t want to lay around the house either.

“They’re born workers,” Jean New said.

In the field, her border collie, Chance, works sheep swiftly and efficiently. New voices commands to turn the sheep this way or that. Like a black-and-white streak, Chance circles the herd.

No barks are heard; the dog just uses gentle maneuvers to guide the sheep in the direction he wants them to go. The flock remain calm as though the dog is a kindly sentinel with a firm hand. Chance’s tongue lolls happily as the sheep’s little hooves make soft rustling sounds in the grass beneath an electric blue sky.

Master is happy and perhaps a bit proud of her dog’s performance.

“You did good,” New said to Chance.

New encourages folks to come with their children to watch the canine contest. “Spectators are welcome,” she said.

“I have a border collie and my husband has a German short-haired (pointer),” she said.

They have a Jack Russell, too. “It runs the house,” New said.

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