Shelties are one of the most intelligent dog breeds. This intelligence makes them prime candidates for showing and other competitions. Two of the types of competitions to which shelties are well suited are obedience and herding competitions.
Obedience competitions measure how well dogs perform the commands as directed by their handlers. The dogs are measured on activities such as heeling, sitting and lying down. Obedience competitions are conducted at several levels.
Dogs begin at the novice level, where they must demonstrate only the most basic commands. The second level, called open, is more difficult, with tasks like heeling off leash, performing figure eights off leash, retrieving, jumping and longer periods of sitting and lying down required.
Finally, as dogs have more training and develop more skill, they move on to the utility competition, the most difficult level. In utility competition dogs must respond to hand signals for basic commands such as "sit", "lie down", "come", and "stand". At this level of competition, voice signals are not used for basic commands. Dogs must also perform scent discrimination tasks, where the dog will be directed to find their handler's scent among a pile of articles. They will also be required to retrieve and return an item to the handler after being directed to do so only by hand signals.
Herding competitions are designed for herding dog breeds, such as the Sheltie, Collie, Border Collie and Sheepdog. These competitions are sometimes referred to as "sheepdog trials". In herding competitions the dogs must move sheep around a field, fences, gates, or enclosures as directed by their handlers. Some farmers use these competitions to teach their dogs proper herding techniques for use on the farm, while other dogs competing are just doing so as a hobby. Herding competitions are gaining popularity in the United States and are sometimes included as part of agility competitions for herding breeds. These competitions have been very popular for many years in hill farming areas, where dogs are still widely used for herding. They are particularly popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
If you'd like to begin competing with your sheltie, you should begin by taking some classes. Basic obedience classes are important for all dogs, whether they'll be competing or not, since they teach good manners and ensure that your dog is well behaved at all times. However, obedience skills will go a long way to helping your dog compete, whether it's in obedience or herding competition. Before you begin herding competitions, you may want to have your dog enrolled in some herding classes, or you may want to buy a book or set of DVDs to help you learn to teach your dog the basic herding commands. However, when it comes to herding, practice with real farm animals is important in order to truly master the herding skills.