The International Sheep Dog Trials are just around the corner – hosted back on the Scottish soil this year at Shandford, Brechin – where the four nations will battle it out for the coveted supreme overall title. The three-day event is set to take place from Friday, September 13, where the top 15 from each nation have qualified.

Having competed since 1955, Kilmarnock-based trialist, John Templeton knows the ins and outs of the trade, having qualified for the International no fewer than 39 times since. We managed to catch up with him and get his perspective of the sheepdog industry.

John has gained the national championship title four times and the international just once although he has been international runner up six times in his career.

And having attained the international title in 1972 with Cap and the very same year the doubles with Cap and Fleet, John is certainly a strong influencer on the industry.

This year John and his son, also John were both competing with new first-time young bitches at the National so unfortunately, failed to qualify, however, there will be many more opportunities.

With so much experience of the trade, John is nevertheless more than qualified to give a few tips.

“I never train my dogs as such, we just get them to do plenty of everyday work with long outruns,” said John who lives on the family’s 600-acre upland unit which is home to 100 dairy cows and 500 breeding sheep.

“ A dog needs to be fairly fit before any competition especially the International when they have to complete a half hour run, which can be quite tough on the dog especially if it is warm. So, working them well on the farm is great practice for the competitions.”

All trial practice and work starts at home for John and his dogs as the farm has also been host to an annual trial since 1981, which this year attracted a whopping 64 entries, so there is still a huge future for sheepdog trialling.

The international course is double the size of the national, with dogs having an 800-yard outrun before any of the tricky work shedding or penning. Add to that the top 15 qualifying from each nation and it’s not just about having good dogs. Patience and experience also play a big part.

“Everyone wants to trial good young dogs bred from a good breeding line, but it is just becoming so hard to get a good dog and the good ones are becoming so expensive,” said John.

Instead, John has always kept a good working bitch to breed from which he believes is the best way to produce future trial dogs. It’s a breeding policy which has certainly produced the goods too as he from 1948-1980 he was breeding trial winners from the same breeding line.

“To me breeding of the animal is key to the success of any dog, although the time spent with the dog and the handler affects performance as well but you can usually tell from a young age if they are going to do well.

Tips of the trade

Everyone runs their own ideas and every dog is different, so it is difficult to have such a set training.

“Team work makes the dream work after all, having the perfect combo between dog and handler is essential in any trial.”

The very first dog John had was Roy, which is the best dog he has ever bred and believed if he knew what he knows now, he would’ve gone a lot further. “He was a treat to handle and very good with my commands,” he picked up 23 open trials alone.

Competitions and trials are still popular however, there are fewer handlers, and it is becoming more difficult to encourage the younger generation into the trade.

There is nevertheless no doubting the lure of winning and especially when it comes to winning the big on at the International.

“The International Sheep Dog Trials is a great day out for all and always attracts a large number of spectators eager to take in a highly contested competition,” concluded John.