September 15th, 2023Dogs’day out at Dean Recreation Reserve
Words: Eve Lamb. Image: Supplied.
For champion sheepdog trainer John Tuddenham, training winning woofers is a bit like educating smart children.
“You don’t give them too much too early. You’ve got to let ‘em grow up a little,” says the renowned local sheepdog trainer.
John, from Ross Creek, is among the many sheepdog trainers who’ll be heading to compete at the upcoming annual Dean and District Sheepdog trials set for Sunday October 8.
“It’s a bit like teaching a young child,” says John whose dogs have come away with the silverware at many top competitions in Victoria and interstate.
“You’ve got to form a bond with the dog.”
John trains border collies, and at next month’s famed Dean trials it tends to mainly be the collie breed that competes.
Conducted under the rules of the Victorian Working Sheepdog Association, the annual trials have become a real favourite in the diaries of many of the state’s top trainers and draws many of the very best dogs from across Victoria.
They take place at the Dean Recreation Reserve and date back to 2013, says Recreation Reserve president Brian Maher who is keenly anticipating the day’s competition.
“The dogs work three sheep at a time and we’ll have up to 40 dogs competing for the day. Each dog gets 15 minutes,” he says.
“We get competitors from all over the state and in the past we’ve had entries from Tasmania and from South Australia.”
The trials missed a couple of years during the pandemic lockdowns but have since made a very successful comeback.
Funds raised through entry donations at the gate, many raffle prize draws that are held, and onsite refreshment sales all go to support important local causes and charities.
Brian says that this year funds raised will be benefiting Creswick Anglicare.
The day offers a great chance for people who have never watched sheep dog trials before to learn a lot.
Brian says he particularly likes to introduce newbies, first-time visitors, to a trainer so they can ask questions and learn about how point-scoring works during competition.
With some loyal sponsors backing them, the trials offer some great prizes and trophies for the winners and the event has become renowned for its country hospitality and good ol’ fashioned vibe.
Homemade baked goodies and refreshments on site are all part of the atmosphere, as is the vintage engine display.
And, just quietly, those who get along can also expect to be treated to a bit of live country bush verse as well.
By way of demonstration, while chatting to The Local about the upcoming trials, Brian recited the lyrics to a favourite Slim Dusty number – word for word.
“I call this event the Old Sniff Classic,” he says. “That’s a name I came up with ten years ago. It’s the name of a Slim Dusty song,” continues Brian, reeling off a few verses, a process which serves as useful practice before hitting the crowd with a bit more of the same over the trials PA system on the day.
“We are a small committee but we are very proactive,” says Brian, who is clearly a man who enjoys his work
Brian likes to be present on the day, to personally circulate and make new visitors and competitors feel welcome. But he is quick to credit veteran trainer and competitor John Tuddenham with being “instrumental” in getting the event off the ground from the outset.
“It’s a great event,” says John, himself. “And what Brian does is unbelievable in running it. The competitors just love it because of the atmosphere. It’s a very friendly event.” John and his dogs have been competing at the Dean and District Trials ever since they first took place, and this year he’s bringing Tintagel Peta and Mia – both border collies – to take on the competition.
John and Tintagel Peta were overall winners at last year’s trials so many will be watching them particularly closely this time ‘round.
“It takes you probably 12 months to train a dog to be able to do competition,” says the master trainer.
John has also bred winning working dogs at his Ross Creek property in the past, and has competed with dogs he has trained all over Victoria
and interstate, representing Victoria four times in the Australian Supreme Sheepdog Trials.
He is a life member of the Victorian Working Sheep Dog Association and has also judged the Australian Supreme Sheep Dog Trials on five occasions.
John and his wife Mary are also busy getting ready to host a sheepdog training school at their property, Belmonte over October 21-22.
“I’ve got nothing against kelpies at all,” says John. “But border collies are a little bit more steady and tend to get on with working just three sheep a little bit better because they are so calm.”
In the past the Dean and District Sheepdog Trials have benefited a wide range of local charities ranging from the local fire brigade to Shannon’s Bridge which helps terminally ill people to pass over peacefully in their own homes.
Brian says that when people donate $5 to get in the gate at next month’s trials, they’ll receive three raffle tickets into the bargain, with some great raffle prizes to be won.
The trials happen at Dean Recreation Reserve on the Daylesford – Ballarat Road, Sunday, October 8 from 7 am.