SWEDISH WORKING COLLIES,
roughs and smooths
The Swedish Working Dog Trial System
In Sweden the collie belongs to the group of Working Dogs. This means that no collie can become a Show Champion here without having demonstrated that it is also trainable and capable of working (or have managed in a rather demanding temperament test).
We have four main groups of working dog trials, apart from sheepherding (which is not very common in Sweden as we do not have many big sheep farms here). Participants in herding dog trials are usually border collies why I am not writing about these trials here.
Our most common working dog trials are organised in four different groups, with different "special tasks":
The smooth collie in these pictures is photographed during her obedience performance at a working dog trial. (A tracking dog trial in the lower class. More information follows below. )
Trainer: Kerstin Berminge, smooth collie: Gemdales All of Me (Jazza).
1) MAN WORK:
(Usually German Shepherds, nowadays also Malinois). This is not a task suitable for collies, so we do not see any collies at man work trials. A few have competed there though, but it was many years ago.
2) MESSENGER WORK:
In short and very simplified, the messenger dogs are trained to run several times, with messages, from one "station" to another, and to find their way back to the stations after that these have been moved. Several collies have demonstrated their ability to work as messenger dogs in the trials for these dogs. I have no pictures from this kind of work though, as I myself, have never trained my collies as messenger dogs.
Correctly trained and lively collies ofen work very well as tracking dogs. Several collies have earned their Working Dog Championships in tracking trials.
Above, two collies, one smooth and one rough, tracking eagerly.
4) SEARCH and RESCUING:
We use to distinguish between two types of search-and resque dogs. We can call one group "search-and rescue dogs " and the other "search dogs". The former is trained to search and find people burried under collapsed houses, after catastrophies, such as earth quakes for example, while the "search dog" is searching people who have got lost in the forest. Sweden is heavily forested, so it happens, every now and then, that people can not find their ways back. If it is cold outside, this can be life threatening, particularly for children.
Both these different search tasks have been very well performed at trials by collies.
In the pictures to the right we can see two collies being trained as search-dogs, the first as a search and resque-dog, the second as a search-dog.
FOUR TRIAL LEVELS
Every group in the common four-group system, has four levels. The dog starts at level one (appellklass) and if it reaches a certain amount of points here, it can start on the next level, lower class, next time. From there it continues to the "higher class" and then up to the "elite class" level. On this level, the dogs are competing for the Working Dog Certificates. When a dog has achieved three of these certifiactes, it is awarded a Working Dog Championship (S Bch), provided it has also been judged to be a good specimen at a Dog Show. In order to get their Show Championships, the utility dog breeds, on the other hand, have to have points enough to be allowed to compete on the third utility dog competition level ("higher class"), at least. So, our system tries to demand both typical and good exterior and working capacities from the dogs in the Working Dog Group. Concerning the Collie, I believe this is unique for a few of the Scandinavian Countries (not all of them have these rules though).
Many collies are very good search and resque dogs, in both groups. In the forest-search group we have had one collie winning both the Swedish and the Nordic Championship, where all working dog breeds compete, as they do in all these trials of course. (In principle these trials are open for all breeds but we usually see the working dog breeds competing here. Some of the dogs belonging to the hunting dog group, such as the retrievers, have been very sucessful in tracking, messenger and in search
Photo from Kerstin Widmark. Trainer Kerstin Widmark.
This collie is trained asto search people in catastrophy areas. This dog belongs to a special group, and to another trial system than the system described here.
Most collie trainers compete according to the here described system, and train their dogs to search in the forests, as the pictures below demonstrate.
In the first of these two photos of a rough, the collie is sent out to search, in the second he returns, telling his master/trainer that he has found the person. The trainer then, will follow the dog out to the hidden person. Some trainers though, train their dogs to stay at the found person and bark, in this way leading the trainer to the found person.
Sad to say, most rough collies in Sweden are not worked with, and too many of them lack the will to work and the energy demanded for these tasks. In some strings though, we find eager workers which have done well in our working dog trials.