One of Celeste Lacroix's sheepdogs.

Dogs, ducks and sheep – oh, my!

Sanctioned sheepdog competition herds sheep, ducks at Victoria Highland Games

Dogs will herd ducks this weekend at the Highland Games and Celtic Festival.

Duck herding is just a small portion of the demonstrations at this weekend’s event.

“The judge brings in ducks and little gates and a little obstacle course,” explained Celeste Lacroix of Central Saanich, who organizes the sheepdog trials. “At the end we have this little swimming pool so the ducks get herded up and off this ramp into the little swimming pool.”

The duck herding is slated for 11:30 a.m. in the lower field at Topaz Park in Victoria. Sheepdog herding trials begin at 10 a.m. Saturday (demonstrations at 9:30).

Two dozen pups will compete in two divisions – pro-novice for relative newbies, and open for the more experienced handlers.

“This is the fifth year,” Lacroix said, who up until this year has competed in the trials. “This is the first year that it is sanctioned by the B.C. Stock Dog Association … we compete for provincial scores.”

The arena trials held at Topaz Park include obstacles that the handler and a dog need to move the sheep through and into a pen. Those obstacles can include panels, a trailer to load them into or moving them through the complex Maltese cross.

“This is particularly difficult competition for handlers because of the proximity to the highway,” Lacroix said. “You intermittently hear traffic which can affect how your dog can hear you. Also you can hear bagpipes practising in the background.”

Handlers often compete with more than one dog, but each dog runs only once during the day.

“They’ll probably be between six and eight minutes for each run,” Lacroix said. “Typically a handler will have two or three dogs that they compete with.”

A good plan, bearing in mind the investment made in dogs and travel from places like Washington, Vernon and Chilliwack.

“We start training our dogs when they’re about a year old … [and] start trialling around two years old,” Lacroix said. A dog stops after a decade. She’s on her fourth dog. “It’s very time consuming.”

 

Shear entertainment

Also hit the sheep shearing demonstration for a little Peninsula flair. Our own sheep shearing diva Lorea Tomsin will put on three demos Saturday. “She’s been shearing sheep for probably 30 years and she’s tons of fun. She’s very entertaining and she gets the kids involved,” said Lacroix.

 

Get your Highland on

The 149th VIctoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival runs May 19 and 20 at Topaz Park in Victoria. Admission ranges from $8 to $12. Children under 12 are free. Learn more online at victoriahighlandgames.com.

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