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Rosvold and Bell win CWA stock dog trials

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Steven Rosvold and his border collie Bell of Ethelbert recently won the International Stock Dog Championship at the Canadian Western Agribition (CWA) in Regina.
The pair are two-time CWA winners, having won the same event in 2015. And this year, Bell took the competition a minute faster than her closest competitor, with a time of two minutes and 35 seconds.
A stock dog trial is a timed obstacle course, Rosvold explained, where every animal put through the course adds points and the time ends when the course is completed.
“At Agribition (CWA), you had four minutes max to get the whole course done, so things go pretty fast,” he said, adding Bell also won a National Catalogue Championships in Denver, Col., in 2015.
Pleased with the win, Rosvold has been doing dog trials regularly, for the last six or seven years.
Bell was pregnant at the time she won CWA, he noted, and was on rest leave, going up to it.
“She’s like us, she feels that’s kind of a fun thing to do for her,” Rosvold said, noting Bell is one of his well-trained dogs and he expected her to do well.
“So she went there, did that, now she’s home laying in the porch right now with a belly full of babies due any day.”
Stock dogs are excited to compete in trials, he said, adding they will lay down, as told, but their bodies quiver and twitch, as the adrenaline gets going.
“They know what’s going on. They’re focused and they’re bred to do it. You go to these trials and where you see all the dogs, they’re all laying there, ready to go do something. They respond to the crowds,” he said, particularly when young dogs first start competing.
“Everything, the noise, the commotion, hearing other people whistling to their dogs, that really gets them worked up, just because they think it should be them and they’re tied to the truck, trying to figure out why they can’t get to work. The old dogs, they get so used to it, they don’t worry about it. And then when you’re actually competing, even the green dogs, when they see stock, that’s all they’re focused on.”
Rosvold uses whistles and voice commands, avoiding hand signals, to ensure his dog is always watching the stock, not him.
“If he’s looking at you, then he’s not focusing on what he should be doing in my opinion. So, my dogs, they never take their eyes off of the stock. They’re always ready to work and they can hear me and that’s enough for me.”
With a lot of experience handling stock dogs, Rosvold has used them on his ranch for the past 12 years.
Utilizing stock dogs for mustering and driving livestock is becoming more common, he said, but it depends on the area.
“I travel all over the states and see a lot more of them on big ranches and big sheep operations,” he said, adding his dogs mainly work with cows. Sheep herding is for fun.
Rosvold estimated about 90 per cent of the people that own stock dogs in the area work them, as a good dog will replace two or three people.
“I'll send my dogs out a thousand yards and they’ll bring all my cows back. So for me doing a lot by myself, it just saves me the work,” he said, adding he prefers to work with border collies, as they are smart and versatile, though heelers, Australian shepherds and kelpies are also often used for stock.
Stock dog trials can keep a competitor busy, Rosvold said, estimating there are a couple of trials every weekend, between Canada and the United States, if a person was willing to travel.
“It’s kind of like a community, it’s like the rodeo circuit. A lot of the same people go to these trials,” he said, noting audiences at the bigger trials, such as CWA can be as large as 1,000 people and smaller trials may be at a farmyard with a few people watching.
In Canada, he said, the big trials are CWA and at the Calgary Stampede, with 42 dogs running in CWA and about 60 dogs competing in Calgary. Winning at CWA not only puts some cash in Rosvold’s pocket, it promotes his dogs, their bloodlines and his training.
He custom trains dogs for customers and can have up to nine working dogs on the ranch, plus he does private lessons and up to six clinics a year in North America, teaching people and their dogs together.
“Lots of people that own stock have an idea how to work stock. The biggest thing is they don’t know how to get their dog to do what they want it to do and to understand why the dog is doing what it’s doing,” Rosvold explained, noting both the dog and rancher have to learn, but it is easier when the dog knows what to do first.
Rosvold first learned how to train dogs by reading a few books and while working at feedlots in Alberta, he met a fellow that became his mentor.
“We used them in the feedlots, so I got a better dog that I could use at work with me all day and that’s how that started,” he said.
Rosvold grew up on a cow ranch in southern Saskatchewan and has always been around dogs.
“We’d go to Agribition (CWA) as a kid and sit there and watch that trial for years. And now to go there and compete against the people that I watched and to actually do well, it means a lot,” he said adding CWA was a hometown trial for him.
“Out of all of them, that one usually means the most to me anyways, because that’s the only trial my parents and my family get to go to.”
With Bell on maternity leave, Rosvold is currently working with her daughter Fran, another female and two male dogs in the start of training.
Bell is due any day, he noted and with her success at CWA, Rosvold has a waiting list for her puppies.
“This whole litter will be sold now before they are born. And that’s why we trial, to get it out there. She’s done so well and been successful and it helps to sell her puppies and genetics,” he added.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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