THE SWEDISH HERDING APTITUDE ASSESSMENT test, adopted by us in the absence of a UK equivalent, follows the guidelines given below. Each of the four sections are graded from 0 - 5. To be awarded a Certificate a dog must achieve at least the score of 3 in each of the first three sections.
These Tests have been developed by Calle Borgstom to assess the herding aptitude of an untrained dog over a period of approximately fifteen minutes. During this period its natural behaviour and reactions to the stock will be observed. Verbal commands are not used as such (since the dog does not know any and may well find them confusing and/or distracting!) though cautious dogs may need a little encouragement in the form of quiet praise.
This is judged from the beginning, when the dog is outside the pen, on its attitude towards stock. The focus on the sheep is what is judged, not its technique or speed. Dogs that despite encouragement do not show any interest whatsoever should receive a 0, quit & be recommended for a re-test. Dogs that never take their eyes off the sheep (before, during & after the test) are judged with a 5.
This is tested by the assessor positioning him/herself to turn the dog, walking in figure of eights, turns straight through the flock etc, to see how the dog balances & reacts to the stock's movements & other unspoken signals. The dog is not required to bring the sheep to the handler - it is the natural ability to 'control' the sheep that is tested. A dog that doesn't appear to have any control at all gets 0 & the one who calmly & collectedly has full control the whole time gets 5.
This is just that - does the dog manage the entire test without showing any signs of getting tired or does it wear out quickly? A dog that lasts the whole test without any tendencies to quit should get at least 3. A dog that works the whole time & is NOT completely worn out after fifteen minutes must be regarded as exceptionally durable & should be given 5.
This is tested with eg 'stop' or 'down' command, or a recall, to stop working for an instant & then continue. Other examples can be the dog's reaction to the tester's attempts to turn it or increase its distance from the sheep by positioning or blocking it. A turnable dog with a high interest score that manages (albeit reluctantly) to leave the stock on command cannot get a score lower than 3. This score isn't counted in the average score since the scale goes from 0 (extremely hard) to 5 (extremely affected by steering). A 4 applies to a dog that's pretty sensitive to commands but not enough to hamper the work, & 1 is a dog thats hard but steerable. Which of those two dogs is the better herding dog is mostly up to the handler's personal preferences.
A Certificate is awarded to the dog that scores between 3 & 5 on all points except biddability, where the score is intended as a guideline for the handler. Dogs that score 0 or 5 on biddability should not be awarded a Certificate however, since they are likely to become very difficult to train.
Reasons to break off the Assessment should only be - complete disinterest or purposefully nasty bites. Wool yanking & well grounded correctional bites (on the nose & only on the nose) should be corrected if need be but should not be grounds for failing.
(Thanks to Calle Borgstrom for permission to reproduce his guidelines.)