Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial will start Thursday in Camas

Annual event draws 1,000 spectators to Camas farm

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Thursday through Saturday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sunday: Championship round 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

General admission: $5

Seniors and children 12 and younger: $3

Event programs and parking are free.

Johnston Dairy Farm is located at 104 N.E. 252nd Ave. in Camas.

For more information, go to lvsdt.com or call Lynn Johnston at 597-6725.

Thursday through Saturday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday: Championship round 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

General admission: $5

Seniors and children 12 and younger: $3

Event programs and parking are free.

Johnston Dairy Farm is located at 104 N.E. 252nd Ave. in Camas.

For more information, go to lvsdt.com or call Lynn Johnston at 597-6725.

The Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trial will, for the eighth year in a row, be returning to Johnston Dairy Farm in Camas Thursday through Sunday.

An estimated 1,000 spectators came out to support and enjoy the competition last year, and this year is not expected to be any different.

“We try to make this a public event,” said Lynn Johnston, the trial host. Four people total run the show; Johnston, his wife, his sister and his friend. “We want to give people a chance to see these dogs at work. We want them to have a good time.”

Dogs can also enjoy this event even if they’re not competing. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to join their spectators in enjoying the show. There is a large tent for shade and some chairs, but spectators are encouraged to bring their own chairs or tents.

“We’re so lucky to have a place to hold this at,” said Johnston, referring to their farm land. “It’s really where it starts.”

There are four competition classes: novice-novice, in which both handler and dog are less experienced; pro-novice, when either the handler or dog is experienced; nursery, for younger dogs; and open, in which both the handler and dog are considered experts in their field.

“It is one of the top trials in the country,” said Patrick Shannahan, a long-time participant. He has twice won the national finals sheep dog trial. “My favorite aspect of this trial is the organization. No detail is left out.”

Shannahan uses this trial to train for the National Finals in September, which will be held in Klamath Falls, Ore., this year.

The local event, according to Johnston, is one of the biggest in the west, specifically in the number of dogs performing.

This regional event will include 115 entries from six states and British Columbia. Over the course of four days, 190 dogs will compete. There will be 600 sheep and temporary fences and corrals on their farm. The sheep come from Brownsville, Ore. The staging follows the international style of course.

“We also strive to get high caliber judges,” said Johnston. “We’re really excited about them.”

This year, the Open judge is Bruce Fogt, the author of “Lessons from a Stock Dog” and the publisher for “The Working Border Collie” magazine. He has judged for the Nationals several times now and will be announcing and judging all four days at Johnston Dairy Farm.

Also unique to this event, they run two fields simultaneously. The view for the spectators over the sweeping fields is ideal and rare.

Spectators and handlers will not go hungry; two food carts will serve breakfast and lunch on site. There will also be 11 other vendors at the event selling pet-themed items. Camping for tents and RVs is available across the road, but most of the campers are handlers rather than spectators.

The amount of spectators makes the experience more valuable and unique, according to Cheryl Munson, a long-time participant at Lacamas Valley.

“To have the spectators cheering, it’s so affirming,” Munson explained. “It’s fun to talk with them, answer questions, learn more from other handlers. You don’t get that in the middle of Idaho or wherever.”

Some of the handlers are professional trainers, such as Shannahan, who gives clinics and seminars on weekends throughout most of the year. Others participate in the trials for fun, like Munson, who picked it up simply because she got a few sheep for a tax break. The trial welcomes all variety of talent, but they can only have so many perform. This year, they have had to make a wait list for handlers.

Sheep dog trials originated from actual farming techniques. Farmers would compete with each other, and the first official competition took place in Wales in the 1870s. Now it has become a competitive national and international sport.

Johnston looks forward to it every year, despite the month of preparation and deconstruction work involved.

“The look on people’s faces when they first come to see the event is enough.”