Craig Freestone

Posted on 19th August 2016

By 5:30am every morning, Craig Freestone is out walking his dog and says it is the second thing he does of a morning after a cup of coffee.


Freestone, who will be competing at this year’s R.M. Williams Dog Utility Trials at the Jackie Howe Festival on September 2 - 4, he was looking forward to catching up with friends and taking two of his dogs to compete for the first time.


“I’ve have four dogs in total with me at this comp but a two are younger pups having a go for the first time. We’ll see how they go - we’ve got nothing to lose and I’m keen to see them give it a go,” he said.


“One of them I’ve had and trained since she was six-weeks old. She’s what you’d call a great all-round dog and she’s won a few novice titles already so we’ll see what happens in Jondaryan.”


Craig has been training dogs for utility trial competitions for about eight years after seeing an advertisement and thinking it would be great to exercise his first dog, a border collie.


“He had always been a hyperactive dog and I thought it’d be a great way to get some energy out of him. I ended up getting hooked on it and buying a few specifically bred sheep dogs for trials.”


“I love the challenge of a competition. You’re essentially dealing with five different minds. Three sheep, one dog and yourself. You’ve got to find a way for you all to work together as a team.”


While Craig will be spending time out of the paddock catching up with friends, he said he was proud of what the Jackie Howe Festival does.


“It promotes not only the sport but shows people the importance of working dogs on properties. There’s not many displays that show what a well trained working dog is truly capable of!”


The R.M. Williams dog trails are about showing the all-round working dog and simulating the work a stock dog would carry out on a property. From collecting the sheep in a paddock to bringing them in the yards the dogs are judged on their prowess herding the sheep. Handlers are not allowed to help their canine competitor other than to direct with voice, whistles and small hand commands.


Gather up your family and friends and start planning your visit to the 2016 Jackie Howe Festival of the Golden Shears. Keep an eye on the website for regular updates and holiday packages to be released in the near future.