Eric Thige

Posted on 18th August 2016

For every great shearer and woolhandler the sheep industry relies on a skilled work dog to help herd the flock into the paddock. At this year’s festival these dogs and their expert handlers will compete for the title of ‘Best Working Dog’ in the R.M. Williams Dog Trials.


One handler ready to compete is Eric Tighe who has been trialling working dogs for 25 years.


“I grew up on a mixed sheep and cattle property and have always lived on farms. It was while working as a shearer that I noticed how useful a well trained work dog could be,” he said.


“I was a stock manager on a large property and when you’re caring for 1000 head of cattle and 12,000 sheep you quickly realise the only way you can manage such numbers of animals is to  have a great team of working dogs. And I suppose that is what started my interest in sheepdog trials and training.”


More recently, Eric has been training dog handlers throughout the Gold Coast and Brisbane to support their dog training and compete at trials.


“I’m looking forward to getting up to Queensland and catching up with friends and colleagues. I’ve actually trained a few other contestants that are competing in this year’s program so I’m eager to see how they go in the event.”


When asked what makes a good work dog, Eric said it was a mix of things.


“There’s some key things we look at for working dogs including their stock or breed, their instincts and of course it doesn’t hurt if they’re easy to train!”


Eric and about six of this short-haired border collies will be competing at this year’s R.M. Williams dog trials at the Jackie Howe Festival from September 2 - 4.


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.