MARIONVALE Chip is indisputably a champion when it comes to showing sheep who is boss.
The five-year-old black and tan kelpie proved this by clinching the coveted Mayanup Dogpro State Championships earlier this month.
Chip's sights are now set on the national sheepdog finals where he will showcase his skills and take on the best in Australia.
It is an accolade Marionvale Working Dogs owner and trainer Simon Leaning is particularly proud of, given it was Chip's first time competing in the open championship event.
Mr Leaning labelled Chip as "one of the best dogs" he has trained since starting Marionvale Working Dogs about 20 years ago.
"Chip is a calm, strong and sensible dog," Mr Leaning said.
"He did such a great job working on the large, heavy wethers, which were difficult sheep to move and gave many competing dogs trouble.
"I think he's able to get on with sheep really well because he isn't over the top and is settled in his own mind.
"Chip loves to work closely with sheep and run on their backs."
Hosted by the Mayanup Working Sheepdog Club, the Dogpro State utility trial was held on a property near Tarwonga.
The sheep - owned by Jeff Loton - were predominantly orange-tag Merino wethers with about six months wool growth, testing the working skills of dogs in the trial.
About 15 people competed in the State championships with most working more than one dog of kelpie and border collie breeds.
There were two separate competitions - novice and open - in the utility trial and three - novice, improver and open - in the yard trial.
Judges included Richard McGuire, Kojonup, Allan Dunn, Frankland River, Karyn Buller, Darkan, Hayden Harries, Dinninup and Nigel Armstrong, Mundaring.
In the utility trial, competitors were given a time limit of 16 minutes to complete a pickup of five sheep, move them down to the handler and shift them into a small pen outside of the yards.
The dog and the handler then entered the yard section.
Once they had finished in the yards, the pair returned to the outside area to complete three obstacles with the aim of gaining maximum points.
Mayanup WA Working Sheepdogs Association club member Karyn Buller said not many competitors completed the course within the allocated time limit, however they were still given a score.
Meanwhile, in the yard championship final a 12 minute time limit was given to work 13 large Merino wethers.
In this time the dog and handler had to gather sheep from a larger pen, put them into a smaller pen, fill a drenching race, release them back into the large pen and then regather to place the sheep in a small pen behind the draft.
Five sheep were then drafted off - including the first two and last three - and the remaining eight were loaded and unloaded onto a ute.
Finally, the dog was directed to mix the eight wethers back with the five in the larger pen and then put the 13 through a gate to complete the course.
Ms Buller said the yard and utility trials were a great challenge for both workers and their working sheepdogs.
"There was a friendly atmosphere from those watching the skills of well-trained working sheepdogs," she said.
As winners of the yard dog competition, Mr Leaning and Chip are set to represent WA in the Australian Yard Dog Championships next year.
And it isn't Mr Leaning's first 'rodeo', having previously won the WA yard competition with a border collie named Marionvale Floss.
In the lead-up to the national championships, extra time will be spent in the yard with Chip to improve any areas of weakness.
"He is of the right age with the right experience to be fairly competitive, so hopefully I can show what he is capable of," Mr Leaning said.
"Chip is unusual from a kelpie point-of-view in that he is really super trainable, listens well and does what you ask.
"He is also able to settle down and work the sheep quietly outside once he goes out into the paddock.
"He has a lot of qualities I really like."
Mr Leaning also won the improver yard event, which is the level below, with a smooth-coated border collie named Marionvale Di.
Boasting similar traits to Chip, two-year-old Di has been competing since she was about 14-months-old.
"She's a class dog, who is calm and sensible, and has a great effect on her sheep without being silly," Mr Leaning said.
"She was consistent over the entire weekend and has a really encouraging future ahead of her - she is one of my superstars."
So what's the difference between running a border collie and kelpie as a working dog?
Ask Mr Leaning and he will tell you: When you ask a border collie to do something they will say, 'what next?'
Whereas, a kelpie will say, 'what for?'
"The difference is there is more negotiation in working a kelpie compared to a border collie.
"Border collies tend to be willing to comply and kelpies tend to be willing to negotiate."
Other standout performers in the championships were Nigel Armstrong and his dog Tumutvalley Roy, who finished first in the utility competition.
Mr Armstrong has left his mark on the working dog world, having travelled to Tasmania this year for the National Yard Dog Championships.
Last year, he won the WAWSDA Dogpro Yard Dog of the Year with Yarralonga Scope, as well as the State Yard Championship with Tumutvalley Roy.
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