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First for top dog handler

Annie McCann, November 1, 2020 6:45PM Mercury

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Carmen Blyth, with dogs Somerville Spec and Somerville Poppy, is the first female to win the Tasmanian Working Sheep Dog State Championships. Picture: Richard Jupec media_cameraCarmen Blyth, with dogs Somerville Spec and Somerville Poppy, is the first female to win the Tasmanian Working Sheep Dog State Championships. Picture: Richard Jupec

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Carmen Blyth has become the first female to win Tasmania’s Working Sheep Dog State Championships since the competition began in the 1940s.

Ms Blyth took home the title with trusty dog Somerville Spec, who previously belonged to a former champion who died earlier this year.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in, it’s a real honour and I feel really privileged,” Ms Blyth said.

“Being the first female to have my name put up, when I think about it like that I’m pretty blown away.”

TBC Sheep Dog Champ media_cameraCarmen Blyth says training, strategy and luck are the secrets to her success at the Working Sheep Dog State Championships. Picture: Richard Jupe

The competition sees owners send out their dogs to round up three sheep from one end of the course to the other.

The dog must bring the sheep up the course in as straight a line as possible, with the handler helping the dog guide the sheep through a gap, down a race, over a bridge and then into a pen in less than 15 minutes.

There are obstacles on the course for the dog to manoeuvre* the sheep through in the shortest time possible. 

media_cameraDogs must round up three sheep through an obstacle course and into a pen in less than 15 minutes. Picture: Louise Grant

Ms Blyth, who didn’t grow up on a farm but studied horse husbandry* at the Agricultural College in Queensland, said she discovered working sheep dog competitions after striking up conversation with a trainer at a craft fair one day.

“I go to a friend’s property to practice, there’s a lot of travel to access sheep, it’s dedication,” she said.

“But I love going to the country. As soon as I leave Hobart and go on the road I always have a smile on my face.”

Ms Blyth said the secret to her success was partly intense training and strategy, and partly luck with the weather and the group of sheep drawn on the day.

Ms Blyth, who has returned to university to study wool classing*, said anyone passionate about dogs, training and stock should “come and introduce yourself and have a go”. 

Pip Hudson, patron of the Australian Sheep Dog Workers Association, with his working dog Rain competing in the 2009 Supreme Australian Working Sheepdog Championships at Strathalbyn, southeast of Adelaide, South Australia. media_cameraWorking dog Rain rounds up sheep at a competition in South Australia. Picture: Kelly Barnes


  • manoeuvre: move around skilfully
  • husbandry: care and breeding
  • wool classing: grading of different types of wool


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  1. In which decade did Tasmania’s Working Sheep Dog State Championships begin?
  2. Before Carmen Blyth, how many females had won the championship?
  3. What is the name of Carmen Blyth’s winning dog?
  4. How many sheep must the dogs round up?
  5. What are the secrets to Carmen Blyth’s success?


1. A different point of view
Write an imagined retelling of the Tasmanian Working Sheep Dog State Championships win from the point of view of the dog, Somerville Spec, or one of the sheep. Think about the style of your writing – will your retelling be a comedy? A horror story? An epic drama? Be creative!

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
There are lots of animals that have jobs, not just working sheep dogs. Work with a friend and see how many animal jobs you can think of in 10 minutes.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English

Verb adventures
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you like to train a dog to do?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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