The canine and stock dog handler won both the sheep penning and cattle penning events at the second annual stock dog championship June 20-22 at the Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg.
The pair were among 35 dogs and handlers from across the Prairies all the way down to Texas who came to compete. Local announcer Art Unsworth kept spectators up to date on the action each day.
Montgomery entered the two events with both Ben and Pete – a five-year-old dog he sold as a puppy but only began working with a month ago when he got him back.
After two preliminary rounds with both dogs in the cattle penning on Friday, Montgomery and Ben were one of five pairs to advance to the finals. There they had six minutes to pen four cattle. Montgomery admitted they were tough livestock to work with. While he used to travel to a lot of cattle penning events, he hasn’t competed in any in about three years as they aren’t as popular now.
“They’re pretty tricky, and you had to handle them just right or they’d kind of get on the fight and get on the run,” he explained. “Old Ben, he did a good job of handling them. He moved them but he did it nice. He wasn’t harassing or biting when he didn’t need to bite.”
The pair earned a final time of 2:33 to win the $2,500 prize.
In the sheep dog trials, Montgomery made it on to the finals on Sunday with both Ben and Pete. The top 10 pairs advanced, where they had to work three sheep through the outdoor course and into a pen in under four minutes.
“They were really flighty sheep – wild, flighty, and they were quite difficult,” Montgomery said.
While the dog handler and Pete didn’t fair very well, he and Ben had a final time of 2:06 to earn the championship title along with the $10,000 prize.
Montgomery and Ben have worked sheep at many trials over the years. But at nine years old, Ben is an old dog who had to learn a few new tricks for the cattle penning. Montgomery last completed with him at a cattle penning event in Pincher Creek, Alta. three years ago.
“He’d never even seen a cow until this one,” said the handler. “He’s pretty good for an old dog. He won both events, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
The pair have won numerous stock dog competitions together, but Ben may soon be entering retirement. Montgomery expects to retire him by the end of this year.