Coveted Calgary Stampede title still eludes local dog handler
An Airdrie farmer has been a fixture in the finals of the Calgary Stampede’s World Stock Dog Championship, which is only fitting considering he was instrumental in bringing the event to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth 17 years ago.
As president of the Alberta Stock Dog Association, Airdrie’s Milt Scott, along with Max Fritz, agriculture director of the Stampede, brought the stock dog competition to Calgary as a demonstration sport in 1995. After starting off next to the chuck wagon racetrack, over the years the event moved around the grounds over the years before finding a home in the Big Top. Since its introduction to the Stampede, the event has grown immensely, drawing teams from across Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia to compete for a $10,000 first-place prize.
“It’s about how fast you can do it,” Scott said. “The faster you can do it, the more efficient you are. In the sport of sheep dog competitions, everything is based on a circle principle. It’s basically like a remote control airplane. The way you move and direct them is in the commands.”
Sixty dogs took part in this year’s Stampede, and it was a test to see which was the most agile, intelligent and obedient.
The dogs, mostly border collies, have to herd three sheep through an obstacle course and into pen. Points are awarded for completing each obstacle, but the dog with the fastest time was the winner.
Dogs moved through the obstacles heeding verbal commands from their handlers.
Scott began competing in stock dog competitions in 1990. As he continued with the sport, he travelled to compete in events across Canada and the U.S. While Scott said that every American state hosts a competition, the number of local events has dwindled.
Scott and his dog, Bud, weren’t able to claim the top prize at this year’s championship, which took place July 8 and 9 at the Stampede Grounds. Dale Montgomery of Maple Creek, Sask., won the title for a seventh time.
However, Scott has enjoyed great success in the past. He has made the finals 16 times, and the closest he came to winning was two years ago when he placed third.
If his memory serves him correctly, the dog he won third with was later sold to Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth.
For Scott, the years of competitions stemmed from growing up on his family’s farm and a friendly contest they had with their neighbours.
“We always used border collies on the farm,” he said. “It was a competition to see if our dog’s better than the neighbour’s.”