Field Trials and Gundog Working Tests

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					                                      A Beginner’s Guide to...
Field Trials and Gundog Working Tests

What are Field Trials?
Field Trials have developed to test the working ability of Gundogs in competitive conditions. Trials resemble, as
closely as possible, a day’s shooting in the field and dogs are expected to work with all manner of game, from rabbits
and hares, to partridges and pheasants.

Many of our best loved breeds were               Finding out about the sport                    The Kennel Club attends with a stand at
traditionally developed to help man in           Before you decide whether you want to          the larger Game Fairs and the staff are
hunting. Retrievers gathered game in             get involved with this sport you should find   more than happy to discuss the sport
the field; Cocker Spaniels flushed and           out as much as possible about countryside      with you and help to clarify any rules and
retrieved game; Pointers and Setters             sports from a number of sources.               regulations you need help with.
ranged over the fields helping us seek out
                                                 If your dog comes from working stock,          There are plenty of specialist publications
birds and rabbits for the table. A great
                                                 the breeder should be able to advise you       which are filled with articles and tips about
many still help us in shooting and hunting
                                                 about how to start to develop your dog         training your Gundog and the role of the
today. Field Trials are very popular, attract
                                                 into a working Gundog and introduce you        dog and owner in the countryside. Titles
hundreds of competitors and are still very
                                                 to other people in your area with similar      include ‘The Shooting Times’, ‘Shooting
much part of our countryside sports. If
                                                 interests.                                     Gazette’ and ‘The Field’. These magazines
you have a love and understanding of the
                                                                                                also have sporting calendars which list
countryside and like to see dogs working         There are many large Game and Country          when and where Game and Country Fairs
as they were intended to, this friendly          Fairs held all around the country every        are being held.
and relaxed sport may be just what you           year which are well worth attending if
are looking for.                                 you want to find out more.                     The Kennel Gazette also features
                                                                                                articles about Field Trials and working
If you want to own a dog capable of              There are usually working Gundog               Gundogs, as well as providing the dates of
performing at a day’s shooting you are           demonstrations at these Fairs and you          forthcoming Field Trials.
more likely to succeed if it comes from          should take time not only to watch the
working stock.                                   displays, but also to talk to the people
Some dogs which have been bred for               involved and ask their advice.
the show scene, or simply as pets, may
have lost much of their working and
hunting instinct, which is vital in working
Gundogs. You will need to be dedicated
to developing your dog as a working
animal as, not only will it require a lot of
training. A working Gundog can also be
more demanding than a pet, or a show
dog. They need plenty of exercise off
the lead and their minds need to be kept
active by working in the field.
A Show Gundog that has won certain
awards in the show ring can also enter for
a Show Gundog Working Certificate if it is
able to demonstrate a good standard of
working ability relevant to its breed.

Training                                           The Kennel Club will be able to help you         Joining Field Trial Societies is also the
If you decide that this sport is for you,          find the most suitable society near to           only way you will be able to enter gundog
you can begin the process of training.             you. Field Trial Societies will be able to       competitions. Over 600 Field Trials and
You should remember that not only must             help you with specialist Field Trial training    many Gundog Working Tests are held
your dog be fit and healthy to do a day’s          and can suggest trainers who may be              every year, and they are nearly all over-
work, but you need to be as well. You              willing to train you to the gun on a one to      subscribed. Preference is always given to
will need to be fairly robust to be able to        one basis. Training a working Gundog is          club members so, if you want to go into
tramp across some of the rough terrain             really a sport in itself and can take many       competition, you will have to join several
encountered on some country shoots!                years of hard work, developing a good            clubs to stand a chance of getting a run.
Breeds of Gundog fall into four groups:            rapport with your dog to create a dog
                                                                                                    Once you have joined a Field Trial Society
                                                   capable of working in the field.
•   Retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels                                                             you should ask to attend as a guest at one
                                                   Field Trial Societies may organise               or two Trials to see the standard required
•   Spaniels other than Irish Water
                                                   members’ competitions and training               of dogs working in the Field, and also
                                                   assessments which are designed to                to try to pick up training tips from top
•   Pointers and Setters                           develop your dog’s ability and help              handlers in competition.
•   Breeds which Hunt, Point and Retrieve          with your training technique. These are
                                                                                                    The majority of Field Trials are held in the
                                                   helpful as your dog should learn to work
The training you do must bring out the                                                              autumn and winter during the shooting
                                                   surrounded by other people and dogs,
traditional working abilities for each                                                              season, with Pointer and Setter “circuits”
                                                   as it would do out in the field. Clubs may
category of Gundog in the shooting field.                                                           in April/May and August/September.
                                                   also publish newsletters and magazines,
The first step is to join a Field Trial society    and organise a range of social events.
or gundog club which can offer a range
of training opportunities throughout the
summer months.

Gundog Working Tests (GWTs)
Most Gundogs are not ready to work in competition for at least two years and the first type of competition you will probably enter will
be a Gundog Working Test. These competitions are usually for members of the organising club only.
They are designed to further good, sound, Gundog work and encourage dogs’ natural working ability, but do not involve shooting
live game. Work is done with dummies, and these friendly competitions are a natural extension of the training you will already be
doing with your dog. Gundog Working Tests are designed to suit the different working abilities of the three Gundog groups, Spaniels,
Retrievers and breeds which Hunt, Point and Retrieve.

Retrievers                             Spaniels                             Pointers and Setters                HPRs
At a Field Trial dogs will be          Spaniels will be judged              At a Field Trial dogs shall be      At HPR Field Trials, dogs shall
required to be steady by the           on how well they quarter             required to quarter ground          be required to quarter ground
handler whilst being shot over         the ground at a Field Trial,         systematically with pace and        systematically in search of
until commanded to quest for           hunting for game and other           style in search of gamebirds, to    quarry, to point game, to flush
dead or wounded game, from             quarry species, to be steady         point gamebirds, to be steady       on command, to be steady
land or water, and retrieves           to flush, shot and fall and to       to flush and shot and, where        to flush, shot and fall, and to
tenderly to hand.                      retrieve tenderly to hand on         applicable, to fall. Dogs should    retrieve tenderly to hand on
                                       command.                             not be gun shy. The dog should      command from land and water.
At GWTs Retrievers are tested
                                                                            work its point out freely, on
on their game finding ability          At tests exercises are set to                                            It is difficult to assess pointing
                                                                            command, without the handler
and the speed and directness           try and assess a Spaniel’s                                               through artificial tests and
                                                                            either touching the dog or
of the retrieve. Judges will           retrieving and game finding                                              there are limitations to how
                                                                            moving in front of it.
be looking for quick pick ups          abilities using seen and                                                 this can be done in a Gundog
and fast returns, natural              hidden dummies. The judges           There are no GWTs for               Working Test. HPR breeds
nose and marking ability,              will also be looking for good        Pointers and Setters.               will be tested and judged on
quietness in handling, control,        directional control.                                                     their quartering, hunting and
drive and style.                                                                                                retrieving skills in similar ways
                                                                                                                to the Retrievers and Spaniels.
Field Trials                                   After the closing date for entries the           Field Trials usually mean a long car journey
                                               Society Committee will conduct a draw            so think about your dog’s needs too - a
Entering a Field Trial                         to pick the competitors for the Trial. As        good strong travelling box and plenty of
When you have been a member of a Field         has already been mentioned, Field Trials         water will make its trip comfortable. Often
Trial Society for some time and been           are usually over-subscribed so you may           working dogs are not fed before a day’s
attending training sessions and Gundog         not be lucky enough to get a run the very        work but you should remember to pack
Working Tests, you will be advised when        first time you apply for entry. Different        your dog’s bowls and some dog food as
your dog is ready for competition. Field       types of Trial allow different numbers           you may not return home from a Trial until
Trial Societies send schedules to all their    of competitors and the Trial Secretary           late in the evening.
members before a Trial and when you and        will advise all entrants of their placing
                                                                                                Although the Schedule and draw will tell
your dog are ready you should complete         in the draw. If there are only 20 places
                                                                                                you where the Trial is going to take place
the entry form and return it to the Field      available, and you are number 32, you will
                                                                                                you should also take a good map with
Trials Secretary.                              not get a run unless 12 people in front
                                                                                                you. Field Trials are usually signposted
                                               of you drop out. With so many people
The schedule will tell you when and                                                             when you get near to the meeting point
                                               keen to compete you must advise the
where the Trial is taking place and which                                                       but it can often be very difficult to track
                                               Trial organisers immediately if you have
Stakes are scheduled. Field Trials can                                                          down exactly which field you need to be
                                               to drop out of a Trial to give another
consist of one or more Stakes, which are                                                        heading for.
                                               competitor a chance to run in the Trial.
separate competitions at that Trial and
                                                                                                Many people choose to travel the
can be limited by the age or previous
experience and awards of the dog. You
                                               Preparation                                      day before the Trial and stay in bed
                                               There is a great deal to think about before      and breakfast. If you do decide to do
should study the schedule carefully to
                                               you go to a Field Trial. Firstly, you must       this, always double check that the
ensure that you enter the correct Stake
                                               dress appropriately. You should wear             management are happy to take dogs
for your dog.
                                               plenty of layers of warm clothing, suitable      and that there is somewhere suitable to
It is also important to complete the entry     boots and a water and wind proof coat            exercise your dog.
form as legibly and accurately as possible;    are a must. It is also important that your
your dog’s registered details should be        clothes are dark, or in neutral tones - bright   At the Trial
exactly as they appear on the Kennel Club      coloured garments may startle game.              You should allow yourself plenty of time
registration certificate and your name                                                          to reach the meeting point. If you are
                                               With the vagaries of the British weather
and address should be clearly marked to                                                         late, one of the reserves may get the
                                               you are well advised to take a change of
assist the Field Trial Secretary in advising                                                    chance to run in your place and all your
                                               clothing with you, so that you are not faced
competitors of the draw. The schedule                                                           preparation and long journey will have
                                               with a cold and damp car journey home.
will also tell you by what date your entry                                                      been wasted.
form should be returned to the Trial           You should also pack the food and drink
organisers, known as the ‘closing date’.       you are going to need during the course          Once you have found the meeting point
                                               of the day. Sometimes Judges do not              you should let the Field Trial Secretary
                                               stop for lunch, particularly when there are      know that you have arrived. They will
                                               reduced daylight hours in the autumn and         mark you as present on the card, which
                                               winter, so you should think about things         lists all the people and dogs taking part
                                               you can eat in the field if you cannot wait      in the Trial, and give you a numbered arm
                                               until a day’s competition is over.               band which you must wear throughout
                                                                                                the Trial. This is the means by which you
                                                                                                will be easily identified during the Trial.
                                                                                                Before the Trial starts, a briefing will be
                                                                                                held to introduce the host (if present),
                                                                                                the gamekeeper and the guns, to
                                                                                                explain how the day will run and
                                                                                                any special instructions.
          Competitors must always attend this briefing both for their own       If for any reason you become aware that your dog is not going to
          interest and to be courteous to the Trial organisers and host.        work well – we all have our off days - you should ask the Judge’s
          Field Trial Societies rely on the generosity of land owners to        permission to withdraw. This is a courtesy that must be observed
          host Trials and keep the sport alive. The host not only provides      and ensures that the Judges’ and Stewards’ time is not wasted.
          the land to hold the Trial and the game, but also the guns,
          the beaters, the game carriers and the gamekeeper. It is vital,       Leaving the Trial
          therefore, that you treat the countryside with respect and are        At the end of the Trial there will be a number of presentations
          always courteous to the estate staff.                                 that all competitors are expected to stay for. The host,
          After the briefing, everyone will either walk or drive to where the   gamekeeper and guns will be thanked; four awards for each Stake
          Stakes are to take place. Safety is a very important consideration    will be presented, together with any Certificates of Merit other
          and spectators, and dogs and owners not competing, will be            dogs may have earned; the overall winner will thank the Judges
          asked to stay behind a red flag carried by one of the Stewards.       and make any other comments about the Trial.
          This ensures that everyone stays out of the way of the guns and       So, as you can see, there are many exciting and interesting
          that people do not stray onto parts of the estate they are not        challenges on the long road from basic training to Field Trial
          meant to.                                                             competition. Careful preparation at every stage is vital. Put the
                                                                                effort in and you’ll find it an enormously rewarding process.
          During each Stake the Judge(s) will ask each dog to work a
          number of times under various conditions. The Kennel Club’s J
          Regulations set out in detail the manner in which the Trial should
          proceed. Competitors should make themselves familiar with the
          Regulations well before they enter their first Field Trial. Judges      INFORMATION BOX
          will be looking closely at how your dog works, making a note of         Working Gundog Certificate
          all its strengths but also of its major faults.                         The aim of the Working Gundog Certificate is to
          There are also a number of eliminating faults in each Stake such        provide credible proof that the handler and dog are
          as whining and barking, hard mouth, running in and chasing,             competent partnership, with the qualities to fulfil the
          failing to find game that another dog can find, and changing            general requirements of work on a shoot.
          game whilst retrieving. There are different eliminating faults for      The certificate may be taken on dummies and on game
          each Gundog sub-group and handlers should be well aware of              so that all aspects of the dog’s work in the shooting
          these, both in training and in competition.                             field can be recognised as its training progresses.
          If your dog does commit an eliminating fault it is excluded from        Partnerships already fully experienced in working with
          further participation in the Trial. This can be very disappointing      game can just take the certificate on a shoot. The
          if it occurs on your dog’s first run but you should lose with good      certificate will be issued by the Kennel Club and will list
          grace and enjoy the rest of the day’s shooting. It is considered        those tasks achieved on the day.
          very poor form to leave a Trial early simply because your dog has
                                                                                  Successful partnerships will also have the distinction of
          not performed to the best of its ability. Having asked permission
                                                                                  having their names published in the Kennel Gazette.
          to leave the ground always thank the Judges and Chief Steward
          before you leave.                                                       The WGC Handbook gives full details for organisers,
                                                                                  participants and assessors and these, or further help
          Handling your dog                                                       and advice on this prestigious award can be obtained
          Attending your first Field Trial may cause your dog to behave           from Hilary Gould.
          differently than it does in training. Young dogs in particular can
          be bothered by crowds and if this is the case you can move
          a little way from other competitors and officials. You must,
          however, let the Chief Steward know what you are doing and
          why. You will not be penalised for controlling your dog in this
          manner. In fact, it is a good idea to tell your Judge and Chief
          Steward that you are competing in your first Field Trial as they        INFORMATION BOX
          will make their directions very clear and offer you help.               For further information on all aspects of Field Trials
          Working Gundogs should be kept under good control at all times,         and Working Gundogs please contact either Hilary
          both whilst waiting to compete and during the Stakes. You               Gould, Field Trials department on 020 7518 1059.
          should always be aware of how your dog is reacting and what it          or vist to see the
          is doing. If it does misbehave, you should never handle your dog        events calendar.
          harshly, or use punitive correction during a Trial. This could land     Email:,
          you in trouble with the Kennel Club and also indicates that you
          have not trained your dog properly. All dogs should be trained
          and worked using plenty of encouragement.


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