Working Trials are a competitive sport based on the civilian equivalent of police dog work. They develop and test many canine skills - obedience and control, intelligence and independence, searching and tracking, agility and fitness. Trials are physically demanding for both dog and handler, but are also great fun and extremely rewarding.
Working Trials tests are broken down into three main sections:
Nosework comprises search and track exercises. The dog follows a track laid by a 'tracklayer' (who is a stranger to the dog) walking a set pattern designed by the judge and identical for each dog. The track is approximately half a mile long and laid on grassland, arable fields or heathland with each competitor working on similar terrain to others in the stake.
As the dog follows the track it has to seek out and recover articles placed along the track by the tracklayer. The track is laid at different times, before the dog work begins, depending on the level of the competition. The other component of nosework is 'search' where the dog has to search for and retrieve articles placed in a marked area.
To test its agility, the dog must clear three obstacles - a three foot hurdle, a six foot high wooden scale and a nine foot long jump. Two attempts may be permitted for each obstacle.
There are various exercises in this section which are detailed below:
Heelwork - the dog must walk with its shoulder reasonably close to the handler while the handler navigates their way around people and obstacles at different speeds.
Sendaway - involves sending the dog away across a minimum distance of 50 yards, the handler will then redirect the dog through a series of commands.
Retrieving a Dumbbell - the dog must retrieve a dumbbell which has been thrown by the handler.
Down Stay - the dog must stay in the down position while the handler is out of sight for a period of time.
Steadiness to Gunshot - the dog is tested on its reactions to gunshot. The dog will be penalised if it shows any signs of fear or aggression.
Speak - the dog is ordered to "speak" and cease "speaking" on command by the handler with a minimum of commands and/or signals.
Training for Working Trials
Training for Working Trials takes place at societies and clubs across the country, as well as at a number of training weekends and courses, and there is a friendly social scene to be enjoyed.
Preparing your dog to be able to compete successfully will require considerable time and training
Experience in other activities such as Obedience and Agility will be of benefit, both in establishing a basic rapport between you and your dog, and in preparing for particular exercises like heelwork, retrieve and stay. It is essential that your dog is fully socialised and that you have effective control at all times, especially as your dog will be competing off-lead.
Some elements such as 'search' and 'nosework' need specific preparation and training for Working Trials, and you may find it useful to attend one or two of the training weekends or longer courses available as well as regular training with a club to guide you in your preparations for competing in a trial. You might also find it helpful to attend a trial as a spectator where you can view the tests at first hand and chat to competitors - an invaluable source of informal information about the sport.
Working Trials require perseverance and some hard work, but at all levels they are a rewarding and fulfilling activity for handlers and their dogs alike.
Joining a Club
Plenty of regular practice is essential preparation for Working Trials, but supervised training at a Working Trials class is just as important. There are a number of Working Trial training clubs and societies across the country. To find a suitable club, use the Kennel Club's 'Find a Club' search tool.
The formal requirements for competing at a Kennel Club licensed Working Trial are quite simple:
- Your dog must be registered with the Kennel Club, either on the Breed Register or on the Activity Register. Find out more about registering your dog with the Kennel Club.
- Your dog must be 18 months old or over on the closing date for entries to the trial.
- You must complete an entry form and send it in before the trial's closing date for entries (generally six weeks or more before the date of the trial).
- You should be familiar with the Kennel Club Working Trial and Bloodhound Trial 'I' Regulations beforehand
Finding a Trial
Once you are ready to start competing, you can find details of Working Trials via the Events Diary. Be sure to plan your trial entries well ahead, as entries normally close weeks or months before the trial date. For more information about competing at a Working Trial, click here.