Competing in Working Trials

Training your dog for Working Trials is rewarding in itself, but it is at a trial that you discover how well your training is progressing. The atmosphere at a trial is always supportive and encouraging, perhaps partly because the handlers are competing against a standard rather than against other competitors.

First Trial

Once you have started training your dog and understand more about Working Trials, you will want to think about entering a trial. To be sure you are prepared; take a look at the 'Checklist - Going to your first trial' below. Be aware that most trials span several days. You may find that all your exercises are scheduled on the same day, but you may sometimes find that your nosework exercises are on one day while your control and agility exercises take place at the end of the trial.

Checklist - Going to your first trial


  • Dress appropriately - plenty of layers of warm clothing, strong waterproof walking boots or Wellington boots, wind- and water-proof jacket, hat and gloves. Even in British weather you may also need sunglasses.
  • If you take a change of clothing, you will not face a cold and damp car journey home. Pack food and drinks as you are unlikely to be near shops, though societies often provide snacks and hot drinks at the base. Judges lunches are provided by the host society.
  • Getting to a trial often involves a long car journey -a strong travelling cage and plenty of water will make your dog's journey more comfortable. Often working dogs are not fed before the day's work, but remember to pack food and bowls to enable you to feed your dog before returning home.
  • Check the schedule/catalogue for details of where the Trial is being held, and the time for reporting to the base.

At the Trial

  • Allow plenty of time to reach the base - if you run late, you will usually find a mobile phone number to call the Trial Manager.
  • Book in once you arrive at the base. Take note of the briefing you will receive on where you will be working and how to get there, and advice on parking so as not to obstruct the work of farmers and landowners. Working Trials are vitally dependent on the goodwill and generosity of landowners, farmers and their workers, so always treat the countryside with respect and be courteous to all those who live and work there.
  • Keep your dog under control and be aware of its reactions. Give it time to adjust to the environment of the trial, and if it seems affected by the proximity of other competitors, give it some space and reassurance. If you feel your dog should not continue working, ask the judge's permission before withdrawing from that exercise.

End of the Trial

  • At the end of the Trial, join the other competitors at the base for the Judge's summing up and the prize giving. It is courteous and expected that you will attend regardless of your personal results. If you do wish to withdraw from any part of the stake you must obtain permission from the Trials Manager.

If you enjoyed competing in a Working Trial you may well enter another one and continue to enter trials until you have qualified for a more advanced stake. To find out more about progressing in Working Trials, click here.


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