Should I enter my dog in a working test before entering a field trial?
Mark Whitehouse answered this question in 2007 for Shooting UK. His reply was:
I think this would be a great idea and will give both of you an opportunity to discover your strengths and weaknesses before you enter any field trials. Working tests provide a good environment for young dogs to watch, listen and learn. Most spaniel working tests simulate a typical rough shooting day/field trial environment, omitting the flushing and shooting of live game and rabbits. The day usually starts by having a hunt up in pairs and blank shots are fired using a starting pistol. The level of the test will depend on the distance and difficulties of the retrieves and they are usually split into novice and open standards.
The majority of working tests tend to use canvas dummies for their retrieves. However, some working tests use cold game, for example, rabbits and pigeons that have been defrosted the previous day and after constantly being used can become very tacky for a young dog. All working tests provide good training for young dogs and it gives you an opportunity to compare your dog's ability against others competing.
It also gives you a chance to receive feedback from the judges on how your dog has performed and take on board any suggestions for improvement. This stands you in good stead for the trialing season. (Copied and pasted from Shooting UK who have complete ownership of this exert from June 2007)
Working Test - so what exactly is that? Basically a Field Trial but dummies and starter pistols are used instead of live game and guns. Your dog will be required to hunt his ground in a methodical manner ensuring that if game had been on the ground, that none would have been missed. As no actual live game will be used, a shot from a starter pistol will simulate gunshot and a thrown dummy (or cold game, depending on the level of test) will simulate the fall of a bird or the topple of a rabbit (or some blinds for the more advanced level).
Depending on the level of the test, your dog will be expected to achieve different standards. For the more intermediate/advanced level, there will also be times you will be asked to 'hup' your dog on command during the test while a shot is fired to simulate a missed shot to allow the 'gone away' command. The intermediate/advanced levels may also include some water work and blind retrieves as well as seen.
TESTS WILL NOT BE JUDGED IN ACCORDANCE WITH KC REGULATIONS. To make the tests as realistic as possible they will be held as close as possible to the KC rules and regulations but the test will not be run in accordance with them. If the club was registered with the Kennel Club we would need to comply with stringent rules and regulations and only KC registered Spaniels would be eligible to enter. This would take away a very large purpose for setting up the club. So anyone who enters a test must be aware that it is not being held in accordance with KC rules and must decide for themselves if they are happy with this before entering.
In the future, if there is enough interest, we may look into running official KC Working Tests for KC registered Spaniels and also running the non KC Working Tests for those who would not qualify to enter a KC Test.
Entries into a test will be limited on any one day to ensure that everyone entered gets a fair run. There will be different levels of tests available and you should enter your dog into the most appropriate for your dogs level of training and current ability. If there are two tests run on any one day at different levels and you have entered the novice level but feel your dog would have been more suited to an intermediate level, there may be an opportunity on the day to also enter the intermediate test, depending on entry numbers and time allowing.
Tests will be open to members of the North East England Spaniel Club only. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in the Spaniel.
All dogs shall be on the lead at all times unless actually running in the test. Any person who's dog causes a nuisance to entrants dogs will be asked to remove their dog from the area.
The Judges decision is final.