What is Working Trials?
Although working trials tests were originally based on training for police work, for today's participants working trials are purely a competitive sport.
Working trials are designed to test the working ability of the dogs taking part. There are some similarities between working trials, obedience and agility, but there are also additional exercises.
There are three types of working trials. They are:
· Matches - these are trials held between clubs and societies
· Open – this is the qualifying level, and as the name suggests, is open to all
· Championship – dogs in this type of trial must have qualified through an open trial.
The trials themselves consist of several levels of competitions called `stakes`.
From the lowest stake, Introductory, Companion (CD), through Utility (UD), Working (WD), Patrol (PD) (optional stake) and Tracking Dog (TD) at the very top, the dog is required to obtain 70% of the marks in each section and 80% overall in order to qualify and thereby progress upwards to the next stake. Two wins in TD or PD stake qualify the dog to be awarded the title of `Working Trials Champion.
Each year there are about 35 open Trials and 25 Championship Trials run by Working Trials Societies up and down the country.
The winners of the TD and PD stake at a Champion Trial go on to compete at the Kennel Club Championship which are held annually.
The exercises are basically divided into three 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 paces.
· 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
· Sit stay: the dog must stay in the sit position while the handler is out of sight for a period of time. Introductory and CD only.
· 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.