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Entering a Working Test – Advice for Novice (and not so Novice) Handlers

Entries and before the day:

Firstly, read the event Schedule. There will be a Schedule for each event which will include information about the tests, judges and venue, and any particular arrangements for the day. These can be downloaded from the events or competitions page.

Note that a Working Test may be either a Classified or Unclassified event. Classified events have to be conducted in accordance with Rules laid down by the Kennel Club. Unclassified events afford the organiser with more flexibility regarding the entry requirements and how the tests are conducted.

The following classes of competition are recognised by the Kennel Club:

(1) OPEN. Open to all dogs of a specified breed or breeds, although preference may be given to dogs which have gained a place or certificate of merit at a Field Trial, been placed First, Second or

Third in an Open GWT, or won a Novice GWT.

(2) NOVICE. Confined to dogs which have not gained a place or certificate of merit at a Field Trial, been placed First, Second or Third in an Open GWT or First in a Novice GWT held in accordance with Kennel Club Rules and Field Trial Regulations.

(3) PUPPY. Confined to dogs of specific breed or breeds less than eighteen months of age on the date of the test.

(4) UNCLASSIFIED. Open to all dogs of a specified breed or breeds, but may be restricted by conditions as determined by the society. To include Water and Team Tests. A Water Test can include dogs of any sub-group competing together. However, if dogs of more than one sub-group are competing as a Team, each sub-group will compete and be judged in accordance with the Kennel Club Gundog Working Test Regulations relating to that group.

(Taken from Annex G of the Kennel Club J Regulations 2019)

Details are also set out in the Kennel Club Working Test Rules and Regulations, also referred to as the “J” Regs, and in the FCRS Working Test Definitions at [include link: text below].

Check the definitions of the classes as entry requirements may vary from test to test so make sure you are eligible to enter. If you are unsure, check with the organiser.

Fill out the correct entry form carefully (the Schedule will tell you where to find the correct form) and don’t forget to sign and date it, and pay the correct entry fee (details on the Schedule). Payment can be by cheque sent with your entry and made payable to the Flatcoated Retriever Society, by bank transfer, or PayPal. [These details will need to be changed when we have the online entry and payment system].

Write your entry form clearly, otherwise your dog’s pedigree details may appear incorrectly in the running order. 

Enclose a stamped address envelope and/or your current email address if appropriate for the result of the draw and for the organiser to send you any updated information or changes for the day. This will usually include directions to the venue or any additional information not given on the schedule. The results of the draw will be posted or emailed to you so make sure your email address is written clearly and notify of any changes to the address.

Double check that all the information you have entered is correct before sending it off.

When you sign the entry form you are stating that you have read and will comply with the rules listed in Section J(G) of the Working Test Regulations (see above). Note that these Regulations may be updated or altered each year. If there is anything that you do not understand please contact the event organiser or a member of the Field Trial Sub-Committee.

Post your entries on time – the closing date is set to allow a draw to be carried out to determine the running order and to give the organiser time to complete the paperwork. If your entry is late your name won’t be in the draw and you are unlikely to get a run.

If you have any query about your entry, please contact the event organiser.

If you find you are unable to attend, please notify the organiser as soon as possible.

On the day

Check the arrival time and allow at least half an hour before the start time to exercise your dog, check in and gather your thoughts. Be aware of where the exercise area is and stay within the boundaries. If you don’t, you may be interfering with a test ground. A dog that has not been exercised will usually relieve itself on the first test, which will lose you some, if not all, of your marks for that test.

> If you realise that you are going to miss the start of the test, notify the Organiser. A mobile phone number is usually available. Competitors arriving late may only run with the judge’s permission.

> Toilets and other facilities are a luxury at a test. Consider this when planning your journey.

> Dress in an appropriate manner. Wear dark or neutral colours, sensible shoes or boots (the car park may be dry but the stream you have to cross to get to the first test won’t be! Also nettles do sting!)

> Don’t forget your wet weather gear. You may also want to take additional clothing – it may be sunny at home but completely different at the test.

> Bitches in season or dogs that have been in contact with any contagious disease should not be brought to the venue.

> Pack food and drink for the day. Refreshments are sometimes available and this would be notified in the schedule. If no such notice is given, assume that it is necessary to bring your own.

> Ensure you have with you drinking water and a bowl for your dog.

> Sometimes the test instructions ask you to bring a dummy.

> You may wish to have with you a basic first aid kit for you and your dog. There will be a Vet appointed to be on call but there will not always be one in attendance (unless one of the competitors happens to be a vet!). It may be useful to have an antihistamine in your pocket. If you are prone to insect attacks, there are some effective products that protect you but remember, don’t put anything on your dog that could interfere with his nose.

> Carry a pen to record the results or a smart phone.

> Don’t forget a raffle prize – not all Organisers run one but if they do, the details will be either on the schedule or the running order.

> Once you have found the meeting point you should let the Organiser know you have arrived. You will be marked present and given a numbered armband, which you must wear throughout the test on your left arm (unless you are running two dogs in which case you will have one on each arm – remember which number relates to which dog and turn over the number of the dog that is not running at that particular time and test. This is very important as mistakes can be made just glancing at a competitor’s arm. Your armband is the means by which you will be easily identified during the day).

> If you have a medical conditions or disability please inform the organiser, who MAY be able to arrange transport or help getting around the tests. If you need the assistance of a stick, please make this know to the judges. In most cases this will not be a problem, but there may be some restrictions.

> Before the test starts, there will be a briefing to introduce the Host, Judges and Stewards. Competitors must always attend the briefing promptly, both to be courteous to the test Organisers and the Host. This introduction will explain how the day will run and any special instructions.

> Where possible, watch other dogs working. Before running your dog through the test, this is not possible but, as long as the judge is in agreement, you may be able to stand and watch the following dogs – a lot can be learnt. Concentrate on what’s going on around you, listen and learn!

> Show respect to the Host at all times and remember to clean up after your dog.

> Before you start the first test, make sure your whistle is at hand and not tucked into three layers of clothing.

> Make sure you have removed your dog’s collar before starting the tests – it is against KC rules to run a dog wearing any sort of collar.

> Your dog must be on a lead at all times, except when under Judges’ orders. It is common practice for spectators to follow the tests. Be aware of where you stand and ensure that you do not interfere with a working dog or obstruct a handler’s view. Quite often spectators are allowed to go much closer to where a dog is working. Listen to the Stewards as to where you can and cannot go.

The tests:

> You will be called forward in numerical order. The Organiser will have carried out a draw after entries closed and the day’s running order will reflect this. It will also list the details you put on your entry form. Be aware of any absentees and be ready to go forward when the stewards call your number.

> The Judge will ask you your number and tell you the information you need to know about what is going to happen in the test. If you are unclear about anything, ask the Judge to clarify the point.

> Listen to any instructions the Stewards give you concerning where to wait before you go up to the Judge.

> Do not take your lead of your dog until the Judge tells you to. This usually will be after the instructions have been given. Make sure you put the lead away in your pocket or bag – not round your neck or in your hand or worse in your hand. Once you have taken your lead off and confirmed with the judge that you are ready to start the test, you must not touch or speak to your dog in any way until you are told to send your dog. Be mindful of voice commands – initial commands are fine but you will be docked marks for repeating and certainly shouts of “oi”, “no”, your dog’s name, or any other such words will eliminate you from the test as the judge may deem the dog to be out of control. Think WHISTLE not voice! In a walk-up it is very easy to “chatter” to your dog to keep them close to heel or stay steady in line – not a good habit to get into – initial command and then keep quiet! This includes tapping your hand on your side – just as bad as speaking and a hard habit to break. Very important to stay calm and above all to keep breathing!!

> Do not send your dog until the Judge tells you to. If you are asked “are you ready?” this refers to whether you are ready to start the test and not an indication for you to send your dog. The only exception to this is if the judge instructs you to send your dog in your own time.

> The test starts “at the peg”. A stick or a line on the ground marks this. You should be aware of this and not move away from it whilst working your dog. The Judge may indicate an area within which you are able to move (ie to the left or right) to keep a clear view of your working dog. If you feel it is necessary to move, but this was not part of the briefing, ask the Judge politely if you may. Moving away from the peg is seen as “going forward” and may result in a zero even if your dog completes the exercise successfully.

> Be aware of the “game pile” (pile of previously retrieved dummies which may be quite close behind) when your dogs returns to you as it could well go straight to it and swap. Ideally these retrieved dummies should be placed in a dummy bag but this does not always happen!

> Whilst marking a retriever test, the Judges are looking at a dog’s game finding ability, quickness and directness of the retrieve, a quick pick-up, fast return, natural nose, marking ability, quietness in handling, control, drive and style.

> When the test is over, put your dog on his lead and return to the other competitors.

> Accept comments from the Judges as advice and not criticism.

> If your dog commits an eliminating fault in a Working Test, it means you will not be in the awards but, unlike Field Trials, it generally does not stop you continuing throughout the day or until there is a cut off/shortlist.

> Know your dog’s ability. If he is struggling on a particular test, it is better to help him and get a zero than to out-phase him. Always ask the Judge’s permission though to go forward and help your dog.

> Remember that a dog at his first test will behave differently to how he does in training. The main contributors to this are excitement and handler NERVES.

> Never handle your dog harshly if it misbehaves or use punitive correction. The Judge concerned could report you to the Kennel Club. It is also against Kennel Club rules to criticise the Judges, Host or Organisers.

> If you think the test is going badly, you may decide to call it a day and withdraw. Please remember to inform the steward who will get permission from the Judge. It is bad manners not to and may cause confusion to Stewards expecting you to turn up to a test. If you do withdraw, don’t go home, go and watch the other dogs working. If you do decide to go home, please tell the organiser. Don’t forget to return your armband.

> Remember you are under the control of the Stewards who are action on behalf of the Organiser.

> Dogs that score a zero in a test (classified or unclassified), other than in a run-off, cannot feature in the awards, COMs included. Failure in one part of a double retrieve test will result in a zero for the whole test and not just that one part. Eliminating faults (ie would score zero) include refusing to retrieve, whining or barking, running in or chasing, out of control, failing to enter water, changing retrieve and poor heelwork.

After the Test:

> When all the dogs have competed in their tests, the scores are collated. If you think you have done well, don’t disappear and put your dog away as you may still be required. If the scores are equal it may be necessary for a run-off – this could be for any of the places.

At the end of the day there will be a number of presentations (the winners, the Judges, the Stewards and the Host) for which the competitors are expected to stay. It is usual for the overall winners to thank the Judges etc on behalf of their fellow competitors. The Judges will be invited to give any comments about the day’s events.

> The results will then be made available to everyone.

> If you are unsure about the marks you have been given or have a question about a particular test, most Judges will be happy for you to approach them BUT remember, at all times, the Judges’ decisions are final.

> Please remember to thank the Judges and Organisers before leaving.

> If you want to learn more about Working Tests, probably the best way is to offer to help! Dummy throwers, Stewards etc (are often in short supply so please offer to assist) have some of “the best seats in the house” at Working Tests, often gleaning important information from Judges as the day progresses. This can be invaluable as a learning tool for seeing how dogs work and the mistakes they and their handlers make.

> We all enter test hoping to win but please remember they are a tool to evaluate how your training for the field is coming along. If your dog shows a particular weakness, learn from your mistakes, go home and practice. Put the effort in and you will find it a rewarding process.

Above all remember to enjoy it!!


The history of retrievers from 1903—1950

The history of retrievers compiled from the scrapbooks of H. Reginald Cook

The Flatcoated Retriever Society has the scrapbook journals of H. Reginald Cooke on indefinite loan. We understand that in 1996, Amelia Jessel approached Judi Seall to see if she could prepare collages for a display at Crufts’ “Working Gun Dog Forum’. Subsequently, Reginald Cooke’s Grandson, Randle Cooke, gave permission to edit the journals into a book which was titled “The History of Retrievers 1903 — 1950”. The forward to the book was written also by Randle Cooke.

It is understood that the information in the book was taken from the journals that he compiled, and the book mirrors the journals which commence in 1903. At that time Mr Cooke’s Riverside Kennels were being acclaimed as one of the most outstanding, producing Dual Champions from the start. The final chapter is for 1951, the year of his death, and the intervening years provide a glimpse of the life of an active and successful field trialler.

Part of the Forward to the book read:

“The book will be of much specialised interest both to Field Trial and Show exhibitors of the Flatcoated Retriever breed. More generally, it provides a remarkable picture of contemporary sporting life at the turn of the century — dare one say of a happier bygone age. I doubt if my Grandfather ever imagined that the contents of the journals he kept for so many years of his long life would ever be shared with successive generations of Flatcoat lovers. It would have given him immense pleasure to know that, through Judi Seall’s initiative and efforts, this will now be so.”

The official launch of the book took place at the Game Fair at Shuttleworth Park, Biggleswade in July 2001.

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