Working Tests

Everything you need to know to prepare yourself and your flatcoat for a KC and FCRS working test.

Gundog working tests are a way to competitively asses the working ability of a gundog, through a series of different tests and trials, without any game being shot. They test the training and skills that your dog would have within the shooting field, and should be seen as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

Before a Working Test

Fill in the entry form carefully and don’t forget to sign and date it. If you have any query about your entry, please contact the relevant Organiser.

  • Post your entries on time – the closing date is set to allow the draw to be carried out and to give the Organiser time to complete the paperwork (ie. the running orders). If your entry is late your name won’t be in the draw and you are unlikely to get a run.
  • Write clearly, otherwise, your dog’s pedigree details may appear incorrectly in the running order. Double-check that all the information you have put is correct before sending it off or pressing send on our online form.
  • Check the definitions of the classes – entry requirements may vary from test to test. Make sure you are eligible.
  • Understand the difference between a Classified and Unclassified test. 
  • Enclose a stamped address envelope and/or your current email address if appropriate for the result of the
    draw. This will usually include directions to the venue or any additional information not given on the schedule. If the Organiser is on email it should be possible to have the results of the draw emailed to you.
    If this is an option, make sure your email address is written clearly and notify of any changes to the address.
  • Make sure the details on your cheque are correct. Make it payable to the relevant Society, not the Organiser.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Kennel Club produce booklet “Field Trial Regulations (including Gundog Working Tests)” which is updated annually and costs £2.50 (at the time this website was updated). This has all of the rules and regulations within it, and by submitting your application you are confirming you agree to the rules and etiquette laid out within this book.
  • If you find you are unable to attend, please notify the Organiser as soon as possible.
  • Bitches in season or dogs that have been in contact with any contagious disease should not be brought to the venue.

Getting in early

We recommend arriving at least half an hour before the start time to exercise your dog, check-in and gather your thoughts. A dog that has no been exercised is prone to relieving itself on its first test, which will lose you some or all of your marks for that test.

If you are running late and feel that you are going to miss the start of the test please notify your organiser as soon as possible. Be aware that if you are late you will only be able to run with the judge’s permission.

Being fully prepared

Just so you are aware toilets and other facilities are a real luxury on a test, so consider this when planning your journey. Similarly, refreshments are only sometimes available and this would be notified within the schedule – if no notice is given then it is necessary to bring your own food and drink for the day. Don’t forget to also bring drinking water and a bowl for your dog.

You should dress in an appropriate manner and wear dark or neutral colours with sensible shoes or boots. The test may require crossing a stream or travelling through some nettles, so you should be prepared for this. Likewise, don’t forget wet weather gear and perhaps even additional clothing in case it is colder at the test than expected.

Take note of what has been listed in the test instructions as on some tests you will be required to bring a dummy.

Are you ready for a Working Test?

If you want to learn more about Working Tests, probably the best way is to offer to help! Dummy throwers, Stewards etc. 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.

At the meeting point

Once you have made it to the meeting point you should let your 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. If you are running two dogs you will have an armband on each arm and will have to be careful to remember which number relates to which dog.

If you have a medical condition or a disability please inform the organiser prior to the test day, the organiser MAY be able to arrange transport or getting around the tests. If you need the assistance of a stick, please make this known to the judges. In most cases, this will not be a problem

Before the test begins there will be a briefing to introduce the Host, Judges and Stewards. This is mandatory and will explain how the day will run plus any special instructions.

  • Show respect to the host at all times and remember to clean up after your dog.
  • Before beginning your test ensure your whistle is at hand and not tucked beneath several layers of clothing.
  • Ensure you remove your dog’s collar before the test begins, as it is against KC rules to run a dog wearing any sort of collar.
  • Remember: your dog must be on a lead at all times, except when under Judges’ orders. It’s common for spectators to follow the tests, and quite often spectators are allowed to go much closer to where a dog is working. Be aware of where you are and ensure you do not obstruct or interfere with an ongoing test. Listen to the stewards carefully about where you can and cannot go.

During the working test

The organiser will have carried out a draw after entries were closed and the day’s running order will come from this draw. You will be called forward in numerical order, be aware of any absentees and be ready to go forward when your number is called. Listen carefully to stewards instructions.

The judge will ask you your number and tell you the information that you need to know about what is going to happen in the test. If you are unsure of anything then please ask the judge to clarify.

Don’t take your dog off the lead until the judge tells you to. This is usually after instructions have been given. Make sure you put the lead away in your pocket or bag – instead of around your neck or in your hand. Once you have taken off the lead and confirmed you are ready to begin the test, you must not touch or speak to your dog until you are told to do so.

Be mindful of your voice commands. Initial commands are fine but you will be docked marks for repeating, and shouting your dog’s name or other such words may eliminate you from the test if the judge deems the dog to be out of control. Think WHISTLE and not voice. Remember you must state your initial command and keep quiet, this includes tapping your hand on your side.

  • Do not send your dog until the judge tells you to. If you are asked ‘Are you ready?’ this refers to whether or not you are ready to start the test, and is not an indication to send your dog. The only exception is if the judge instructs you to send your dog in your own time.
  • The test starts ‘at the peg’, which is marked by a stick or a line on the ground. You should be aware of this and not move away from it whilst working your dog.
  • Be aware of the ‘game-pile’, this is a pile of previously retrieved dummies which may be quite close behind you during tests. Watch out for your dog going to the game-pile and swapping it’s dummy before it returns.
  • Whilst marking a retriever test, the Judges are looking at a dog’s natural game finding abilities, 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 completed, put your dog on their lead and return to other competitors.

Know your dog's ability

On the day remember that judges comments are advice and not criticism, their words will help your dog improve it’s working ability. If your dog does commit an eliminating fault in a Working Test you will not be in the awards but unlike Field Trials, you will usually be allowed to continue with the other tests, until there is a cut-off/shortlist.

  • Eliminating faults include refusing to retrieve, whining or barking, running in or chasing, out of control, failing to enter water, changing retrieve and poor heel-work.

If your dog is struggling it is better to help him and get a zero than to out-phase him. Always ask the judge’s permission though, before going forward to help your dog. A dog will also behave differently at his first test to how he does in training. The dog will be excited and usually, the handler will be nervous, both contributing to the dog’s behaviour.

At any point in the test, you can call it a day and withdraw. Just remember to inform the steward who will retrieve permission from the judge, as otherwise, you may delay the next test if stewards are expecting you to turn up. If you do withdraw you are encouraged to stay and watch the rest of the tests but if you do decide to go home, then tell the organiser and remember to return your armband.

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.

There will be a number of presentations at the end of the day, for which the competitors are expected to stay. It is usual for the overall winners to thank the judges on behalf of everyone.

After this, the results will 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 to discuss this with you, but remember that the judges decisions are final.

Always remember to thank the judges and organisers before leaving a test.

Working test rules

Before applying for a Working test you need to ensure you are familiar with all of the rules and guidelines listed on our website. There are also additional KC regulations and guidelines that must be understood and complied with.

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