Above all else, working tests are fun! They are run through the summer months (April - September) by various clubs and are designed to test your dogs obedience and skill.
Working tests are split into several classes and I will describe what else class involves below. They are normally marked out of 100, and the person with the highest marks wins. The points are normally split; Hunting (40), Retrieve 1 (20), Retrieve 2 (20), Water (20) but obviously this can vary.
SPECIAL BEGINNERS (For dogs and handlers who have not entered a working test before)
This is a great class for novices - it is run as a training exercise.
PUPPY (For dogs aged 6 - 18 months old)
The puppy hunting is a test of basic ability. Normally judges are looking for natural instinct and hunting drive rather than a dog with perfect obedience. They want to see a dog using the wind, 'getting out' away from the handler and hunting. The puppy hunting is normally on one easy field.
(Photo belongs to J Hurley)
This is a basic retrieve. It will normally be a short distance (say around 20-30 metres), and normally comprises of a dummy thrower throwing the dummy in a place when the dog can see it. The puppy will be expected to be steady, and only retrieve the dummy when it is given the command. It should retrieve the dummy straight back to hand.
This is a variation of the seen retrieve. There will normally be three markers set out. The puppy should walk to heel (off the lead) to the second marker, and sit. The handler then walks to the third marker and throws the dummy a short distance. The handler should then return to the puppy and walk back to the first marker with the puppy at heel. When they return back to the first marker, the puppy should be sent to retrieve the dummy, which he should bring back to hand.
(Photo belongs to J Singh)
For a puppy, this is normally a short retrieve into water (of say about 10 metres). The purpose of this is not a difficult retrieve, but to see if the puppy will enter the water happily. The puppy must bring the dummy back to hand (a lot of people lose marks as the puppy comes out of the water, shakes and subsequently drops the dummy).
NOVICE (For dogs over 6 months who have not won a novice w/t or a field trial award)
More is expected in the novice hunting and so it becomes a little harder to score points. Pointing is great, but most judges will not give extra points for it as not all dogs will have the same opportunity to point. There is normally better ground for novice hunting, bigger and more varied terrain.
In novice hunting, the judge is looking for a different approach from the dog and handler. The judge is looking for a dog hunting with passion (showing passion in its search for game) but also a dog working the wind correctly. The dog working the wind correctly is said to be working in a 'pattern'. In most puppy and novice hunting, the ground you will be given to hunt will be with a 'head wind' where the wind is coming directly towards you, and this is the easiest ground to hunt. The following diagram shows how you would hunt a headwind; making the most of the scenting conditions and covering the most ground. *the dotted line indicates where the dog should run
This can sometimes be a seen retrieve, or it can be more complex, for example a split retrieve - it depends on the way the society has set the test. If it is a seen retrieve, it will be more difficult than puppy, so for example they may use a starting pistol to test whether the dog is gun-shy, or it will be a much longer distance. However it is more than likely that you will not find a straightforward seen retrieve in a novice test. A split retrieve is what it sounds like - the dog must retrieve two dummies, but they must be retrieve in the order described by the judge. Sometimes one dummy is blind (see below) and sometimes the dog will need to jump into or over obstacles to reach the dummy, such as fences, small hedges or even a sheep pen.
This is an example of a retrieve over an obstacle you might encounter in a novice test:
In a novice test, there is normally a blind retrieve. A blind retrieve is also what it sounds like - the dog does not see where the dummy is - the handler must direct the dog using hand signals and the whistle, and the dog must use the wind and his nose to find the dummy. In a novice, it is very likely that the dog will be given a 'mark' (noise made my dummy thrower or starting pistol) to help them locate the dummy.
I have also experienced one of the retrieves being incorporated into the hunting section; at the end of the hunting a dummy thrower will fire the starting pistol and throw a dummy; the dog must sit to shot and wait to the be told to retrieve the dummy. This is testing the dogs steadiness to shot and whether or not they 'run in' on the dummy.
A novice water retrieve not only tests the dogs willingness to enter water, but it also is looking for a dog that will keenly retrieve (to hand) from water, including swimming. The distance is normally longer than puppy (20-30 metres) but the dummy is almost always thrown as a seen rather than a blind. The dog must be steady when the dummy is thrown.
An example of a water retrieve you would be likely to encounter during a novice test:
OPEN (For dogs that have qualified out of novice)
The open hunters are normally given the best ground to hunt in terms of both terrain, cover and size. The judge will be looking for a biddable dog with good hunting style, working the wind and in a good pattern, covering the ground.
In open hunting, you may be asked to hunt fields with a more difficult, or changing, wind direction. A wind coming from behind you in known as a 'back wind' and is, in my opinion, the hardest scenting condition for your dog. This little diagram shows how I would choose to work a back wind. There are other ways of working a back wind, but this is the way I personally prefer.
A wind coming from the side is referred to as a 'side wind' or 'cheek wind'. The following diagram shows how I would work it.
One of the most useful tips I was given was to try to remember to never walk on ground which your dog hasn't already covered. One of the most common errors is setting your dog off and then stepping forward - remember to allow your dog to cover the ground in front of you before moving on.
This can be any combination of a seen, split or blind. It is very unlikely that you will find a seen retrieve in an open test - there are normally two blinds of some form. There may be cold game used in open, however in my experience I have not yet been asked to retrieve cold game in an open test. Sometimes judges have been known to combine retrieve one with the hunting; at the end of the hunting the dummy thrower will fire a starting pistol and throw a dummy - this tests the dogs steadiness and whether it will sit/drop to shot.
This will be similar to retrieve one
The water retrieve in open is the most difficult. It tests the ability of the dog to go 'over' water and is commonly a blind retrieve of a dummy over a river or lake - the dog must mark the dummy (sometimes with a shot/noise sometimes without) and retrieve, swimming across the water. Some dogs are smart and run back around the water if they can - depending on the judge this can lower your marks.
At the end of the day, there is a presentation of awards. Awards are normally given 1st - 5th in each class, with an award for the best water retrieve. The judges will give speeches and discuss the day. Working tests are normally a very long day, but are SO MUCH FUN and I definitely recommend doing them. Everyone is so friendly and supportive!
Scurries are so much fun! Your dog needs to retrieve a dummy (normally over obstacles) in the quickest time possible!
AS YOU CAN SEE... WORKING TESTS ARE VERY STRESSFUL!