Working Trials are a competitive sport based on the civilian equivalent of police dog work. They develop and test many canine skills - obedience and control, intelligence and independence, searching and tracking, agility and fitness. Trials are physically demanding for both dog and handler, but are also great fun and extremely rewarding.
Working Trials tests are broken down into three main 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 speeds.
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.
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.