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    What are Working Trials ?

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    Cameron
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    What are Working Trials ?

    Post by Cameron on Tue 29 Mar - 23:06

    Although Working Trials tests were originally based on training for police work, for today's participant Working Trials are purely a competitive sport. They are physically demanding, and both dog and owner need to be healthy and fit.

    Trials always take place out of doors, often in very attractive landscapes, and are run right through the year. Because Working Trials tests, especially the tracking exercises, tend to be dispersed over a relatively large area of land, trials rarely attract many spectators apart from the competitors themselves - the exception being the annual Kennel Club Working Trial Championships, the 'top' event of the Working Trials calendar.

    Almost any dog of any breed of can take part in Working Trials, provided they are fit and healthy. The lower levels of competition – called ‘stakes’ – are geared to virtually any size of dog; however smaller dogs are not normally able to attain the top stakes (TD and PD) due to the height and size of the equipment used for the ‘agility’ exercises. Any Kennel Club registered dogs (pedigree or non-pedigree) can take part, but they must be 18 months old before they can compete at a Working Trial.



    Background
    Working Trials date back to 1924 when the Associated Sheep, Police and Army Dog Society (ASPADS) held the first event. In May 1927, the first Championship Working Trial to be recognised by the Kennel Club was held by the Alsatian League and Club of Great Britain at Castle Bromwich.

    In 1961 the Working Trials tests were changed into a format which has continued until the present day. The very minor amendments made since then bear testimony to the standard set all those years ago.

    Progression
    Dogs compete in ascending levels called ‘stakes’. From the lowest stake, Companion (CD), through Utility (UD), Working (WD), Patrol (PD) 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 Championship TD or PD stakes qualify the dog to be awarded the title of ‘Working Trial Champion’.

    The exercises are divided into three groups:
    • Nosework
    • Agility
    • Control
    In the PD Stake there is a fourth group of exercises - Patrol - also referred to as man work.



    Nosework
    Nosework comprises search and track exercises (in the CD Stake there is no tracking but a retrieve exercise instead). 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. In UD the track is laid half an hour before the dog works and in TD the track is three hours old. The other component of nosework is ‘search’ where the dog has to search for and retrieve articles placed in a marked area.

    Agility
    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. In the CD and UD stakes, the height and length are reduced for smaller dogs:


    •Dogs not exceeding 254mm (10in) at shoulder
    •Dogs not exceeding 381mm (15in) at shoulder
    •Dogs exceeding 381mm (15in) at shoulder
    Two attempts may be permitted for each obstacle.

    Control
    The control exercises vary according to the stake. All stakes include heelwork, sending the dog away and a stay. In the TD and PD Stakes the send away can be over a considerable distance and includes a redirection to the left or right, and the TD and PD Stakes also include a 'speak on command' test. The CD Stake includes retrieving a dumbell and recall, and all but the CD Stake include a test of steadiness to gunshot. In the PD stake, which is only open to dogs which have qualified in the lower stakes, in addition to the control, agility and nosework exercises, the dog has to quarter the ground for a hidden person, complete a test of courage, escort a person following a search by the handler, detain a running person and perform a recall from a running person.

    Working Trials require perseverance and some hard work, but at all levels they are a rewarding and fulfilling activity for handlers and their dogs alike.


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