Working Trials are canine competitions based on the civilian equivalents of the skills that police dogs learn and utilise as part of their working roles. The trials are developed to teach and test a wide range of skills to dogs, including agility, physical fitness, tracking and searching, intelligence, problem solving, independence and obedience.
Working trials are excellent fun for both dog and handler, but they are also very physically demanding on both parties as well, and require excellent fitness levels! Working trial competitions are organised or licensed by The Kennel Club, the governing body that oversees many different canine sports and disciplines as well as providing breed registration.
Working trials competitions are broken down into three sections: Nosework, agility and control.
Nosework consists of tracking and seeking exercises, and the tracking part is undertaken over a course around half a mile long. A tracklayer will walk the course and lay out articles for the dog to find, and the dog then has to follow the course and recover the objects. In the second section of the competition, the dog has to seek and retrieve objects left within a set area.
In the agility section of the competition, the dog is given two attempts to clear three different obstacles, such as a hurdle, a balancing scale and a long jump.
Dogs must demonstrate six different skills as part of control:
There are no breed-specific restrictions on getting involved in working trials training, and theoretically, any type of dog can compete if they have the right skills! In reality, the build and intelligence of the dog will largely dictate their suitability for the sport, and fit medium weight dogs with superior intelligence are the type that do best at the sport and will prove themselves viable to compete. Both purebred and mixed breed dogs can compete in working trials on an equal footing, and while you will usually see a fair amount of Border Collies, German Shepherd dogs and Springer Spaniels in competitions, you will also see plenty of mixed-breed dogs too.
Training and preparing for working dog trials is usually done in clubs and teams, as individual dog owners are unlikely to have access to the type of equipment required to practice with. Clubs and groups usually welcome new members at all times of the year and actively encourage dog owners to have a go, but before you go to a meet or join a club to work on your skills, you should reach a basic level of competence with your own dog first. Ensure that your dog is fit and healthy, alert and interested in undertaking tasks, and will follow your commands and try their best to learn new skills- then you are ready to go along to a club meet as a novice.