Probably, the easiest way to describe the sport of Working Trials is to say that it is the canine equivalent of Three Day Eventing. The Nosework –Cross Country, Obedience – Dressage, and Agility – Show Jumping.
It is a sport that is open to all, from a competitor’s point of view that is very much the case; anybody who is fit enough can take part. We currently have people in their 80’s regularly competing! Sadly there are few younger people taking up the sport – probably due to the time commitment of training etc. From a dog’s point of view, as long as the dog is 18 months of age and registered with the Irish Kennel Club it can compete, mixed breed dogs can be placed on the ‘working register’ to comply with this requirement.
Working Trials are regulated by the Irish Kennel Club, who produce a set of Rules and Regulations, guided by the Agility, Obedience and Working Trials Committee.
The ultimate goal for many trialists is to gain their dog(s) the coveted Working Trials Champion title; by winning two Green Stars in the Tracking Dog stakes.
So, how does one achieve this?
In Ireland all stakes are ‘open’ to all dogs to compete in. However , we recommend that you follow a graduated progress through the ‘stakes’, as this means that your training can follow a logical progression , following the increase in complexity of the tests.
Group 1: Control. Consists of basic on and off lead Heelwork, Recall to Handler, Sendaway, and Sit and Down Stays, out of sight of the handler.
Group 2: Agility. There are three elements to this section. A Clear jump, Long jump, and Scale a vertical wooden wall. Heights and length can be adjusted to suit the size of the dog (in C.D. and U.D. only)., but are usually 3 foot clear, 9 feet long and 6 feet scale.
Group 3: Nosework. Consists of the location and retrieval of three articles bearing human scent from a marked out area 15 yards square. The retrieval of a dumbbell is also included in this group in C.D. only.
Control and Agility groups are basically the same, i.e. Heel off Lead, Sendaway, Retrieve a dumbbell, 10 minute down stay and Steadiness to Gunshot. Agility is the standard three elements.
Nosework consists of a track (the following of a human scent trail) approx. ½ mile long and the recovery of two articles placed on the line of the track, and a search for and retrieval of four articles from a 25 yard square area. The U.D. track is ½ hour old and the W.D. track is 1½ hours old.
Tracking Dog (T.D.) Nosework varies from the other stakes, there are three articles and the track is 3 hours old.
The Control section varies as well. There is a speak on command, in place of the retrieve, and the sendaway also includes redirection(s) of the dog.
In all the stakes a minimum of 70% of the marks must be achieved in each group and an overall mark of 80% is required to qualify Excellent in each stake.
In order for your dog to gain the title ‘Excellent’ in each stake, it must qualify twice, under different Judges, and you must apply to the Irish Kennel Club to affix this title to your dog’s registered name.
In Ireland, Working Trials are held from September to February each year, and may be held on farmland, either pasture or arable (this may include stubble).
There are a number of clubs throughout the country that organise Working Trials and details can be obtained from the Irish Kennel Club.
Working Trials is a great sport that requires a lot of time and commitment but gives a great reward in achievement, and fitness – not only for the dog but for the handler as well.
It also builds a wonderful ‘bond’ between dog and handler.