Our guide to working your dog

Clayton Grimes

Blog , +3

June 17, 2024

Working your dog could be the key to unlocking a stronger bond with your dog. Have you ever watched a sleek muscular Labrador gracefully retrieve a pheasant, or seen a Pointer freeze with laser-like focus and its unique stance on a hidden covey of partridges? It’s really a sight to behold, and the best part is, you and your working dog can be part of that action in 2024.

Tests and Trials

Both field trials and working gundog tests assess the skills of trained gundogs, but they differ in a few keyways. Field trials, as the name suggests, take place during the shooting season, and involve the retrieval of game birds. This means they can only be held when there’s an actual game available, typically in winter.

Working gundog tests, on the other hand, use simulated scenarios such as water retrieves, blind retrieves and marked retrieves with dummies which allow them to be held all year-round, offering more flexibility for both dogs and handlers.

Another key difference is the level of competition. Field trials are typically more prestigious and competitive, attracting highly trained dogs and experienced handlers across the whole of the UK and even abroad. Working gundog tests however come in various levels, from puppy and novice to open events, catering to dogs at different stages of their training. Making this a good option for both beginners and seasoned competitors.

Working dogs waiting for instructions from their handler

Field Trials

Think of them as the ultimate test of your gundog’s skills, a chance for them to show off their skills in a setting that mimics a real-life shooting day, rabbits, hares, partridges, pheasants, they could encounter it all. Field trials are held for all four subgroups: Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers, Setters and the hunt, point & retrieve (HPRs) breeds.

Working dog Breeds

There is a breed for every job, the beloved Labradors are bred to fetch fallen game, Cocker Spaniels are experts at flushing and retrieving. The pointing prowess of German Shorthaired Pointers and English Setters, or even the Golden Retriever who’s friendly and eager to please, excels at retrieving waterfowl and upland game on land and water. All these magnificent gundogs and working dog breeds were born to work the fields and many of them still proudly carry on that tradition today. For a full list of working dog breeds click here.

How to get involved

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

1. Find your pack and get registered: The first step is joining a gundog club. These clubs normally offer training classes, workshops, and social events, providing the perfect platform to learn the ropes and connect with experienced handlers. Look for clubs affiliated with organizations like the Kennel Club, BASC or click here to find out more.

2. Gear up: Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy shooting outfit, but there are some essentials for both you and your dog. Invest in a good training lead, whistle, good quality dummies and most importantly a fantastic working dog food like Skinner’s Field & Trial, formulated for working dogs to perform at their peak.

3. Get ready to compete: Training can be hard but once you and your dog have achieved the basics such as stopping on the whistle, walking to heel and recall, it’s time to start with the beginner-friendly tests to gain confidence and experience before tackling the tougher field trials.

A working Spaniel making sure their bag if packed with the essentials 
including Skinner's Energy Bars

What you waiting for?

Whether you’re looking to showcase your dog’s skills in a challenging competition or simply provide them with valuable training opportunities, there’s a gundog event out there that’s right for you. It is important to remember that if you win or lose these tests or trials, it’s all about celebrating the unique bond between a dog and its handler with the bonus of enjoying the beauty of the British countryside.

As always, we love to see your dog’s working so make sure to tag us using the #fedonskinners across all the social platforms or tag us direct using @skinnersfieldandtrial.

See you in the field! Want to find out more? Please use the links below to get all the information you may need to help you get started. The Kennel Club, British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC)

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