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With the end of the shooting season in sight, those that regularly attend training clubs and sessions turn their thoughts to the impending Working Test Season.

I have attended many working tests over the last few years, once or twice as a competitor and more recently as part of the day job.

Today I was back at Stubbs Hall in Doncaster training with Darren Kirk of Kirkbourne Spaniels on his "retriever working test training day".

Ten dogs and handlers braved the early morning rain as the day got under way.

The day was billed as "taking apart the aspects of a working test, training for them, then running in a test" which is precisely what they did.

The ten handlers were split into pairs and supplied with a note pad and pencil then Darren explained that the first exercise would be to score a simple test, carried out by Darren and Lottie under our judge for the day Paul Duncan.

Paul briefed Darren that the test would comprise of heel work to a certain mark, at which time a retrieve would be thrown and he would be asked send the dog on the judges instruction. 10 marks for the heel work and 10 for the retrieve

Once the test was completed each team revealed their scores and their reasons for any deductions. After a brief discussion as what would be deemed acceptable by a judge, it was then time for each handler to take a turn to be “scored”.

Instruction was given by the Judge as to what the test would entail and they were advised that as soon as they removed their leads, they were “live”. It proved an interesting exercise with scores varying from 6 – 16 on the first few runs. As each turn was discussed so a pattern emerged of what points would and would not be deducted for. And as you would expect as we progressed through the line so the handlers listened and worked hard to ensure that their run had as few errors as was possible

The top errors were :

  • Sloppy heel work

  • Leads in hands

  • Not listening to the judges instructions

  • Not waiting for the judges instructions

  • Dogs not marking simple retrieve

  • Dogs not coming straight back with retrieve

So a mix of both handler error and dog error, all issues that by listening to what you are being told and training your dog in the basics are all avoidable.

Part two of the morning session was a marked retrieve with distraction. Two dummies thrown, Judge will tell you which dummy to pick. First dummy was to be picked on every occasion.

Again a simple exercise of listening to instruction. A marked retrieve with a distraction is something novice handlers train and so it was good to see the majority of the dogs retrieve the correct dummy.

A quick recap on what had been worked through during the morning and time for a spot of lunch before the working test.



  • Heel work to Judges stick, marked retrieve.

  • Marked Retrieve with distraction.

  • Blind

After a judges huddle and a run off between dogs 6 & 9 for third place, the results were as follows :

Sheila and Misty

3rd - Sheila and Misty 2nd - Lucy and Rupert

1st Linda and Mabel

A fabulous day in great company. Today was well thought through to test both handler and dogs patience, basic obedience and all the skills required to enter a working test. A day that I would recommend to all those thinking of spending the spring and summer competing.

For more information on up and coming training events and specialist sessions

please visit the website


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