What are they? Why do we need them? And how do we prepare for them?
Working Tests were designed to be able judge how you and your dogs training is getting on, and to compete in a friendly atmosphere, before moving on to competing in field trials.
To further test his ability on hunting, scent and steadiness to pointing and flushing game you need to enter Spring or Grouse Pointing Tests, then to get the full picture of how his working ability is really shaping enter a shoot training day, this will cover everything needed for field trials, walk-up days, or rough shooting.
At working Tests there are three classes Puppy 6-18 months old on the day of the test Novice Open and an unclassified class Graduate, this is a nice halfway step between coming out of Novice and into open.
The tests involve Hunting usually over barren ground, Retrieving which involves a seen retrieve a blind retrieve some times a double retrieve which we call a split retrieve involving a blind and a seen or both seen and a water retrieve, all these skills will be required whether you field trial or work your dog out shooting.
What ever breed of HPR you choose, there are two requirements of utmost importance, that the puppy is biddable and that you have a very good bonding, I say this because to work with these dogs you need to form a strong partnership built on trust, and because of the distance these dogs will be working away from you the need of strict obedience is vital.
There are plenty of good books to read and videos on training your HPR or you could join a training class most breed clubs run them.
For getting ready to train your dog for Working Tests you will need a whistle, two or more dummies starting with a puppy weight and a couple of 1lb ones a long line can be useful when starting to train when he starts doing each exercise promptly that’s when to take the lead off, assuming that from day one of having your puppy you have used the whistle to call him for feeding then the long blast while just holding the food above but slightly in front off his head to make him sit which comes naturally if the angle is right, and have played with him fetching toys back to you while you are sat in front of his bed, this is the natural place he will run to you have started his training without him knowing, and are setting the foundation for real training.
You will now need to teach him to walk to heel [by your side] on and off the lead, sit and stay, fetch a seen retrieve and a blind retrieve [unseen] ,split retrieve that is two retrieves out in different places to be retrieved in the order the Judge asks it could be a seen and unseen, or two seen, and to learn to swim so that he can retrieve from the water or swim across the water to retrieve from the bank the other side of the water.
You will need to teach him to hunt, I prefer to let the puppy run free and learn about the wind and explore exciting cover where game has been, then encourage him to cover the ground while always working in the direction of the wind, as experience comes you will see him change the pattern of working when the wind direction changes do not worry when he does this, but if you are worried that he is missing ground then call him to you and get him into that area that has been missed and work that according to wind direction.
These are the basics you will need whether you are competing in Field Trials Work Tests or on a walked up Shoot Day even as a Picker Up your dog still needs this form of training.
So get started and enjoy yourselves, it is one of the most enjoyable sports!