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An explanation of Working Trials

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Working Trials have long been the domain of the German Shepherd Dog and has, in the past, been supported by dog handlers from the Police, Army and Prison Services. Other breeds including Border Collies and Working Sheep Dogs now equal in number the G.S.D.s entering Trials

These days more and more members of the public are becoming interested in participating in this sport and,  as the Police and Prison service take on more Border Collies for work in areas of Drugs, Explosives and Body search and location, our breed is proving itself well in the disciplines of scent discrimination and tracking, with Working Trials becoming another outlet for the drive and skill of the Border Collie.

This sport involves many disciplines and is taken very seriously by its participants, be they professional dog handlers or pet owners looking for more for their dogs. The Border Collie excels at most of the activities but needs to have the size and stamina for PD stakes (as does its handler) and so working trials will suit most BC's - but not all will be able to qualify in all the stakes. That should not put BC owners off - as in all sports and competitive disciplines, winning is a goal, but all progress is an achievement and the principal joy should be the participation, both dog and handler - working together.

In the following video, BCR supporter Carol Hall demonstrates and talks about working trials with 'Patti' from BCR


Most of the adds that appear with the video are rubbish and beyond our control - don't be conned!

Working Trials.       By Kristine Hodgson


Working trials can be likened to three-day eventing in the equestrian world where your dog needs to excel in every area. Working trials take place in open country and can be completed over a day or several days.

In all stakes dogs are required to be 18 months of age to be eligible to compete due to the Agility section.
There are Open Trials where Certificates of Merit are gained and Championship Trials where Qualifying Certificates allow the suffix - CDex through to TDex and PDex - to be gained (ex. - achieving excellent).

You need 80% of the total marks in each stake to gain either a Certificate of Merit at an Open Trial or a Certificate of Excellence at a Championship Trial (as well as meeting the other qualifying criteria) to progress through the stakes. The minimum qualifying mark of 70% in each section does not permit you to progress to the next stake. If you only get 70% - 79% in a Championship Trial, you qualify Open only.


There are five stakes, in order of progressive complexity: -
  • Companion Dog (CD)
  • Utility Dog (UD)
  • Working Dog (WD)
  • Tracking Dog (TD)
  • Patrol Dog (PD)

Each stake comprises exercises in Control, Agility and Nosework with points awarded for each one completed. The complexity of the exercises in each section varies according to which stake is entered.


A dog may achieve the title of Working Trial Champion. To do this it has to win a minimum of two ‘Tickets’. To win a ‘Ticket’ the dog has to win the Trial outright and a dog may become a Champion by winning two TD or PD 'Tickets'. The dog can also achieve the status of Champion by winning one ‘Ticket’ each in TD and PD stakes.


Companion Dog (CD) Stake - The first stake which is designed to show that the dog has the necessary training, contains the elements of control, agility and nosework without involving a track.
  • Control – you will be required to perform heelwork on and off the lead at varying speeds, (slow, normal and fast) following commands given to you by the Steward. A recall to handler will be performed. Also a Sendaway, which requires the handler to send their dog away in a straight line to a marker some 50 metres away then command their dog to stop i.e. sit, down, stand.
  • Stays – a two minute sit stay sometimes carried out with the handler in sight because of the short length of time. Also a ten-minute down stay with the handler out of sight.
  • Agility – There are only three jumps in the agility section. One being a 3-foot hurdle jump, the second a 9-foot long jump and thirdly a 6-foot vertical scale jump. For the scale jump the dogs are expected to scale over the jump then wait in your chosen position i.e. sit, down or stand, then come back over the jump on command.
  • Nosework - Retrieve – the dog is required to retrieve a dumb-bell whilst following instructions from a Steward. - Search Square – This is a 15 yard square each corner of the square being marked with a pole. There are three articles placed into the square before the exercise begins. You then have four minutes for your dog to search and retrieve the articles. Points are not just awarded for the articles retrieved but also for how much control and style the dog can demonstrate in completing the exercise. The competitor is not allowed into the square.

Tracking Stakes

Utility Dog (UD) – The first tracking stake which involves a half mile track with two articles aged at a minimum of 30 minutes. The track is marked out of 90 with each article found worth 10 marks each, giving a total of 110 for tracking.

Control and agility are similar to CD stake, 10 minutes out of sight down stay. Maximum marks 200 with a minimum of 161 required to qualify. The Search is carried out in a 25 yard square containing 4 articles of which two must be recovered to qualify with five minutes allowed to locate and retrieve articles. The total marks awarded for the search is 35, 7 marks for each article and 7 marks for style and control.
Articles themselves vary greatly but some examples are:- wooden clothes peg, plastic tie wrap, plastic bottle top, a door key, 2 inch piece of carpet or cloth and a piece of scouring pad.


  • Gun Test – this is to check your dogs steadiness to gun shot.
Sometimes the test is carried out with the handler standing next to their dog, sometimes whilst walking with your dog away from the judge and other times you have to leave your dog and the handler has to then rejoin the judge some 10-15 paces away then the gun is fired.

Working Dog (WD) Stake – Half a mile track aged at a minimum of 90 minutes.

The remaining exercises are as in UD Stake. Maximum marks 200 with a minimum of 161 required to qualify.


Tracking Dog (TD) Stake – Half a mile track with three articles aged at a minimum of 3 hours, all other exercises as UD and WD with the exception of the retrieve which is replaced by a ‘speak on command’ and the send away which has re-direction added to the exercise. Maximum marks 220 with a minimum 176 required to qualify.


Patrol Dog (PD) Stake - Half a mile track with two articles aged at a minimum of  2 hours. All other exercises as TD Stake.  In this stake there is an added Patrol Group which involves quartering for a ‘hidden criminal’, chase, recall, escort and test of courage. Maximum marks 320 with a minimum 256 required to qualify.


Want to know MORE..........?

There are many Working Trials Societies around the country holding trials at different times of the year.  Trials go ahead regardless of weather conditions, so you could find yourself tracking in glorious sunshine or in thick fog, wind and rain.

For information on Working Trials events around the country that you can attend as a spectator - and for other contacts - try this Website -

If you wish to get involved in working trials, you and your dog will need to achieve a high standard of training and rapport. Training is the key word here, you will need sensible coaching and training, but training classes are not held by many of the Regional Societies who's principal functions are to organise and run local events.



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