What are Working Trials?

Working Trials were originally based on training dogs for police work, but have developed into a purely competitive sport. Working Trials are physically demanding for both the dog and handler so fitness of both is a must!

Trials are always held outside and tend to be spread over large areas which means they rarely have spectators other than the exhibitors themselves.

Most dogs of all breeds can take part in Working Trials, and to date, we only know of one Estrela that has competed in such events – and very successfully too! Due to the height and size of the equipment used for the ‘agility’ exercises, the smaller dogs are not usually able to attain the top ‘Stakes’ of TD and PD. Any Kennel Club registered dogs (pedigree or non-pedigree) can participate but they must be at least 18 months old before they can compete at a Working Trial and need to have a very high level of control, obedience and agility from the very first level.

Clerafora Varziela CDd, CDeX, UDd – aka ‘Pi’

As far as we are aware, Pi is the world’s first Estrela to attempt and qualify in Working Trials competitions. With the breed’s aptitude for being extremely stubborn, they are not ideal candidates for working in this type of event, yet Jayne Lewis and Pi have proved that it can be done with a lot of love, patience, perseverance and hard work!

We have tried to explain the requirements of Working Trials below, and you will find some YouTube footage of Pi in training.

Our sincerest thanks go to Jayne for allowing us to use her pictures and films for our website, and we wish her every success in any future endeavours.

What Levels are there?

The levels are called ‘Stakes’ and dogs compete in ascending order. The lowest level is Companion (CD) followed by Utility (UD), Working (WD), Patrol (PD and Tracking Dog (TD) at the highest level. The dog must gain at least 70% of the marks in each section and 40% overall in order to qualify and progress to the next ‘Stake’.  Two wins Championship TD or PD stakes qualify the dog to be awarded the title of ‘Working Trial Champion’.

The exercises are divided into three groups

  1. Nosework
  2. Agility
  3. Control

There is a fourth group of exercises in the PD Stake which is ‘Patrol’, this is also referred to as man work.

The Three Groups

Nosework

Nosework is made up of ‘search’ and ‘track’ exercises.  At CD level there is no tracking but a retrieve exercise instead. In tracking, a stranger to the dog will lay a track which the dog will then follow. The tracklayer will walk a set pattern designed by the judge which will be identical for each dog. This track is approximately half a mile in length and will be laid on grassland, arable fields or heathland. Each competitor will be working on similar terrain to fellow exhibitors at the same level.

The dog has to follow the track and find then recover articles that have been placed along the track by the tracklayer. In the UD level, the track is laid half and hour before the dog works, and in TD the track will be 3 hours old. The search part of this group is where the dog has to seach for and retrieve articles placed in marked areas.

Agility

In the agility test, the dog must clear 3 obstacles. These consist of a three foot hurdle, a six foot high wooden scale and a nine foot long jump.

In both UD and CD levels, the height and length are reduced for smaller dogs. Two attempts may be given to clear each obstacle.

Control

Control exercises vary depending on the level being competed in.  All levels (Stakes) include heelwork, sending the dog away and a stay.  The send away can be over some distance in the TD and PD Stakes and would include a change in direction to the left or right.  The TD and PD Stakes also have a ‘speak on command’ test.  Retrieval of a dumbell and a recall exercise are included in the CD Stake and all except the CD Stake have a steadiness to gunshot test.

For the PD Stakes (which is only open to dogs that have qualified in the lower stakes) the dog has to quarter the ground for a hidden person, complete a test of courage, escort a person following a search by the handler, detain a running person and perform a recall from a running person.  This is in addition to the control, agility and nosework exercises.

To prove the capabilities of the Estrela Breed, PI excelled herself by winning her very first CD Open and also placed second and qualified the following month in her first CD Excellent (CD EX). Then qualifying in her first UD Open and being placed second and qualifying the following month in her second to acquire the titles of CDd, CDeX and UDd.

She then retired to have her only litter of puppies and her son Djosa – Bleau is doing very well by achieving his Good Citizens Bronze and Silver certificates by the age of 8 months and, if he does not grow to be too heavy for the 6 ft scale and 9 ft long jump which are compulsory in Working Trials, he could well be following in his mother’s footsteps when he’s old enough!

Below are some short films of Pi during her training with Jayne.