An Introduction to Field Work

The Golden Retriever was designed by Lord Marjoribanks to be a versatile gentleman’s hunting companion, equally at home finding and flushing upland game with its sensitive nose, retrieving waterfowl, and curling up by the fireplace after a hard day afield. The breed standard is rooted in this purpose, and reveals its importance in the opening line: “Primarily a hunting dog, the Golden Retriever should be shown in hard working condition.” The water resistant coat and strong musculature called for in the standard are needed for the Golden to fulfill its purpose as a hunting dog.

Fanciers looking for a dog for competition purposes or as a hunting companion can use a number of tactics to ensure that the puppy they bring home will have the necessary desire and trainability. Be realistic about your goals and get a puppy with a pedigree that best suits your needs. If field trials are the goal, then a proven field trial pedigree is essential. These pups also make terrific hunting partners. Pups from more versatile pedigrees combining both conformation and hunt test titles can make for fine hunt test and hunting companions. Inquire with breeders as to what their dogs do for them, and if possible, watch them working. Attend a field event and watch the dogs. Focus on the dogs that possess the desire and trainability you want, as well as the look you love. A calendar of these events can be found on the CKC website.

Over the years, a number of performance events have been developed to test for the qualities needed to ensure that the breed retains the abilities for which it was originally designed. There are three different sets of CKC field events in which Goldens may participate alongside the other retriever breeds, Irish Water Spaniels and Standard Poodles. These are the Working Certificate program, Hunt Tests and Field Trials. Other bodies, such as NAHRA and UKC HRC, also offer field events. The GRCGT hosts a WC Test each summer and a Hunt Test each fall.

Working Certificate Tests
The Working Certificate was designed to demonstrate whether or not dogs possessed the natural retrieving instinct and trainability to be a working companion to the average hunter.

This program involves a test in which a passing performance earns the title. Dogs who pass the test will be permitted to have the letters of that title added after their registered name. These tests must be completed in order; that means, in order to try for the higher title, one must have earned the lower one first.

Working Certificate (WC): back to back singles on land and back to back singles on water
Working Certificate Intermediate (WCI): a land double, an honour on land, and a water double
Working Certificate Excellent (WCX): a walk up test with a land double or land/water double, an honour on the walk-up, a water double, a land blind, and a water blind.

Hunt Tests
The Hunt Test program was designed to test the working abilities of dogs in conditions as closely approximating real field conditions and situations as possible. At each level, the dog must earn three or more "legs" or passing scores to earn the title. A passing score is considered 70% or better, with no single category scoring less than an average of 50% from the scores of the two judges.

A dog who has earned a hunt test title will have the title letters appearing after their registered name. It is possible to jump right in at the more advanced levels in the hunt test program; however, in order to earn a title without having earned the lower level, the dog must pass one more test at that higher level.

Junior Hunter (JH): 2 single land marks, and 2 single water marks. Dogs should not be handled on more than one mark. Dogs may be brought to line on lead and restrained until sent and thus need not yet be steady. Collars or leads shall be removed before the dog is sent. Three legs must be earned for this title.
Senior Hunter (SH): dogs shall be tested on at least 5 hunting situations including a land blind and a water blind (run singly or in combination), a double land mark and a double water mark, an upland hunting test, and a walk-up in combination with one of these situations. Dogs shall be steady on line, and given the opportunity to honour. Diversion shot(s) shall be used, and a diversion mark may be used. Four legs must be earned for this title.
Master Hunter (MH): dogs shall be tested on a minimum of 5 hunting situations including multiple land marks, multiple water marks, an upland hunting test, a land blind(s) and a water blind(s). There shall be at least three series. Diversion shots and/or birds shall be used at least once. Triple marks are encouraged for the multiples. Dogs must be steady and must be provided at least one opportunity to honour. Five legs must be earned for this title.
Grand Master Hunter (GMH): dogs must earn 10 Master passes beyond their MH title.
Master National Hunter (MNH): dogs must possess the MH title and have passed a MH test in the qualifying period specified for the Master National. The Master National is a 10 series event. Dogs who successfully complete all 10 series may have this title added to their name.

Field Trials
This is the elite level of field work. Many of the people involved in this aspect of field work are professional trainers who work with dogs from purpose-bred bloodlines. The quality of work and intensity of focus of these dogs is really something to behold.

The dogs who compete in field trial events are scored on their performance with the purpose of determining a winner in each stake. Winning dogs in these events may earn the titles FTCH and AFTCH (if handled by an amateur) before their names. Points are earned for placements, but in order to earn the title, the dog must earn at least one first place. A dog winning the National in either the Open or Amateur stake automatically earns that title if it did not possess the title before the trial.

Junior Stake: for puppies under 2 years of age. There are no blinds. There may be multiple marks and dogs must be steady.
Qualifying Stake: for dogs not possessing all-age points. Involves blinds and multiple marks. Dogs successful in this event may earn the QAA designation.
Open Stake: challenging and technical multiple marks and blinds. Upon obtaining their win and points, dogs successful in this venue sport the FTCH designation.
Amateur Stake: the same sort of expectations as with the Open stake except that handlers may not be professionals. Upon obtaining their win and points dogs may sport the AFTCH designation.

Contributed by Shelly Blom 2007