Labrador Retriever of Cape Makkovik


 When work becomes sport




Training tests and field trials for Retrievers

Training tests

These tests have been created to allow everyone who owns a Retriever, and that includes the Labrador owners of course, to judge the qualities of his dog.Test A has been devised to place the dog in an environment that it is not very used to, on terrain that it does not know and in situations that come close to those of competition. Test B tests the hunting qualities of Retrievers that are to take part in the field trial. Their purpose is to verify that the dog has th minimum of qualities that the Retriever are expected to have. It is not a competition, but an examination of obedience, calmness, marking, sense of smell and retrieval aptitude on dry land and in the water. The dog must pass this examination to be allowed to take part in the field trial.

Training test A

This test is reserved for dogs that had never taken part in a field trial. There is no age limit. The dogs are presented on a lead.

The requisite exercises are as follows:

  • Walking to heel on the lead

  • Sending ahead

  • Returning to heel

  • Retrieving a dummy thrown into deep water by hand

  • Retrieving a dummy launched in full view in open country by machine

  • Retrieving a dummy launched out of view by machine

The tests in this examination are deliberately simple. They allow a determination of whether the dog displays encouraging qualities and a minimum of aptitudes with a view to preparing it for more complex subsequent training.

Training test B

This is the second stage of tests ahead of any presentation in a field trial. Dogs of any age must have already had a minimum of training. The dog must pass the following exercises:

  • · Obedience in walking to heel for 20 metres; obedience by sitting when the handler walks 20 metres away.

  • · Retrieving a dummy launched into deep water by machine.During the dogs return, a second dummy is thrown by hand, without the dog being disturbed. After the first retrieval has been completed the dog is sent off to retrieve the second one.

  • · Retrieving 2 dummiesThe dogs take up their “shooting” positions. Six dummies are launched, three in open country and three in covered terrain. The dog has two minutes to retrieve the dummies.

  • · Shot game is left under cover, out of view of the dog and its handler. Failure t complete his test successfully eliminates the dog. This is the most difficult test in category B. Only dogs with sufficient experience will be able to succeed in this selection. They must possess all the qualities required to progress to the field trials ( smell, calmness, obedience, marking, etc).

French Natural Aptitude Test (NAT)

This is reserved for Labradors aged 9 till 24 months. It evaluates the natural qualities of Retrievers. These “innate” qualities are not genetically selected, as “acquired” qualities are.

Training after this test enables these qualities to be developed. The test comprises simple exercises:

  • · Sociability Test: The dog must weave between other dogs without showing any sign of aggression towards them

  • · Calmness Test: The dog must show no fear when a firearm is discharged. All timorous dogs are eliminated.

  • · Smell test: The dog must show its interest when passing close by or downwind of game in a cage.

  • · Retrieval Test: A dummy must be retrieved by the dog on open terrain. Refusal to retrieve eliminates the dog.

  • · Water Test: A dummy launched into deep water must be retrieved by the dog. Refusal to retrieve or to enter the water eliminates the dog.

  • - A dog that successfully passes the various tests is awarded its NAT. It has shown a minimum of qualities that a Retriever is expected to possess.



Field trials


The purpose of field trials is to improve Retrievers through selection and discovery in the field of the best representative of each breed by highlighting its good behaviour on the shoot, marking, enterprise, courage, smell, perseverance, good retrieval and rapid return, so that the breeders can take note and the title of trailer can be awarded.Field trials for retrievers are competitions using shot game and are not held during the hunt season. The qualities emphasised in the trials are summarised below.
  • Good behaviour on the shoot
  • Retrievers must remain perfectly calm, while still being attentive at all times during the hunt (after or during tracking, in moving shoots and in stationary shoots). Nervous dogs that won’t stay still, set off to retrieve without being commanded to do so, alarm the game or disturb shooting are not of a high enough standard to be used in selection.
  • Marking
  • This is the main quality for Retrievers. It allows a dog to locate and memorise (even over great distances) the exact landing site of game. An excellent Retriever must be able to go very quickly and directly to one or more landing sites to retrieve the game for its master, even after a very long wait. Some dogs are able to memorise around a dozen landing sites and to retrieve the game in the order indicated by the conductor.
  • Enterprise
  • A Retriever is not used to pick up game that has fallen a few metres away. The owner can do that himself. But it should be used to retrieve game that lands far away in difficult to access places (water, bushes, injured birds that try to get away, etc). To reach it, the dog must show initiative and intelligence, without losing time.
  • Perseverance
  • A good Retriever must have perseverance when searching and not abandon its search and return without the game it is supposed to retrieve. It must show itself to be stubborn and continue to search as long as the master does not give the command to return.
  • Good mouth
  • The phenotype of the Labrador has equipped it with strong, powerful jaws that enable it to carry large game (pheasant, goose, hare) and to retrieve without dropping its load, which might then try to flee if it is only injured. A good Retriever carries the game in its mouth boldly to ensure that it has a good grip.
  • Rapid return
  • Depending on the training or aptitude and the breed of Retriever, pace may vary from a walk to a gallop. The conditions of the terrain can clearly have an impact on speed and pace.To progress to the highest awards in competition, the dog’s speed must be sufficient to bring back the game as fast as possible to the owner.
There are 2 kinds of field trials for Retrievers:- French-style field trial- English-style field trial 

French-style field trials

A dog competing “French-style” must be on lead during the shoot, but it must never pull at the lead and the handler must never coerce the dog in any way. Absolutely impeccable behaviour is demanded to gain the highest awards.

English-style field trials

The dog presented “English-style” at the shoot must stay 3 metres from its master and is not on the lead. Dogs that gain a TB qualification during “English-style” presentation can no longer compete in “French-style” field trials.Working testsA British invention, working tests are open to Spaniels and Retrievers and enable an appreciation of the dog and its handler in competitive situations. Classification is decided according to a points table taking account of the efficiency of retrieval, the style of the retrieving dog and the conduct of the handler. The tests are not subject to any official awards, as they are given in the field trials.There are three levels:- Puppy Class- Novice Class- Open ClassWater work certificateEstablished to meet the demands of international field trial regulations that stipulate that no Retriever can be classified if it does not pass a working test in deep water. The aim is to verify that Retrievers presented in working trials possess the essential taste for retrieving in water. The dog must retrieve at least two shot game “released” in full view of the dog in a shoot situation. The dog must swim with vigour, efficiency and speed there and back.