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Working Trails in Spain

Sometime ago I promised I would try to set up some Working Trails training here in Spain. I also said I would organise a Working Trial Competition based on the current British Standard and hopefully have qualified British Judges come over to judge us. Well now, here in Javea, I have found an excellent place to teach beginners Scent work for Tracking and other various forms of searching.

For those doggy-minded people working with their dog to such levels they could effectively compete with the professionals and more importantly it is lots of fun for both the handler and their dog. There is something special about working with your dog as a partner forming a team that work well together using each other’s unique skills.

There must be many people here in Spain with their dogs having time to spare and would love to do something rewarding with their dogs where age is not a hindrance for either of you.

One of the most memorable things I always remember about the people who enter trials is that it is all about working with our dogs. It never mattered what your job was, the common factor was our dogs. Yes, some people would turn up in a top of the range 4X4 or some in a clapped out banger, no one minded.

I hope that together we can recapture some of that camaraderie here in Spain whether there are only four or forty-four, so what is it we actually do.

Working trail competitions in the United Kingdom teams need to qualify in an open competition before they can compete in a Championship competition. There are four stakes in each competition and they are Companion dog that does not involve tracking. Utility dog contains a track that is half an hour old. Working dog has a track of an hour and a half old and Tracking or Patrol Dog where the track is three hours old.

Whilst the obedience and agility are the same for all obviously, the standard improves with each stake.

Tracking

This is where a tracklayer will have walked a pre agreed pattern ranging from half an hour to three hours old before allowing the handler and dog to follow. All dogs in the same group have to run the same pattern. As they walk, they will leave articles as if dropped by accident. At the prescribed time, the dog and handler will follow the scent of the crushed ground and plant disturbance. Following the track and retrieving all the articles without undue problems will gain maximum marks.

It is usually after the track that the judge will ask the handler and dog to walk when he will fire a gun to check the dog’s steadiness to gunfire.

Search square

We have a search square area that is marked off with four poles. A steward will enter this area placing articles on the ground. After a short period, the handler sends their dog into the area whilst the handler remains outside. The handler by redirection can assist their dog to find and retrieve all four articles into the hands of the handler.

Obedience

There is also some general obedience of heelwork at the fast, normal, and slow pace. Retrieve of a dumbbell followed by sit stays of five minuets and a down stay for ten minuets. The dog also has to do a send away of between 200 to 300 meters then the handler must be able to redirect their dog left or right then call the dog for a recall. On the recall, it may include a halt with sit stand and down before a final recall to the handler.

Agility

The agility consists of a six-foot scale, though I will be using the easier A-frame along with a nine-foot long jump and three foot hurdle. We reduce the height of the equipment for smaller dogs. For any dogs that learn on an A-frame and where the owners wish to teach the scale as well so they can compete in any other Working Trial that uses a Scale there is only a little extra training required to make the A-frame into a scale on one side and then a dog can quickly adapt to the Scale.

That is all Working Trials consists of and it is seemingly so easy if you read it quickly.

If the team can reach a certain percentage of the total marks in an open competition, they will have qualified to enter a championship competition where you can gain a qualification like Utility dog excellent, Working dog excellent or tracking/patrol dog excellent. These may only be pieces of printed card but believe me they are worth their weight in gold because they recognise all the work involved in obtaining them.

It is not all easy going as even though the team may well be up to the standard on the day there are lots of things that can go wrong to stop you qualifying. It is only working as a team and training for such problems that you can overcome them. This is all part of the fun. It is a little like banging your head against a brick wall because it is nice when you stop.

I will also be teaching search and rescue as well as searching for weapons and possibly drugs if I can obtain permission to hold small quantities. If there is some interest, I will teach cadaver searching. There is also the possibility to teach building or wood searches where we are looking for a hidden or injured person.

If this sounds interesting to you and you can find the time to train as well as understanding that this interest may involve travelling. I never thought anything of travelling from York to Tow Law (Durham) just to have a training day. Having had that training day, we then trained at home or at someone else’s place like Scarborough where other members also had the land and the equipment.

The one thing with working trails is you can become very involved with the training and there becomes an eagerness to learn not just for the handler but also with their dog. It can become addictive, time consuming and those with partners that do not become involved may find that is the last they see of their partner for hours on end. Walks become more meaningful and enjoyable as you can learn to incorporate training into every day mundane tasks.

Even if we only begin with four members, other people will see us training in our localities so they too may come over to watch and become interested so the numbers will slowly grow. Why not give it a try?

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