Gundog Working Tests

Gundog Working Tests: A Guide to the Ultimate Challenge for Sporting Dogs

For many people, owning a gundog is not just a hobby, but a passion. These highly skilled dogs are trained to work in partnership with their human handlers to locate and retrieve game, and the bond between a gundog and their handler is often unbreakable. However, owning a gundog is not just about hunting and shooting; there are many other activities and competitions that you and your dog can participate in, one of which is gundog working tests.

Labrador and owner working Gundog test


What are Gundog Working Tests?

Gundog working tests are competitive events designed to test the skills of gundogs in a simulated hunting environment.  Tests are organized by various gundog clubs and societies and are open to all breeds of gundog.  In the UK, your dog must be Kennel Club registered, in order to be in with a chance of winning, but many clubs allow non-KC-reg dogs to join in for fun.

Working Gundogs

The tests typically involve a series of tasks that the dog must complete, such as retrieving dummies, and working to hand signals and whistles dog must be Kennel Club registered, in order to be in with a chance of winning, but many clubs allow non-KC-reg dogs to join in for fun. The tests typically involve a series of tasks that the dog must complete, such as retrieving dummies, and working to hand signals and whistles

Participating in gundog working tests is a great way to keep your dog active and engaged, as well as to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. It is also an opportunity to meet other gundog enthusiasts and learn from their experiences, as well as to gain recognition for your dog's skills and abilities. Additionally, some gundog working tests are held for charity, so you can feel good knowing that you are supporting a worthy cause while having fun with your dog.

Wet Labrador and owner

Types of Gundog Working Tests


 There are several types of gundog working tests, each with its own unique set of challenges and requirements. Here are some of the most common types of gundog working tests:


Cocker spaniel working puppy test


1. Puppy Tests


Puppy tests are designed for dogs who are aged 18 months and under, that have not placed in novice tests. These tests typically involve some basic retrieves, as well as working to hand signals and whistles.  Spaniel and HPR (Hunt, Point, Retrieve) breeds are also required to demonstrate their hunting skills, again to a basic level.

2. Novice Dog - Novice Handler


In England there is an additional level, called Novice Dog - Novice Handler.  This is a really lovey way for brand new competitors to dip their paw into the working test environment.  These test are designed for dogs who have not yet achieved a placing at competition.  But in order to gain entry, their handler must also have not achieved any awards.  In essence, both dog and handler are complete novices in the world of working tests and the difficulty level reflects this.  This additional level exists in England partly due to the extremely high numbers of entrants for Gundog working tests.

Novice Test Winning Retriever

3. Novice Tests


Novice tests are designed for dogs that are still new to gundog working tests or have limited experience. These tests typically involve simple tasks such as retrieving dummies, and, in the case of Spaniels and HPRs, demonstrating a good start to hunting ability.  The dogs are judged on their obedience, willingness to work, and ability to retrieve and hunt an area.

Cocker Spaniel Gundog Working Test Winner

4. Open Tests


Open tests are more challenging than novice tests and are designed for dogs and owners that have more experience and advanced skills. These tests involve complicated retrieves (multiple retrieves, being sent to the correct dummy first, and blind retrieves that the dog and owner have not seen placed), working to hand signals and whistles, and negotiating obstacles such as fences and water. 


Entering Gundog Working Tests


Entry requirements differ depending on club and location.  In England, it's often expected to contact the club directly, well before the test day.  Entry numbers are high and some clubs take entry and payment ahead of the competition, in order to do a 'draw'.  A draw is when all qualifying entrants are put into an electronic system, which then randomly chooses a set number to run on the day.  If any of these dogs then withdraw from competition, the next in line is offered the run.

Labrador Gundog Test

In Scotland, club numbers are often considerably smaller, meaning a run is all but guaranteed.  Entrants arrive on the morning of the test and hand in their written application and payment to the club secretary, or club representative.


Entry forms require full details of both the dog and the handler (and owner, if different).  This usually includes full name and contact details, the dog's Kennel Club registered name and registration (or stud book, if Field Trial awarded) number.


Preparing for Gundog Working Tests


Preparing for gundog working tests requires a significant amount of time and effort. It is essential to start training your dog well in advance of the test, so they have time to develop the necessary skills and confidence. It is also important to ensure that your dog is in good physical condition and has a healthy diet, as well as plenty of mental stimulation and exercise.

We recommend a really high quality Working Dog Food, to ensure your dog is at peak performance and ready to train and win.  Rùn Cold Pressed is packed with natural nutrients, minimally processed, and scientifically created to give your working dog everything they need to thrive.

Wet labrador retrieving dummy



Gundog working tests are an excellent way to challenge your gundog and showcase their skills and abilities. Whether you are new to gundog working tests or have years of experience, there is a test that is right for you and your furry friend. With proper training and preparation, you and your dog can enjoy the thrill of competition and the satisfaction of knowing that you have achieved something special together.

Gundog Open Test winning spaniel
The Rùn-boys (pictured above) retired from Working Tests back in 2016.  Their years of competition and training were filled with happiness and excitement (accompanied by some occasional moments of stress and frustration!).  
Back to blog