Gundog testing in the Nordic countries

 Ingemar Borelius


Cold game tests (B-tests) and Field Trials (A-tests)

Interest in working Flatcoats is very high in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) and a considerable number of breeders are focusing on the development of working Flatcoats. A quite substantial number of Flatcoats are tested every year. Even if Cold game tests (B-Prov=B-test) will be maintained as the major testing ground for the big bulk of working retrievers, the number of Field Trials (A-prov=A-test) is reasonably high, with Denmark, arranging “A-test” during decades, in the forefront.

Even if the local sections of the Dansk Retriever Klub (DRK) arrange the major part of all tests, it’s of immense importance for the Danish Flatcoat Club to use the option to arrange a few official tests (B-test) and trials (A-test) exclusively for Flatcoats. This is giving a very good opportunity for breeders and others to watch the best dogs at one occasion and get a good overview of the current working standard in the breed. It secures a strong focus on working Flatcoat issues within the breed club.

The local sections of the “Svenska Spaniel och Retriever Klubben” (SSRK) arrange all official spaniel and retriever tests in Sweden, being the main body for all breed clubs. However, the different Retriever sub clubs are offered an option to arrange an official “national” A-test, a championship, exclusively for its own breed. It was started in 2007 and its arranged along the same lines as British or Danish Field Trials on varm game, being open for participants from other countries. The Swedish Flatcoated Retriever Club arrange a yearly official “Rasmästerskap”, a Field Trial, open for all Flatcoats with sufficient merits from local or international Field Trials.

In addition to this a Nordic Flatcoat Championship is arranged each year on a rolling schedule between the countries. The B-test for country teams (4 dogs) is performed day one and an individual test day two where all team members, supposed to be the best working Flatcoats from each country, compete at an A-test. This event strengthens the important Nordic cooperation and it means a lot to promote the strong focus on the working Flatcoat as well as the valuable cooperation between the Flatcoat clubs.

When the Swedish Flatcoated Retriever Club was established in 1979 common rules where set for the certification of dogs. A 2: nd price in beginner’s class (B-prov), a show price as well as a confirmed health status is required for the sire and dam if a litter is to be presented by the puppy advisor. Even if this is voluntary for the breeder a consequence has been that quite many Flatcoats are tested. The general figures can be seen in the official statistics. But one good example can be given as well from the Swedish Flatcoated Retriever working championship (running as a C-test/working test on dummies), the so called Flatmästerskapet, where more than 400 Flatcoats are entered each year. But even if Flatmästerskapet might be quite unique for Sweden, participants come from all Nordic as well as many European countries. So, the interest in working Flatcoats is quite high in many European areas.


Cold game tests (B-tests)

The testing of working retrievers is done according to the same basic set up in all Nordic countries. The cold game test (B-test) is the base and the tool for the evaluation of large numbers of working Retrievers. It’s probably so that steadiness, the ability to keep quiet, the willingness to be handled under hot conditions, the capability to follow a runner and to stand the stress during a long shooting day can only be fully evaluated at a proper Field Trial. But Field Trials, (A-test), can never replace cold game tests (B-test), as the testing ground for the ordinary dog owner in this area, offering a smooth entrance for beginners and producing statistics (offspring, littermates etc) of a large number of dogs giving valuable knowledge when the potential of a stud dog or bitch is evaluated.

Denmark has given the inspiration for the test set up that is used in all Nordic countries today. Danish breeders probably have had the closest connections to the British over the years and the Danish countryside no doubt offer grounds that enables proper Field Trials, to a larger extent than the other Scandinavian countries. The B-test was designed by the Danes to enable a testing that is as close to a proper shooting day as possible.

The overall scenery for the B-test is a shot at the side of the lake, the lake is partly covered with reeds but offers large areas of open water as well. Grounds nearby are mixed with fully open areas and areas with rough cover. A few guns are standing at the side of the lake, others are standing on open grounds. Normally two handlers (and a judge) are standing with their dogs at the side of the lake. Guns are fired and a few birds are thrown, offering the dog and its handler an option to mark. A number of shot birds, hares and rabbits are unseen for the handler and the dog, but the handler knows the approximate area. The fall of some birds are known by the handler but not seen by the dog, offering handled retrieves. A few birds have fallen in the lake but the major part has normally fallen on the ground.

The tested dog is asked to work continuously on all retrieves with little or no time to rest. A young dog is normally in action during approximately 20 minutes, a dog in the higher classes is normally in action up to 45 minutes. The dog is exposed to gunfire, falling game, and other dogs at work, at heel to assess its ability to be steady and quiet. Dogs could be handled from a quite fixed area or dogs, handlers, judges and guns could walk on a line to set a somewhat different shooting situation. There are options as well to simulate a shooting situation with beaters driving game towards a line of guns. Thus, it’s a great freedom for a creative organizer to set tests with quite huge variations as long as the basic capabilities of the dog is evaluated. 

The setup is done based on the conditions of the ground in place. The ambition is to arrange a test that is as like an ordinary shooting day as possible with natural variations. The basic set up is very much like a working test in the rest of Europe, including Britain. The specific challenge however, compared to similar tests in other countries, probably is the “free search” where dogs are asked to hunt independently through a given area which is about 70 x 70 meters, (size is varying in the different classes) with about 6 – 8 pieces of hidden game, sometimes partly on land and partly in water. It’s a quite natural picking up situation where the dog is asked to use his natural instincts and natural hunting capability. The handler is supposed to support the dog if it’s wasting too much time outside the relevant area or in an area where no game is left.

However, a clever dog hunts when he’s asked without asking unnecessary questions, cover the ground well, and knows by instinct which parts of the given area isn’t covered. The “free search” is nowadays regularly combined with a test where dogs are asked to hunt through a closer area, 10 – 15 meters away for the handler, covered with heavier undergrowth, requiring a more distinct support from the handler.

A strong challenge is the long, handled retrieves in water where the dog, entered in the highest classes, is asked to cross a lake or a river, up to 50 – 75 meters, sometimes distracted by marked but forbidden game and by areas of heavy reeds, or small islands, with a tempting effect on the dog. 

The setup for the B-test is varying depending on the local conditions in the different countries and in various parts of the countries where the woodlands and lakes in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland probably are offering more challenging water works and search in heavy cover. Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden, Finland and Norway are offering more open farmed areas offering other challenges. The most unique part of the Nordic test setup is probably the free search and the water work offering free search in heavy reeds as well as long marked and handled retrieves in water.


Classes and prices

This description basically covers the Swedish model. There are minor differences between the countries.

The beginners class (nkl)

In the beginner’s class, the dog’s natural abilities are tested, the dog has to retrieve properly, a lead is accepted under gunfire, grounds are rather open, distances are rather limited, when it comes to the free search as well as the marked and handled retrieves. The two water retrieves are thrown one by one on more or less open water. This class is for young dogs between 9 – 24 months and for older dogs which has not received a first. At least 8 pieces of game is retrieved by the dog. The beginner is asked to watch another dog at work all through the test, being steady on a lead.

The open class (ökl)

In open class, the number of retrieves increase a bit (at least 10 pieces of game), distances are longer, cover is more rough, handled birds are offered on land and in water. Two dogs are working in parallel during parts of the test but are never supposed to search on the very same ground.  

The elite class (ekl)
(in SE/NO/FI/Winner class in DK)

To get a higher prize in the highest class an easy handled as well as hard going dog is requested. The free search is very demanding with longer distances and heavier grounds. Sometimes the free search can be partly laid out in water. The handled retrieves are longer and disturbances from forbidden game quite tough.

Two or more dogs are tested in parallel to check steadiness and the dog’s social behaviour. Normally that means that one dog is watching the other dog at work, sometimes (in the higher classes) the two dogs (four dogs in DK) are asked to hunt simultaneously in the same area (during a limited part of the trial and on open land) and the ability to respect another working dog is tested. A dog that is trying to dominate the other is disqualified and withdrawn from the trial. From my experience that occurs very seldom.

Prices in Sweden: Quality prices are given in all classes meaning that price 1, 2, 3, 0 can be given to a unlimited number of dogs. An Honory Price (HP=X in the price list) is given to one or more dogs winning a 1:st price with an extraordinary good performance.

Prices in Denmark: Quality prices given in beginners and open classes are 1, 2, 3, 0 and Disqualified. For Winners class there’s a maximum number of prices being one 1:st winner, one 2: nd winner, one 3: rd winner and one 4:th winner if the best dogs reach a sufficient standard. The winner is given a certificate, qualifying for the Championship, if it reaches a sufficient standard.

To get a B- test Champion title (SE J(j)Ch) you need three first prices in Elitclass at B-tests and a qualification from an ordinary shooting day (judged by a qualified judge) or a 2:nd price from an A-test/Elit-class or a very good at an International Field Trial or a price from a Danish A-test/Winner class.


Field Trials (A-TEST)

When it comes to the A-test Denmark and the southern areas in Sweden and Finland are offering the most suitable grounds, not the least around the old noble estates, and just a few have been organised in Northern Sweden. Quite a few Nordic Flatcoats are entering A-tests sometimes with amazingly good results.

An A-test is a Field Trial arranged according to the same overall principles as the British Field Trial, on reared game but quite frequently on ducks as well.

In Sweden, there are two classes;

Qualification class (kkl)
(which is mainly arranged at ordinary shots)

Elite class (ekl)
(being arranged along the same lines as an A-test in Denmark and a Field Trial in UK).

Prices: In the qualification class dogs are either qualified (G=godkänd) or non-qualified (E=Ej godkänd)

In the Elite class dogs are given quality prices following the same principles as for B-test that is 1, 2, 3 price. For the best dog a Certificate is given, and thus one merit for the FT Championship.  One or more dogs being close to the winner can be given Certificate Quality prices.

The Swedish FT Champion title

To get a Field Trial Champion title (SE J(a)Ch) in Sweden you need two certificates or one certificate and two certificate quality prices from A-tests.

In Denmark, there are two classes as well; the Open Class and the Winner class. In Open class, there are quality prices 1, 2, 3, 0, or disqualified. In Winner class there’s a maximum number of prices being one 1:st winner, one 2: rd winner, one 3:rd winner and one 4:th winner. The winner is given a certificate qualifying for the Championship if it reaches a sufficient standard.


Statistics from Sweden

I don’t believe I’m exaggerating too much if I say that the Swedish Spaniel and Retriever Club (SSRK), and its web-designer Jörgen Norrblom, produce statistical material that is unique in the international retriever world and a model for other clubs. All official statistical material is presented to all interested in a very user-friendly way.  

Click on the enclosed links to get the list of all started Flatcoats, and click on each individual dog to get all registered data (feed from the Swedish Kennel Club) for each dog including health data, results from shows and trials, pedigrees and the dog’s offspring if there is any.

If you would like to find the overall figures for all breeds and individual lists for the other breeds please enter the Spaniel and Retriever Club website on Click on Prov/Utställning in the top menu, click on Retrieverjaktprov in the drop down menu, click on “Resultat och statistic för SSRKS jaktprov från 1976” in the left hand menu (B-menu). Then you’ll find all overall and detailed figures for A-prov and B-prov in the B-menu for all breeds. 


       © Alex Faarkrog 2017