Retriever Working Test and Field Trials in central and southern Europe 

By Ingemar Borelius.

I had most data about continental Field Trials sent to me around 2005 by the Dutch Flatcoat breeder Louisianne Noteborn – Smit (Dutch D’votion Flatcoats). The Swiss Flatcoat owner/handler Sven Bosshard has kindly updated these data in 2017. Please send any further corrections or additional facts about Tests and Trials in European countries and if possible yearly compilations of Flatcoat results from these countries to

Retriever Field Trials are arranged in many countries all over the continent. This is a short summary of the Field Trial rules for French, Belgian, Dutch, Italian and Swiss Field trials.


 Basic qualifying tests:

The initial tests for all Retrievers are the Epreuves / Selectifs: TAN/A/B. The application for a start must always contain hip scores and eye test results. 

Normally you apply for a start at a B – test (highest performance level), if things are not going well, you will be awarded an A or, lower level, a TAN

TAN = test d'attitude naturels

A young dog, between 9 – 24 months, can be entered at this test. Different abilities are tested:

1 - Social behaviour = 4 - 5 handlers are walking their dogs (males and bitches) at heal with the leads on and then takes the lead off, to see if there is any kind of aggression                              2 - Gun shyness = a blank is shot at a distance of +/- 5 meter to assess if the dogs are gun shy (dogs are supposed to stand on a loose (relaxed) lead)                                                             3 - Nose work = a live bird is put in a cage which is hidden in cover (a bush). The handler is asked to walk his dog off lead and pass the hidden cage. The judge evaluates if the dog will use the scent and if it reacts positively on the scent.                                                                       4 - Attitude towards freshly shot game = A freshly killed pigeon is thrown on the open ground and the dog is asked to retrieve (if the dog refuse it’s not penalized severely at this stage)                    5 - Land retrieve = an object is thrown in grass, - the dog is asked to go for it and the drive, the pick-up and the retrieve is looked at (if the dog doesn't make a clear delivery to hand it is not penalised).                                                                                                                                6 - Water retrieve = the same general requirements as the previous point (5). A dog is only penalised if it’s not willing to enter water.

Selectif A:

1 - Obedience – the dog is asked to walk properly with its handler on a lead for 20 meters and it’s asked to sit and stay. The handler will leave the dog in that position, move away 20 meters and stay there for 30 seconds, visible for the dog. The dog is recalled to heal, a gunshot is fired (the gun is 50 meters away from the dog) when the dog is on its way back. The dog is supposed to ignore the fire,                                                                                                                        2 -  Social behaviour = see above                                                                                              3 -  Nose work = see above.                                                                                                      4 -  Water retrieve = see above                                                                                                5 - Land retrieve = see above. This time however a dummy launcher is fired, next to the handler, to judge gun shyness and steadiness on a lead - retrieve is +/- 40 meter                                    6 -  Cover retrieve - see previous, the only difference is that the dummy is thrown in cover. The dog is supported by a good wind direction

Selectif B:

(The dog can either be on a lead or off lead)                                                                               1 - Obedience - see above. The handler is asked to stay for 1 minute. The gun will be 20 meters away from the dog.                                                                                                                 2 - Water retrieve - there will be 2 dummies launched away +/- 40 meter. The distance between the first and the second dummy will be approximately 5 meters. The dog is supposed to stay steady, when sent the dog can choose whatever dummy, but is not allowed to change the dummies. On his way back with the second dummy, a third dummy is thrown in front of the dog (1 meter). The dog is supposed to ignore this, deliver number 2 and is then sent for number 3.        3 - land retrieve - 3 handlers and their dogs are lined up on a shooting line, with +/- 10 meters distance between them. The gun will launch 6 dummies (3 in open grass and 3 in cover +/- 40 meters away). The gun will start shooting for dog nr. 1, the first dummy is sent in front of the dog in grass the second dummy is sent behind the dog in cover - for dog nr 2 dummy 3 in grass, dummy 4 in cover, - for dog 3 dummy 5 in grass, dummy 6 in cover - the handlers position is chosen by a lottery system with a straw                                                                                  Dog nr. one is sent for dummy 1 in the grass - dog 2 is sent for dummy 3 - dog 3 is sent for dummy 5 - dog 3 is sent for dummy 6 - dog 2 is sent or dummy 4 - dog 1 sent for dummy 2. The dogs are supposed to deli ver the first retrieve in grass within a minute.                                     4 - Blind retrieve - a freshly killed pigeon is hidden in cover at a distance of +/- 40 meter, a new location is chosen for each dog – the dog is sent on a “back” command.

After having passed this first test dogs are allowed to enter proper field trials – a la Francaise (novice) – if they passed the test with the lead on - or a l'Anglaise (open) – if they passed it without the lead. But usually dogs are entered to a trial “à la française” first and when they succeeded they change to “à l'anglaise”.                                                                                    For foreigners: a Very good (2'nd prize) on a national (CACT) field trial is requested. For dogs registered in Scandinavia a 2'nd prize at a national (CACT) cold game trial is requested.

Field Trials

Field trial – a la Francaise (Novice level)

One main difference between Novice (a la Francaise) or Open (a l’Anglaise) is that dogs are allowed to be on a lead in Novice but not in Open. Furthermore; retrieving distances are shorter in Novice and almost all retrieves are marked.

In a Novice stake three dogs are lined up, guns are standing in front of the dogs, 30 meters ahead. Three birds are (released from cages) shot and dogs are given the opportunity to mark and retrieve one bird each. This might be repeated once, according to the judge’s decision, but dogs are then sent in the opposite order.

A second drive is run, as an ordinary drive at a shot, and 6 – 9 birds are shot. The judge asks the handler to send the dog for one specific retrieve.

The dogs, competing for the highest awards, are recalled for a final round (a barrage).

A dog is normally exposed just to one single drive during a day. This means that the handler is free to handle several dogs at a trial. Dogs competing for the highest awards might be recalled for a final round.

Three different types of novice stakes are arranged; ordinary stakes (see above) walk up stakes and water stakes.

Field Trial – a l’Anglaise (Open level)

The “a L'Anglaise” competition is similar to the novice trial but demands are more challenging. A more polished behaviour is asked for from handlers as well as the dogs. At handled retrieves the dogs are asked to react willingly and immediately to the handler’s signals. Distances are longer and blinds are more frequent. A more silent handling is requested if you want to compete for the highest prizes.

Battue marchante

At some trials, the line is walking behind a team of setters or spaniels, in sugar beet or mustard seed (Battue Marchante). This can be very challenging as it’s a walked-up trial and distances can be extremely long. The guns line, where setters and spaniels are worked, can be approximately +/- 100 meter ahead of the competing dogs. Retrieves can be more than 150 meters ahead and to excel the dog need to be a perfect marker and a very good healer.

Water trials

There are also some specific Water trials. Distances can be very long (sometimes up to 300 meters!) and quite commonly dogs are asked to swim through wide areas of water lilies which is extremely challenging.

There are minimum 6 dogs or maximum 12 dogs at a Field trial.                                               To be precise: There are battue marchante (Walk-up) and battue fixe (Drive) in both, novice and open trials, but more in open than in novice. But a normal Walk-up does not mean that it is with spaniels or setters.... it's just simulated - so the birds are thrown by helpers. There are Walk-up trials with spaniels or setters, like in a real hunting situation more or less as they do in the UK. They call it “action de chasse” - sometimes they give a CACT or CACIT (international ticket) on these trials. To compete in an action de chasse trial, you need to have received at least one RCACT (Reserve CACT witch can be given for a 2nd place) in a normal trial à l'anglaise. These trials are the most difficults in France.

Special breed Trials

Special novice trials are arranged for one individual breed of retrievers. These are normally for Flatcoats, Goldens or Labradors. Those can be a bit easier than any variety trials as they are judged specially for one specific breed.                                                                                      I never heard about breed trials in France, never seen one in the last 5 years.

Prices and Champion titles

Based on the price model that is used for International Field Trials (FCI rules) quality prices are given to the dogs. Prices are Excellent (1:st price), Very Good (2: nd price) and Good (3:rd price). A Certificate (CACT= Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat de Travail) is given to the winner of the trial if performance is good enough and the dog is awarded an Excellent price. A RCACT (Reserve CACT) can be given to the 2nd place – if the winning dog already has the qualification as a champion the RCACT counts like a CACT. I think they do this because a champion dog is not forced to change to the next class.

The TRIALER title is given to a dog that is awarded two Excellent prices at a Novice or an Open Field Trial. 

There are two different Field Trial Champion titles (FTCh).

FTCh a la Francaise (fFTCh)

This title is awarded a dog winning three novice trials with CACT (1’Excellent). Bitches are given a specific favour and is given the FTCh award either winning three trials with CACT or two trials with CACT plus two Excellent prices without CACT plus one Very Good result from an Open Field Trial.

This should be achieved within 3 calendar years, counting from the first CACT including the reward a l’anglaise

FTCh a l’Anglaise (aFTCh)

This title is awarded a dog winning three open field trials. Bitches are in this case favoured given the FTCh title with two wins with CACT and two Excellent prices.

If the winner of an open field trial is a FTCh a reserve certificate (R. CACT) can be given to the second-best dog if it comes up to the required standard.

Additional requirements

To obtain the FTCh titles the dog must be certified with good hips and eyes and be rewarded twice (at least Very good = 2’place ) at special retriever shows, or a National Clubshow or a French Championship Show.

FTCh Complete

A dog that has won at one of each different types of field trials can be given this special title.

1 CACT on land                                                                                                                       1 CACT on water                                                                                                                    1 CACT on walkup (behind setters or spaniels)                                                                           + 1 BICP is a kind of field trial only individual 

Requirements for a French FT Championship title.


The French Retriever Championship 

To participate at the French Retriever Championship one CACT and one Excellent price must be obtained during the same year. They Championchip is called “Coupe the France” which takes place usually in the beginning of December in the center of France. The novice trial is on one day, the open trials goes over two days.

Some additional comments from Sven Bosshard

According to Sven there are just a few Workingtests but many Field Trials organized. All detailed information can be found on the new French Retriever Club website:

There are a few Flatcoats winning the French Field Trial Champion title, most of theme “à la française“ (Novice), a few “a l’anglaise“ (Open). One of them is D’Eben du Clos des Vignes Savrony by Sylvie Wicky. I think there are some more, but I don’t know them. They publish it in the club magazine every year.

Belgian field trials

Belgian field trials are arranged at two levels. The Novice trial is not giving merits for a champion title but a dog awarded two excellent prices is given the Trialer title.

The Open trial is giving merits for the Field Trial Champion title (FTCH).

Compared with French field trials the novice level is more demanding. All dogs are in competition all day as is the case at the UK Field Trials, which cause more stress to the dogs.

This goes for the open level as well. Rules are based on the British rules and a dog is eliminated if it’s eye wiped once, which is not the case in France. Like in Britain shoots are on natural game, not out of boxes like in France.                                                                                             One eye wipe is admitted in Belgium like in France = FCI rules.                                                   But the way of handling and the kind of shoots are very similar with the UK kind of way

Dutch field trials

The Dutch Field Trials are similar to the Belgian. Grounds in general are flatter due to the different country conditions. The quantity of birds is limited compared to the Belgian trials and birds are normally just enough for every dog to have one round / one retrieve).

There are just a few trials organised a year, and only 8 – 12 dogs are invited out of around 400 applicants. The ordinary trial normally includes novice as well as open dogs – the only difference between the two levels is that novice dogs are allowed to be on a lead, open dogs are not.

Dogs that are entered on a lead can only be awarded a 2’place (very good) even if the lead is taken off later on. The retrieves are on the same level in both classes.

(There are several Dutch organisations actively trying to forbid shooting – and manifestations during trials are common)

Italian field trials

Italian rules are similar to the French rules. Two wins with CACT is required for the FTCh title for bitches, thee for dogs. Neither are hip scores ore eye test results required. No Trialer titles are rewarded.

According to the Swiss Flatcoat owner/handler Sven Bosshard there are Workingtests as well as Field Trials organized. Some Workingtests are organized by local groups and are not official. All Field Trials are officially organized by the Italian Retriever Club (RCI, or the Working Retrievers Club (WRCI, and refer to the FCI rules.

Sven describes the following working titles:                                                                                     Italian Field Trial Winner = You need to win a Novice trial, get a “good“ qualification in an Open trial, be qualified at a water test and get a “very good“ in a national show.

Italian Field Trial Champion = You need to win two FT’s with CAC with a bitch and three with a dog, of which one can be at a Novice trial. Furthermore you need a water test and a “very good“ at a national show.

There are also international Field Trials organised according to the FCI rules where you can win a CACIT and qualify for the International FT Champion title.

If you have a CAC in Novice, you have to compete in Open. If you reached the Italian FTCH title, you only can compete in CACIT trials and no more in Open trials.

Often Novice trials are simulated, but Open trials mostly are with spaniels like in the UK.

Until today four Flatcoats have conquered the Italian Field Trial Champion title: 

- Oly Black of Fundy Bay’s Najad (Gayplume Gamesmaster x Lianga-Black of Fundy Bay's Naiad) owned by Patrizia Errera

 - Royalsilk Gamblerman (Twilight Star's Easy Rider x Heilurihännän Jive Dancer) owned by Chiara Berzacola

- Elfi de la Ruaz (Comics Westside Story x Dasha de la Ruaz) owned by Olivia Erfurth

-  Almanza Poetry In Motion (Moonstruck Lucky Guess x Almanza Jigsaw Puzzle) owned by Sven Bosshard 

There is an Italian Championship every year, usually in January. It's a two days trial only for Open dogs.

Swiss Field Trials

There are several Workingtests organized by the Swiss Retriever Club (RCS, every year but only a very view Cold Game Tests. 

There are 3 official classes: Beginners, Novice and Open (on CGT only Novice – called C-test - and Open - called “B-tests“).

All tests can be found here:

All results here:

To get a working title you should get 2 CACT’s at Gold Game Tests in Open class. There are only a few champions probably due to the limited number of Cold Game Tests. No Flatcoat has ever gained the Swiss Working Champion title.

In 2018 there will be a new working trophy only for Flatcoats, called the “Flatcoat Challenge Trophy “. It will be given every year to the best Flatcoat owned by a member of the Swiss Retriever Club, having the best results from Workingtests and Field Trials during the last season.

Spanish field trials

Spain was just starting up during the 2005 season. There were no titles for Novice trial winners. Dogs at open trials could earn a CACT, like in Belgium. We would appreciate if someone could inform about the current status. They organize 2-3 trial weekends every year, in the north of Spain – one trial each day like in France. They have a kind of Novice trial, but without any title I think. In Open they do CACIT trials, where you can get the International ticket. The last weekend in the season is the Championship in the same time. The level is quite high. I think no flatcoat was ever awarded in an Open trial.




















       © Alex Faarkrog 2017