Do you remember the Kennel Club?s (KC) original Working Gundog Certificate (WGC)? Pioneered by the Club as a non-competitive way of establishing a dog?s working ability, it seemed a good idea at the time. In case you can?t recall how a dog qualified, here?s an extract from a press release issued by the KC in February 2006:

There are two stages to achieving the Working Gundog Certificate ? a preliminary stage and a secondary stage. The assessment days are designed to be enjoyable, non-competitive and informative. Dogs are assessed against straightforward criteria to show control, obedience, temperament, hunting and retrieving abilities. Preliminary stage assessment days are usually organised by gundog clubs, gundog training or other approved groups and individuals. They usually take place during the summer months and dogs and handlers are assessed using simulated exercises with dummies. Having gained the Preliminary Certificate and had suitable experience on shoots, the secondary stage assessment can be taken on an established shoot with dogs working in the role of Gun, beater or picker-up.

Though a number of dogs managed to pass both stages and gain their certificates, the whole exercise was slow and unwieldy, while I suspect it proved too difficult to find a sufficient number of shoots to host the second stage, not to mention judges to do the appraisal. The format of the WGC was changed in August 2007, and the WGC relaunched at Crufts in 2008.

Today, a dog can still gain a WGC, but it only requires a single day retrieving dummies, without ever having heard a shot fired or seen a bird fall. This makes it a much lesser test of a working dog than the KC?s Show Gundog Working Certificate (SGWC), which at least requires a dog to go along to a shoot, hear gunfire and retrieve a warm bird. Thus, the WGC is an award that no one in the working gundog world takes too seriously.

However, its impact on the show world is much greater, as any dog that has gained its WGC is eligible for life in the Special Working Gundog breed classes at Crufts. Competition to get to Crufts is intense ? this is the easy option and it?s one that irritates many people who both show and work their dogs.

Incidentally, the Special Working Gundog classes aren?t popular with the spaniels. At Crufts this year there was only a single entry each in this class from the cockers, Clumbers and English and Welsh springers, though no fewer than 22 with the Labradors and 28 with the golden retrievers.

You can email David at STgundog­

  • Mary Reeve

    Hello David,

    I have read this article with great interest, as I have just spent 2 1/2 years training my young working golden retriever. Most of the handlers that I train with have Show Labradors. We all took the first stage of the WGC together,my dog and I passed well and I collected my certificate from the KC. Now my colleagues are all taking the 2nd stage and I am barred,as I cannot qualify for Crufts. My dog is pure working very dark Holway/ Standerwick type.Yes I go picking-up with him, but this does not Show all of his ability! I cannot understand the reason for my not being able to take the 2nd stage test, along with my colleagues after all he is a proper working dog. The shoot has been good enough to have the Show Dogs, surely I can do my 2nd stage at the same time. I am quite incensed by this ridiculous situation. Please help!