To qualify to undertake the Show Gun Dog Working Certificate a show dog must win either a challenge certificate, three of which make a show champion, or a first prize at a championship show. The latter may sound relatively easy until you consider the entrants run well into double figures in each class as a rule and the shows are spread, as are field trials, from Scotland to the south of England.

It can take considerable dedication to gain the necessary qualification to allow a dog to undergo the test to confirm they still have the necessary ability within to be a true gundog.

Whilst the day was run on the Ampton shoot at Great Livermere, by kind permission of Peter and Elsie Hammond, heartfelt thanks must be given to the shoot syndicate, who had taken the day and who gladly gave up the birds shot on the first drive at Paleys Wood. On the day thick, freezing fog was everywhere and there was doubt the event could take place.

However, people had come from as far afield as Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire and the show went on. Everyone was present in good time and tension was running high as the dogs were lined up for the judges – Jim Gale and David Barnes.

“The first test is that the dog should remain steady and quiet under gunfire. As the birds streamed over the line and the shots rang out, leads were gently slipped off.”

All the dogs on the left of the line remained by their owners’ side. The fog was such that the right of the line was out of view. Once the drive was over the task of retrieving the game tenderly to hand was undertaken.

Thankfully we had exactly the right number of birds down for the dogs involved. It has to be said things did not go entirely smoothly. One entrant clearly felt after sitting through a relatively long drive it was only right and proper that a dog should have a good scamper, and he disappeared off over the horizon! In due course he was reunited with his owner and the pair completed the second part of the certificate successfully. Dogs also have to prove they can hunt and they will retrieve from water.

The terrain in which the birds fell during the drive was such the judges felt a separate exercise to prove the hunting capabilities of the dogs was unnecessary and so we moved on to the Pump House Pond.

“Some handlers had come prepared with towelling robes, duly embroidered with their kennel name, and this proved a wise move as the ice formed in the hair of those with uncovered heads.”

The majority of the dogs were keen to retrieve their dummy although one or two needed more encouragement than others.

On the day there were two withdrawals, so 19 dogs were put through their paces. Of those, 17 achieved their Show Gundog Working Certificate and one show champion, ShCh Downstream Destiny’s Child JW, became a full champion for her owner, Becky Johnson.

There are now owners of 17 more golden, labrador, flatcoat and curly coated retrievers who can say their line retains their natural working instincts and they have a certificate to prove it. Let us hope they all get bitten by the bug and, who knows, we may see them in novice and novice dog/novice handler working tests this summer.