about Tollers

Levels of Canadian Kennel Club Competition

Tollers can compete with other retriever breeds in all three areas of the Canadian Kennel Club field competitions: Working Certificate, Hunt Test and Field Trial. In the Working Certificate and Hunt Test programs the dogs are competing against standard requirements, and providing that the dog completes the test successfully the dog can pass the test.

However, Field Trials are different. They are true competitions in the sense that dogs are scored according to their performance on each of the elements of the trial and the highest scoring, or ‘best dogs of the day’ are placed in a first, second and third placement.

The Toller’s original purpose was that of a combination of tolling dog and non-slip retriever. It is really very heartening to see so many people getting involved in this game the Toller was bred to do. Field training at all levels requires teamwork.

And, many thanks must go to all the behind-the-scenes people who go out and throw birds and sit in canoes for hours on end. Without them the tests would not be held.

The CKC Working Certificate Program is divided into three levels. Only one pass at each level is necessary to achieve the title. To pass the first level, Working Certificate(WC), a dog must retrieve two birds on land and two birds on the water. These are singles – only one bird is thrown at a time before the dog is sent to retrieve it. The marks are short, less than 75 yards on land in light cover and 25 to 40 yards on the water. Dogs can be restrained at the line. The WC is an instinct test and is well within the capabilities of most Tollers. Delivery to hand is not required at this level but the birds must be brought back close to the handler.

The Working Certificate Intermediate (WCI) is comprised of a land double (two birds are thrown before the dog is sent, the dog must remember where both birds land and deliver the first one back to the handler before retrieving the second) in cover of about 75 yards in length. The dogs are off leash at all times and may not be physically restrained by the handler. All birds at the WCI and WCX level must be delivered to hand. The dog must also complete an honour on land, which means that the dog must sit quietly and watch another dog retrieve. (This is the downfall of many Tollers who feel that all retrieves should be theirs!) Dogs who complete the land part successfully then do a double water retrieve of 40 to 50 yards in length.

The Working Certificate Excellent (WCX) is the highest title in this program. It is comprised of a land double, 50 to 100 yards in length, and a walk-up honour where the honouring dog accompanies the working dog on a short off-leash walk to a predetermined spot before the first bird is thrown. In addition to the first two birds thrown, there are two blinds – one on land and one in the water of 50 yards in length. A blind is to simulate a hunting situation where a bird comes down that the dog did not see. The dog must go in the direction the handler sends him, stop on a whistle and change direction at the handler’s command. The dog is not to just run out and hunt all over the field but must show control and obedience to the handler’s instructions. There is also a water double of similar length to the WCI before the water blind is run.

In the Working Certificate program all gunners are seen in the field and a shot is fired before the bird is thrown. All shots, except for one in the WCX, are fired by the gunner in the field. This is a big help in aiding the dog to focus on the gunner and therefore locate the birds being thrown.

The CKC Hunt Test program has three levels, Junior Hunter (JH) which requires three passes, Senior Hunter (SH) which requires four or five passes and Master Hunter (MH) which requires five or six passes. The lower number of passes is sufficient if the dog has the previous title (i.e. a JH would count as an SH leg and require only four passes at the SH level to title).

In Junior Hunter the dog must retrieve four single marks, two on land and two on the water. The dogs may be gently restrained and all birds must be delivered to hand. Marks are approximately 75 yards in length.

The Senior Hunter test is comprised of a land double, a water double, two blinds, one on land and one in the water, and a quartering test to find birds down in the field. Distances are in the 100 to 125 yard length usually. Dogs must be steady at all times.

Finally, the Master Hunter is comprised of a land and water triple, a land blind, a water blind and a quarter to flush test. Distances are again 100 to 125 yards in length.

Hunt tests are much more complicated than the Working Certificate program. Cover is usually higher, the gunners are hidden and changes in terrain are used frequently. They are set up to more accurately simulate actual hunting conditions and shots are fired from the line, not from the bird thrower in the field. Dogs are often run from a boat, duck calls are used and handlers must be in camouflage or dark clothing. These tests are a lot of fun. Handlers may be asked to sneak up hills or through cover carrying a gun with the dog crawling beside them (or in some cases, if they are out of control, running ahead of them). Decoys are used extensively and the tests are limited only by the judges’ imagination.

Although many Tollers compete in the WC and Hunt Test programs very few have ever entered and successfully competed in Field Trials. Field trial marks and blinds are much longer, many up to 400 yards in length. Marks are multiples, triples or quads, and are usually very technical. The cream of the crop of the retriever world compete at these tests and there is heavy competition for the ribbons and prize money offered for the top three dogs on the day. It’s not that Tollers are unable to compete at Field Trials, quite the contrary. The dogs that have competed in Field Trials have done very well, but the majority of Toller owners see the Working Certificate Program and the Hunt Tests as a sufficient judge of their dogs’ ability and trainability.

Quick Links

You might also be interested in these topics:

The Canadian Kennel Club Breed Standard. As published in the Canadian Kennel Club Official Section, December 1997.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of Canada is the official voice of Tollers in Canada. Established in 1974, the club was formed to promote and educate about the breed.

Considering adding a Toller to the family? We’re not surprised – Tollers are incredible dogs! But before making an appointment with a breeder, you should consider a few things.