The Boykin Spaniel is a hunting breed who excels at both flushing and retrieving game. Boykins are well suited to participate in AKC hunt tests and spaniel field trials. However, owners who are new to fieldwork might find hunt tests or field trials intimidating. A good venue for beginners is the Working Ability Certification Program that is sponsored by the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America (BSCBAA).
The purpose of the Working Ability Certification is to give Boykin Spaniels and their owners the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in a relaxed, noncompetitive environment. The program was designed to encourage the development and use of the Boykin’s natural flushing and retrieving abilities. Importantly, this program is accessible to all Boykins and handlers, even those with minimal training in fieldwork.
Boykins participating in a Working Ability Certification test must complete two flushes, one land retrieve, and one water retrieve. Dogs are judged on several criteria, including remaining steady at the line until the start of the hunt, efficient quartering in search of the bird, flushing the bird upon finding it, and retrieving the bird after it is shot. Dogs are not to show fear of the gunshot, and they should return birds without excessive damage that would render them unfit for consumption.
Dogs who pass the test do so at one of two levels, satisfactory or excellent. Those who finish at the satisfactory level earn a Working Dog Certificate (WD) and those who finish at the excellent level earn a Working Dog Excellent (WDX) certificate. The certificates are issued by the BSCBAA.
The WD/WDX certifications are accessible to all Boykin Spaniels. Several Boykins have earned a WD Certificate with minimal training.
The most important step in preparing for the test is to desensitize your Boykin Spaniel to gunshots. It is also helpful to practice land and water retrieves. Dogs who are not gun shy and who are familiar with retrieving birds often succeed at the test by using their natural flushing ability. Thus, the Working Ability Certification program is a good test of a companion dog’s hunting ability that provides the dog and his owner experience in fieldwork.
With further training, spaniels who complete the WD/WDX certifications are capable of proceeding to AKC hunt tests and field trials, and successfully titling in those programs. —Jeff Engelmann, Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America, January 2015 AKC Gazette