|The Hunting Retriever Club awards the titles of Started Hunting Retriever (SHR), Hunting Retriever (HR), Hunting Retriever Champion (HRCH), Grand Hunting Retriever Champion (GRHRCH) and Upland Hunter (UR). The Club strives to test retrievers under simulated hunting conditions and evaluates traits such as marking ability, nose, style, control and desire. |
The National Shoot to Retrieve Association (NSTRA) has enjoyed notable success and increased participation. NSTRA field trials are liberated-bird trials in which guns shoot birds produced by their pointing dogs. Handlers may elect to have a designated gunner shoot for them. Dogs accumulate points by pointing, backing and retrieving downed
birds. The number of shells tired and the time required to produce birds are critical factors in declaring a winner. In NSTRA trials, which are open to all pointing breeds, dogs are not required to be steady to wing & shot. The opportunity to shoot over one's dog is in no small part accountable for NSTRA's growing fraternity.
AKC's Licensed Springer Spaniel Trials also judge a dog's skills in finding liberated birds (pheasants, in most cases) and retrieving shot birds. In both puppy and all-age Springer trials, dogs must be steady to wing & shot and are tested on their complete field performance. Some trials also will include a water test.
American Field Magazine licenses breed-specific field trials for Vizslas, German Shorthairs, Brittanys, Red Setters, Golden Retrievers and Weimaraners, as well as runs all-breed pointing-dog trials. There are trials in which both judges and handlers are on horseback behind far-ranging bird dogs. There are endurance trials that test the hunting and conditioning of dogs to the utmost. There are wild-bird trials, commonly referred to as cover trials, run in grouse and woodcock coverts throughout the range of these birds.
In cover trials birds are not shot; instead a blank gun is fired when a bird flushes. In these trials a dog must quest with drive, find and point birds, hold point with style, be steady to wing & shot, and back. Handlers are always on foot, although judges occasionally may be on horseback. Truth be told, cover dogs give me goosebumps and are my personal favorites.
American Field recognizes tests conducted by The American Bird Hunters Association, The National Bird Hunters Association, and the US Complete Shooting Dog Association as well as the aforementioned National Shoot to Retrieve Association. Each field-trial association has separate and distinct evaluating criteria, but all are dedicated to evaluating quality of performance, nose, bird-finding ability, level of training and control.
In addition to field trials licensed or sanctioned by such governing bodies as the United Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club and American Field, many local bird-dog clubs host fun trials, pheasant trials and myriad other events designed to give hunting dogs and their owners a chance to head afield and perhaps show off a bit. Field trials have an honorable history in the US. There are events available for dogs of every level of training and every breed. There are tracking trials, retrieving trials, agility trials and obedience trials. If nothing else, join the gallery and simply watch a trial. You'll certainly have fun-and you may even get motivated to train your dog to a higher level.