What’s it all about ~Alfie – this Gundog working lark?

There are two main types of Field working events.  Field Trials and Working Tests, plus the slightly lesser known Spring Pointing Tests. 
Field Trials are held during the shooting season (August to the end of January) and replicate as closely as possible the work a dog and handler would do if they were on a shoot, i.e. hunting, pointing and retrieving game for the guns.
There are three stakes in Field Trials.  Novice, which is confined to dogs which have not gained a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in an Open stake or a lst in other stakes. All Aged , which is open to all dogs of a specified breed/s regardless of their age but which can have other restrictions imposed by the organising society.  Open, this stake gives dogs the chance to gain qualification towards the title of  F.T. Champion.
In all the stakes there is a maximum of 12 runners (competitors) and each dog is run individually under two judges and is given a beat (piece of ground) to work.  It will be expected to quarter (hunt) the ground in search of game, to point the game it finds and stay steady on point until instructed by the handler to flush the game out for the guns to shoot.  When it has flushed the game it must stay steady until told to go and retrieve the shot game, which it should bring tenderly to hand.  If more than one bird has been shot, the judge will indicate which one the dog should be sent to retrieve.  Sometimes a bird is wounded and cannot fly and will run for cover to hide, this is a ‘runner’ and the dog will always be expected to retrieve this before a dead bird.
The above is the ideal situation and with luck and training everything comes together and the dog “fills its card” and will gain an award,  however,  in a Field Trial everything is natural and nothing is set up artificially (except the final water test, where a dead bird is used to test the dog’s swimming), so there are many and varied ways a dog can transgress and these are a few examples:-
There might not have been any game on it’s beat, in which case it will be given a second run later, but, if it missed game which was there to be found then it will be eliminated, as will the dog which gets over enthusiastic and prematurely flushes the game without holding a steady point,  along with the dog which doesn’t stop when the game is flushed and runs straight to the fall of the bird when it has been shot.  Any dog which whines or barks when working, chases or crushes the game when retrieving will also be eliminated.
Working Tests are held during the summer, mainly between March and September and usually have three or four exercises for each class.  The classes are Puppy, Novice, Graduate and Open.  The exercises are set out by the organisers and the judges and all the dogs in each class work on the same piece of ground.  Generally the tests consist of :
 hunting (sometimes live, caged game is hidden for the dogs to point, but not always)
two retrieves, which could be a mixture of seen, blind (hidden) or split (two retrieves each from a different direction)
water – a retrieve either from or over a stretch of water.
Retrieve articles are usually canvas dummies but occasionally cold game such as pigeons or rabbits are used in the higher classes.
Working tests carry no status as far as becoming a champion, but are a very good introduction to competitive field work in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere.  They are also an excellent way to assess how a dog’s training is progressing as the judges will give help and advice if asked at the end of the day.
Spring Pointing Tests are just that.  Dogs are tested on their pointing ability.  It is not a competition, each dog is graded according to how well the judges consider it has worked either Good, Very Good or Excellent, or it could be ungraded if it hasn’t found game to point or has chased a hare into the next county. They are held on open fields when the partridge have paired but haven’t begun nesting.  No game is shot and there are no retrieves.
Show Gundog Working Certificate  This is a qualification which can be earned by a dog which has won one or more CC at a show and if a Show Champion gains a SGWC (or any Field Trial award)  then it is awarded the title of Champion.  To achieve this, the dog must hunt, point, retrieve tenderly, enter water and swim, to the satisfaction of the judges at a Field Trial.  Steadiness, however, is not essential (but obviously preferable).

This is a brief, but hopefully not too confusing, outline of each element of competitive gundog work.  If you would like more detailed information or help on how to get started on training your gundog,

contact ……Scottish munsters

index : showing : Articles from competitor @ field trial