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Thread: British field trials?

  1. #1
    Senior Member John Lash's Avatar
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    Default British field trials?

    Just curious. I know little about them. I've seen videos of people hunting with them and little snippets of trials.
    Dogs sitting at heel, the judge picks a dog to retrieve. What are the other requirements? Is a dog ever judged on a double or triple?
    Can you handle on a mark? Is there ever a series with only blinds?
    John Lash

    "If you run Field Trials, you learn to swallow your disappointment quickly."

    "Field trials are not a game for good dogs. They're for great dogs with great training." E. Graham

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Lash View Post
    Just curious. I know little about them. I've seen videos of people hunting with them and little snippets of trials.
    Dogs sitting at heel, the judge picks a dog to retrieve. What are the other requirements? Is a dog ever judged on a double or triple?
    Can you handle on a mark? Is there ever a series with only blinds?
    I'm not sure if you want an answer on British Trials based on British Trials in UK, or if you are talking about them in an American context? But I can give you an answer from a British perspective from UK.

    Yes, dogs when they are under the judges are off lead at heel, either walking up or sitting in a drive. Each pair of judges judges a pair of dogs, and the dogs are run in numerical order, so there is a strict procedure as to who gets which retrieve. The judge doesn't just select.

    The trials are governed by rules/regulations laid out by the kennel club. You can read more here. http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/49562/ftregs.pdf
    This tells you about procedure, rules and also describes some of the eliminating faults, major faults and credit points that the dog is measured against.

    Because the trials are run on live shoot days, what each dog gets is completely unpredictable/random. There is nothing set up, and no two retrieves will be the same. For example, one dog might get a nice mark on a c@ck bird, whereas the next might get a blind retrieve down the line on a hare. Yes, you can handle on a mark, but because each retrieve is looked at individually you will be judged accordingly. Some 'marks' are sometimes unmarkable, for the dog (due to terrain, several birds being shot at once, height of cover etc) .... lots of handling on a straightforward mark would be penalised, but on a tricky delayed mark with other factors some handling, as long as it is kept neat/tight, is acceptable. Again, it is very hard to generalise. You have to look at each scenario and judge accordingly.

    Normally on a FT, the dog is only sent for one retrieve, and then it is the turn of that dog's partner to retrieve. So each dog is not sent for two or more retrieves consecutively, unless the 'partner' dog fails, and then the other dog performs an 'eye wipe' and then they will have another retrieve straight after, as 'their' retrieve.... confused yet?!!.... it is a bit complicated! (refer to J regs)

    "is there ever a series with only blinds?" - theoretically you could end up with only blinds in a trial, or only marks, but in practise it is unlikely. You usually get a mixture, but sometimes you may have more of one than another. And the judges would want to see that a dog is fully tested in all areas, so they would try to make sure, where possible, towards the end of the stake that they had seen enough for that dog to have been completely tested and win. But sometimes you have to just work with what you have. In a driven stake, for example, it is likely that the majority of your retrieves are going to be cold blinds, often some time (an hour or more) after the birds have been shot. There is not so much opportunity for testing a dog's marking skills in a driven stake. Unless you can send it for a retrieve during the drive, which is not normally done, unless in the case of runners.

    Happy to answer any other questions you may have. Hope that helps.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Colonel Blimp's Avatar
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    John,

    This is a brief description of what happens at a UK Retriever Field Trial: it's a cut 'n paste job from an old piece on Eric Begbies' site, written by my friend Jeff Boston an FT judge. I've deleted the bits about Spaniels and Pointers, and tidied up some other stuff.

    "In contrast to a US Trial, UK FT's are conducted on (as near as possible) a normal shooting day, nothing is set up, staged or artificial, so the concept of "series" that test for certain specific skills is unknown; as a handler in an FT you never know in advance what you will be asked to retrieve or from where. Many times the dog can be sent for a retrieve, flushing unshot game on the way out and back which the dog is expected to ignore. The dog is also expected to walk in a line of maybe six dogs, 3-4 judges, 6-8 guns, stewards and game carriers, at heel, off lead, while birds are flushed and shot also to sit quietly while another dog is working, all without commands. At a drive (as opposed to a walk-up) the dogs will sit quietly in the line while scores of birds are flushed by the beaters over the dogs and the guns in the line, many birds will fall some dead some wounded and flapping and some will get up and run, all of which can happen within a few yards of the sitting dogs. The three most crucial elements for a UK gundog are gamefinding steadiness and obedience.

    In the UK our dogs are never expected to retrieve from 400 yards, multi entry, multi-point water blind etc. etc. This is not what UK gundog work is all about. The dogs are judged on their natural gamefinding abilities plus their response to their handler, on actual work in the shooting field. Dogs are trained to work in an entirely natural environment although 250 yard retrieves are not uncommon. In a UK walked-up Field Trial the birds are retrieved as they are shot. You could be asked to do a blind retrieve of snipe from a swamp for which you would be given a approximate guide as to the area, or a pheasant runner out of sight in dense woods, perhaps a wounded hare deep in a valley thick with bramble, maybe a small grouse from acres of gorse/heather covered moorland, geese or duck from lakes or rivers.

    In UK trials, as well as being 'in-line' for long periods of time, the dog will be kept on the lead with the handler during the course of the day rather than in the truck. Therefore a dog could be on the lead for a couple of hours waiting to go in line while all around it game is being shot and seen to fall. The dog has to have the right temperament and training to be able to cope with this and then go 'in-line' and remain quiet and steady. When on the lead the dogs are not being technically judged, but they are still expected to remain quiet and not receive harsh corrections from their handler. Believe me, there can be lots of standing around waiting at UK trials, as you have to wait for sufficient game to be shot and retrieved by other competitors before your dog gets its chance.

    How steady is steady? A dog is expected to sit quietly at heel throughout the time it is in the line unless called upon to retrieve. If walking-up the dog should be by the side of the handler, should stop when the handler stops and walk when the handler walks. If the dog is forging ahead of the handler and there is a gap between the dog and the handler it is too far and may result in disqualification, in any event it would be noted in the judges book and could count against it in the final stages of a trial. As far as noise, whining or giving tongue is an eliminating fault, I have been trialing for many years and cannot ever remember a dog barking or yelping whilst under the judge. The reasons behind these requirement is that if I am out shooting I want my dog to walk quietly at heel and off lead, stopping when I stop etc. and retrieving when commanded. I don't want a dog that is over excited and noisy, disturbing game and needing my attention to control him. I am shooting, the dog has his job.

    Handling on marks: If at all possible it is avoided, but when constantly working on ground containing lots of game the dog can get sidetracked or perhaps the terrain may be difficult and so he may need handling onto the mark. Also, during a drive several birds may be shot in view of the dog, but the handler is usually directed by the judge to send the dog for a specific bird. The bottom line is that it is vital the bird is retrieved as failure could mean being put out. The judge will assess how much of the handling was acceptable and how well the dog responded and mark accordingly.

    Blinds: These are situations where the dog hasn't seen the bird actually shot, the judge may seek confirmation from the Gun as to the location which may be fairly precise or at times approximate, again the judge will assess the quality of the dogs work, hunting and the ability of the handler to hold the dog in an area. If the dog fails to find, another dog will be called upon and given the exact same information. Subsequent dogs who were in the line at the time the bird was shot may be called on and will usually be sent from the same place. In the event of all dogs failing the judges will go forward and search the area, if they find the bird all dogs are disqualified. So again, in contrast to the US if your dog sees the fall, it's a mark; if he didn't it's a blind. In both cases you've got what you've got and must get on with it.

    Structure of Trials
    : You have to be a member of the club staging a FT in order to enter; there are probably 170 such clubs in the UK, retrievers, spaniels, HPR's plus breed specific clubs. Regarding retrievers there are mainly three kinds of FT. Novice, All Aged and Open. If the dog wins a novice it can only enter AA or Open, winning open stakes is the only way to achieve FTCh status and the only way of getting into the annual retriever championship. There are 1 day stakes [normally 12 - 16 dogs] and 2 day stakes [20 -24 dogs]. All FT's are grossly over subscribed therefore the runners are decided by a draw [this is the first bit of luck you need], it is also why most people are member of many clubs [28 in my case], so you also have to be prepared to travel.

    Judging: Judges are appointed by the UK Kennel Club. To become a judge takes a few years, an obvious deep knowledge of FT's and the shooting scene, you must have handled a dog to at least one win. You start as a non-panel judge then move up to a 'B' panel and then an 'A' panel. In order to achieve B then A status you are judged by existing 'A' panel judges at a minimum number of trials over a minimum number of years, their evaluations are discussed by a meeting of the Field Trial committee at the Kennel Club and will determine the success or otherwise of an applicant.

    There are two main judging systems for retrievers, 3 judge and 4 judge. Under a 3 judge system there will be six dogs in line, two for each judge and under a 4 judge system there will be four dogs in line, two for each pair of judges. Dogs are scored an a,b or c, + or -. In reality if a dog picks up a 'b' it is likely to be out as normally only 'a' retrieve dogs are taken forward to later rounds. If dogs are of a high standard even 'a-' will be dropped.

    Training: UK training is mostly positive reinforcement; we do not use FF, ear pinch, nerve hitch, heeling stick, training table or e-collar. That is not to say some trainers are not heavy handed but it is not common, most training is reward based.

    Hope this is of interest, Jeff"

    Following Jeff's post there was a question about how the award FTCh was earned. MattA99 advised:

    FTCh (Retrievers) - achieved by winning at least 3 days worth of Open stakes (i.e 2 x 2 day stakes, 3 x 1 day stakes or a 2 day and a 1 day stake)

    To qualify for opens you effectively have to have won a novice or all-aged stake. (You often can technically enter an Open without, but you will get less priority in the draw than qualified dogs and Opens are greatly over-subscribed so its not worth trying!)

    To qualify for the Retriever Championships you need one 'A' qualification (1st place in a 2-day Open) or 3 'B' qualification (1st in a 1-day Open or 2nd in a 2-day)

    The Retriever Championship is run along the same lines as a normal Open, but since 1996 (I think) has been run over 3 days rather than 2. There is no limit on the number of dogs running other than the number of qualifying events, it currently end ups being around 40 + runners.

    The location for the Championships are organised more than a year in advance, and are greatly restricted by the number of shooting estates that could logistically hold such a large competition and provide sufficient game. Not many small estates would want a few hundred spectators descending on their ground!

    FTW is not a title granted by the Kennel Club - a pedigree issued by the KC will only show FTChs. However it is commonly used to describe any dog that has won a field trial on breeders pedigrees. Consequently a FTW could have just won one trial or could have won a number of all-aged stakes and two 1-day Opens! (Some people only count a FTW if it is Open level)

    I have never known of anyone in the UK describing a FTW as 'titled', but have seen a few US importers of UK-bred labs describing them in that way on their web-sites. (My bold, in this as in all others Eug)

    FTAW - a dog that has won an award - certificate of merit or higher in a trial. This is another 'unofficial' term. Any trial award winner gets a 'stud book number' in the annual Kennel Club Stud Book. (They can also get this by winning certain show awards - the stud book contains all KC recogniosed breeds)



    Last edited by Colonel Blimp; 12-10-2013 at 09:03 AM.
    Thank you, very kind, Mine's a pint.

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    Senior Member rmilner's Avatar
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    Eug,
    A great job of painting a picture of British field trials.

    For those that might want some more detail and a lot of history, plus a wealth of excellent photographs, Graham Cox and Gareth Davies have just published a great book, The Best Of The Best. It is a history of theIGL Retriever Championship from its birth in 1909. It aslo includes some prior field trial history. Graham Cox and Gareth Davies are both “A” Panel judges and have great experience as field trailers. Both have made up field champions. Cox has judged the retriever championship, serves on the Kennel Club advisory committee, and writes regularly for Shooting Gazette Magazine. Davies has qualified dogs for 2 Championships and received awards of merit in both. The book is very well written and very informative on the early history of retrievers and field trials.
    The book is pricey at 60 GBP, which is about $98, but I found the high quality justifies the price. If you want to see the events and processes that gave rise to the ancestors of all our retrievers, this is a great read.

    I ordered one from Pernice Press by internet from PernicePress and had it in about a week.

    Here is a link to a photo of the jacket and a press release:http://duckhillkennels.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5035

    Here is link to Pernice Press website: www.pernicepress.com
    Last edited by rmilner; 12-09-2013 at 10:20 AM.
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    Awesome descriptions, thanks. These do sound like true hunting dogs expected to use their nose, not just their eyes Wish we had something like this here.

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    Senior Member John Lash's Avatar
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    Thanks, there's a lot of talk on RTF about British dogs, trials and training. Positive methods, FF and collar vs. non collar.

    I just wondered what was expected of them.
    John Lash

    "If you run Field Trials, you learn to swallow your disappointment quickly."

    "Field trials are not a game for good dogs. They're for great dogs with great training." E. Graham

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    Senior Member HNTFSH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogluvah View Post
    Awesome descriptions, thanks. These do sound like true hunting dogs expected to use their nose, not just their eyes Wish we had something like this here.
    We do. It's called hunting.
    We shoot dogs with a Canon

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    Quote Originally Posted by HNTFSH View Post
    We do. It's called hunting.
    I, for one, am glad my hunts are not judged.-Paul
    there's no good reason to fatten up a retriever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Lash View Post
    I just wondered what was expected of them.
    What's not expected of them, John, is water in any way, shape or fashion, unless it's found evaporated in the low-lying clouds over a British field trial.

    Viva la difference and all that, but that's the biggest difference - besides democracy (see Jeff Boston's comments above on how you "enter" a British FT) - in our trials v. theirs.

    MG

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    Quote Originally Posted by paul young View Post
    I, for one, am glad my hunts are not judged.-Paul
    I judge plenty of them. From the next marsh over usually.
    We shoot dogs with a Canon

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