"So what is big is not always the Trout nor the Deer but the chance, the being there. And what is full is not necessarily the creel nor the freezer, but the memory." ~ Aldo Leopold
"The Greatest Obstacle to Discovery is not Ignorance -- It is the Illusion of Knowledge" ~ Daniel Boorstin
Ken has given you all the great advice anyone could ask for.
My suggestion is that you train like the test, with people throwing the birds for you so they are not coming from your side. Have your dog get used to being in a holding blind and hearing all of the commotion as they move through a few blinds while other dogs are testing. Add some time with him sitting in his kennel while guns are going off and dogs are testing. Those are the things most people don't account for in training. (myself included)
We just ran a double header, and were dog #14 on day one. Peyton was wired by the time we were moving through the blinds from hearing everything while in her kennel. Even though we had worked excessively on her delivery during the two weeks prior, and she would hold the duck forever without dropping it, she dropped all of them on the test day. Of course she picked them right back up and delivered them. On the second day we were dog #2, and she did so much better with her line manners and delivery because she hadn't been listening to all the commotion. As soon as the test dog ran, we were out getting staged, so there was no real time for her to get amped up.
As far as live flyers, we had at least one on both the water and land each day, and they were not always dead. I watched a few dogs go out and refuse to pick up the bird because it had a wing flapping. (most of us pay extra for the flap...) One bird in the water was alive enough to swim and dive in his feeble effort to avoid the dog. There were also more then a few dogs who refused to get in the water. One just ran around the pond barking at the duck and peeing on everything.
As far as collars go, I say if the rules allow it, which they do, hang on to that bad boy. No matter how steady your dog is in training, you don't want to fail because he got a little too excited and took off when you had the tools you needed to keep him under control. My plan was to try Peyton's last JH leg without holding her...Nope. I had that collar in my hand, because I didn't want to waste $75 on what would boil down to my poor decision.
Anyway, whatever you decide, good luck.
It worked for you again, /Paul
Be there early. Pay attention at the handler's meeting to how the test is run. Direct your questions or concerns to the judges at that time. Be sure to tell the judges it is your first test when you go to the line (they will often cut you a little slack.) If you don't pass-don't leave. Continue to watch the test and learn from other dog/handler teams. Go watch the higher stakes and just enjoy the experience and opportunity to observe.
Bring a whistle, a duck call and waterproof shoes/boots. Water for your dog, a chair for yourself and as mentioned food and drink.
Regarding the test, birds, water, distractions, terrain...Prepare for everything and expect anything!
Five Star Fielders Choice
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference! -Winston Churchill
There's those that just TALK about doin' it and those that just DO IT!
Welcome to RTF. Below is my very first AKC junior hunt test (water series) and it was only 3 years ago. As you can see by my white hair I got a late start in this game but having a blast doing it. The very best of luck to you. I apologize for the camera work, itís hard to get good help when you only have family to pick from.
You can't win if you don't play, every dog has his day