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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry if this is teaching anyone to 'suck eggs', but it may be of interest to some?

In the UK (for retrievers), we have two sets of competitions, Field Trials (which are run in the shooting season - usually from September to end Jan) on live game, and Working Tests, which are run in the 'closed season' (spring/summer - from about March to August).

Field Trials are the pinnacle of our competition, and the only recognisable award for a UK gundog. The height is a Field Trial Champion, although you will sometimes see letters before a dogs name (FTW), which denotes a Field Trial winner (this may be a winner of Novice or Open stake). The Kennel Club only recognises Champions though.

Working Tests hold little status, and are really only intended as a means to an end, as a marker for how training is going and preparation for trials. However, there are a growing number of people that treat them as a sport in their own right...

So, the differences:

Firstly, working tests are run using dummies (bumpers) only, or sometimes cold game, as they are out of season. They can either be a series of 'static' tests where handlers go to a station and the judge explains the test to them, which will either be a mark or a blind, or a combination thereof. It is never usually more than two retrieves, and each of these 'tests' is scored out of 20 points. If it is a double then a failure on one element of the test, would mean a failure of that whole test, and a score of zero (and ineligibility for an award).

Tests can be run pretty much on any terrain: fields, woodland, heath, moor, over water, fences, through hedges, ditches etc, etc. They usually have a 'bunker' or two on the way to the dummy!

Usually the day will consist of about 5 of these tests.

There may also be a 'walk up', where several dogs are walking in line with the judges, to simulate walked up shooting.

Tests are classifed as follows:
Puppy - up to the age of 18 months
Novice - any dog that hasn't had a FT award or achieved a 1st in novice or a place in Open
Open - open to all dogs (the highest level)

Anyone with a KC registered retriever breed can enter a working test, and there is no pressure on places, so if you enter you get a run.

Field Trials are a whole different ball game! Firstly, there is only a limited number of places in each stake, so just trying to get a run is hard enough. Potential entries are put into a hat and drawn out in a ballot. Consequently, handlers/owners need to join lots of clubs just to have the chance of getting a run. It is not unusual to be a member of 50+ clubs when you are competing at Open level, and even then you will probably only get a handful of runs if you are lucky in a season.

So, FTs are run as Novice Stakes (for 12-16 dogs, 1 day) or Open Stakes (2 day = 24 dogs, 1 day = 12 dogs). There are also All Aged stakes, which are all 1 day stakes, and a sort of inbetween the two!.... To qualify into Open, a dog currently has to win either a novice or an All aged stake.

Field Trials as I have mentioned are run on live game and are run as close to a 'normal' shooting day as possible. They are either walked up or driven. Each contestant will come into line and have two retrieves under one pair of judges, and then if they are successful go under the other pair of judges for the second round. A 'cut' is usually made after the second round, and the judges take through the dogs that are 'clean' with straight A retrieves. Usually there are 4 or five rounds, consisting of one or two retrieves for each remaining handler. It is impossible to say what sort of retrieve you will have as it is all spontaneous 'live' shooting. So you will never know what is going to get up. It could be a wing-tipped partridge which drops into the sugar beet and starts running at 100mph, or a rabbit shot on the margins. A nice fat cock pheasant that is sticking out like a sore thumb on grass or a really challenging bird tucked into some heavy cover. It's a VERY unlevel playing field, and a high degree of luck comes into it. Yes, you need to have an immaculately trained dog, but you need lady luck to shine on you and give you the retrieves to show off your dog (rather than send it home early!). Retrieves are judged accordingly though, and anything particularly tricky such as a spectacular runner, or 3-dog eye wipe will be given extra credit, and will 'lift' you.

Retrieves are graded as: A+, A, A- or B. If you have a B retrieve you are going home! A A- may stay in, but be unlikely to win, but may scrape an award...

Credit points are:
Natural game finding ability, control, drive and style, quiet handling, good retrieving and delivery, nose, quickness in gathering game, marking ability

Eliminating faults are:
Hard mouth, whining or barking, running in, out of control, failing to enter water, refusal to retrieve, changing game whilst retrieving, chasing, without merit

Major faults are:
Unsteadiness at heel, being eyewiped, disturbig ground, poor control, slack and unbusinesslike work, failing to find dead or wounded game, noisy or inappropriate handling, sloppy retrieving and delivery

That's probably enough for now! If anyone has any questions or wants clarification I am happy to add to the thread.


For anyone who really wants to read up on the whole thing(!!), here is a link to the UK KC 'J regs' which are the rules and regulations that govern our trials and tests: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/download/4436/ftregs.pdf
 

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Oh interesting, thank you.
Here there are no restrictions on the number of entries and club membership matters not. An open event will have from 50 to over 100 dogs entered.
Field trials always use live shot ducks and or pheasant as well as dead birds which saves money and requires less help in the field.
The hunting season has no bearing on our field trials except that those held on public game lands will not be permitted during nesting or public hunting season. The majority of events take place on private estates and are held any time of year a club elects. We generally do not run dogs in the heat of the summer and cold of the winter so events are timed to take place in the north and south accordingly.
If one wanted to follow one of the circuits north and south and run every weekend he could enter over 25 field trials each year.
 

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Here are some things we look for.


Retrievers should be judged on their natural and trained abilities.
Natural Abilities are of great importance and include:
• Marking and Memory
• Intelligence
• Attention
• Nose
• Courage
• Perseverance
• Style

Trained Abilities include:
• Steadiness
• Control
• Response to direction
• Delivery

The Ideal Retriever:
• Marks the fall of a bird;
• Uses the wind;
• Follows a strong cripple (game finding ability); and
• Takes direction from the handler.

Retrievers should perform equally well on the land and in the water.

A retriever's performance should be a "FINISHED" job and pleasing to the eye.


MARKING PRINCIPLES


Accurate marking is of primary importance!
A retriever should recognize the depth of the “area of the fall”, stay in it, then quickly and systematically “hunt it out”. Don’t expect a dog to mark what the dog cannot see. Consider background when considering distance.
• Birds should be conspicuously visible in the air and to the ground.
• Field trials: guns should be conspicuously visible
“Marking is a combination of memory, lining, training and genetics”.

STYLE!

Style is apparent in every movement of a dog and throughout his entire performance, including:
• Gaiety of manner, approaching the line
• Alertness on line
• Eagerness and speed on retrieves (Note: speed does not necessarily equate to style. Style of older dogs: watch tail, ears, gait)
• Water entry
• Pick up of birds
• Return with birds
Style makes for a pleasing performance, evidenced by:
• Alert and obedient attitude
• Fast determined departure, both on land and into water
• Aggressive search for the fall
• Prompt pick up
• Reasonably fast return

Dogs that want to look at and retrieve birds
“Style is the appearance of confidence and grace, even under pressure.” Ernest Hemingway

“Style is something in the movements of a dog when working, which gives to the onlooker the impression that the dog is determined and likely to succeed in his task.” Charles Alington, 1929

Manners

Retrievers should sit quietly on line and in the blind, walk at heel and assume any station designated until sent to retrieve.
Control includes
• Line Manners
• Walking tractably “AT HEEL”
• Assuming and staying in position on line
• Remaining quietly beside handler after delivery
• Returning promptly when called
• Also: minimal creeping, no bird stealing
Response to Directions
Delivery to hand

TEST COMPLEXITIES
• Distance (drive, fatigue and depth perception)
• Diversions / Tight or Remote
• Sloping Terrain
• Cross Wind
• Cover
o Shorter cover (enough to hide birds) / shorter / check down birds (over run on fast surface)
o Rough cover / long birds (tough going) > Fair to Early / Late Dogs?
• Retired Guns (depth perception)
• Live Bird attraction
• “Tightness” (or lack of ): lines or falls
 

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Nice, Looks like something my dog would really enjoy, I better not tell her that there's a field venue that would let her retrieve rabbits, she'd have us tickets on the next boat over ;)
0215 l200 dollar rabbit.jpg
 

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OH, you can look it up on your end some how.
Back in 2004 teams from the US and Canada flew over and participated an International Gun Dog Event at Sherbourne Castle. Think they came in 4th.
Several well know and accomplished trainers made the trip.
Anyway don't think anyone ever did it again but they probably had fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes, I heard they came over for the 'World Cup' event a while back. That is the big International test. This year was 16 teams from across Europe. It is a Test though, obviously not a Field Trial, as out of season, so set up on dummies, but some nice challenging retrieves.
 

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at 2:08 those 2 dozen pheasant coming right overhead all at once and guns unloading would give our dogs heart attacks. LOL
 

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Kennel maiden,
I am curious if the average Joe in the UK participates in FTs or Working tests. Here in the States, the majority of competitive Field Trialers would be considered wealthy. Our Hunt Tests have a much broader base and the average working class owner can compete (really not compete as they are judged against a standard rather than the other dogs) successfully.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
at 2:08 those 2 dozen pheasant coming right overhead all at once and guns unloading would give our dogs heart attacks. LOL
LOL indeed, I guessed as much. That is pretty standard fayre in a field trial in UK. And driven stakes can be very heavy, especially down South with the dogs sitting steady with the guns, while around 50 birds are put on the floor in a single drive. That is why we have such a requirement for steadiness, really over and above all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Kennel maiden,
I am curious if the average Joe in the UK participates in FTs or Working tests. Here in the States, the majority of competitive Field Trialers would be considered wealthy. Our Hunt Tests have a much broader base and the average working class owner can compete (really not compete as they are judged against a standard rather than the other dogs) successfully.
Yes, pretty much anyone can compete, and does, in either. Although Field Trialling at the highest level does require a bit of resources and a lot of 'diesel' travelling around the country chasing after runs! Entry fees and nominations (as we pay a couple of £ every time just to go into the ballot/draw, successful or not), club membership, cost of live game training days, travelling, days off work and B&B accommodation if you are away from home on two-day stakes can all add up.

Working Tests are much cheaper. For just £6 entry fee, you can run in a test, if you are a club member and enjoy a pleasant day out amongst friends. There's no big prize money or anything (there isn't for FTs either), but just the 'glory' of knowing your dog did well, and maybe a Certificate or Rosette to take home...
 

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Thanks for taking the time to type all that out, Kennel Maiden. To ME it looks like more fun, though I have nothing against the US FTs which are suited to many folks here and their line of dogs. It's good to have options for different tastes and different dogs. I would so love to have the option of the UK style FTs here and have been mulling over the possibility of starting a club on the West Coast. Were you aware that a handful of English, Irish and Scottish FT trainers have come to the US to give seminars and judge UK style trials here?

There is a strong coalition of interest in the Mid-western states and I truly hope it spreads so I don't have to keep buying plane tickets and flying my dog several states away.

Thanks again for your effort and information!
Jennifer
 

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There are lots of opportunities to run the "UK style" events down here in MS. They are a fun way for your "HT/FT" dog to see 100 flyers in a day! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Jhenion - yes, one of my colleagues was recently over in the States doing a seminar and competition I think. Can't remember exactly which State though.
 

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We had the opportunity to watch the 2004 International Gun Dog event. Had a blast. Mike Lardy was the team captain w/ Martin Deely assisting and setting up local training. Andy Attar, Bo Taylor, Connie Cleveland and Brad Bowyer made up the US team. It was interesting to see the diffferent testing styles as well as how the dogs reacted to some very different set ups - Mulitple retrieves over fences, hunt 'em blinds, "blinds" run into heavy woods where the dogs were out of sight but expected to hunt up randomly placed bumpers, very short water retrieves and blinds. The "bumper in the woods" test presented a real challenge to the US team as the woods was flanked by a long open meadow that paralled the woodline. It was an obvious inviting window where the US dogs expected a long uphill blind. So some fought commands to get into the woods while most would pop out to the meadow or come back in the open to check in with their handler - "Hey Dad, I'm not supposed to be out of sight!"
Connie's Eli was penalized for a very slight vocalization while Brad's dog was penalized for taking a quick roll on its back while another was retrieving. Beyond the test setups the whole competition presented other challenges. Over here, pups are kept in the truck or tied out and can snooze while waiting for a run. There the entire team was out all day, waiting, running a test, then walking to the next test. And handlers could not watch a test so saw the setup for the first time when they came to the line with their pup. No chance to observe how other dogs handled the factors.
A lot of fun. Great dog work. Good ale and banter with the various teams and spectators. And the all girl, all blonde Swedish team was the highlight! :)
 

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If anyone is interested the North Mississippi British Retriever Club is hosting a UK style working test on July 14th in Oxford MS at Sporting Life Kennels. The entry fee is $20 dollars. There will be a novice test and an open test. Ribbons and certificates will be given along with cash prizes for 1st-3rd place in each division. Please don't let the British name deter you from coming if you have an American dog Boykin etc. We have had several folks with American dogs run in our UK style field trials. This will also be a good way for some people who are interested in running our trials in the fall and spring to meet some of us and see how the trials are run and what is required of your dog. The entry forms aren't up yet but should be up in a couple of days at northmsbritishlabs.com or contact Ben Ferguson at 662-404-2052.
 

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So jealous I can't be there, bloodorange, but I hope you get a great turn-out and have a blast! Would love to see a Boykin work one of those trials!

Let us know how it goes and keep us updated on events. The more we talk about it in public, the more interest it will get.

Good luck,
Jennifer
 
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