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Discussion Starter #1
What are y’all’s thoughts on skipping junior and going straight to senior? I’ve got an 18 month old that has never been to a hunt test and I’m wanting to take him this year. Would it be a wise decision to skip junior and go straight to senior?
He does good on multiple marks on land and water.
He does good with handling him on blinds and he is steady.
We haven’t worked on holding blinds or down the shore marks or blinds.
Any advice would be good, thank you
 

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Have you ever run a hunt test yourself or seen one? If not - try to go watch one and watch all the stakes if you can, just to give yourself an idea of what each level is about.

Also - if you have a club in your area, maybe see if they offer training days. These are a great way to get into a 'test' environment, but still be training. Gets you and your dog used to 'performing for a crowd' - or 'judges' sitting in a chair at the line.

And,,,,,if you haven't run down the shore blinds or marks - you aren't ready for senior tests. Judges will often set up down the shore blinds and marks at this level.

I'd be inclined to suggest you run juniors first. If your dog is comfortable with senior level stuff, he should be quite well mannered going to the line and sitting for the birds. My guess is you will see some behaviors that you don't expect. If you do run Juniors, do hold his collar, even if he is steady. It is allowed and you can use it to emphasize to him the need to be steady in a test situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for the advice I can agree with you on going to Junior first if they set up stuff I haven’t done with my dog.
I’ve been to a few HRC tests but haven’t been to an AKC test and I’ve never ran one myself. There is the Tulsa retriever club about 2 hours from me that I’ve been meaning to check out.
 

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I know some people skip JH and go to SH. SH test are much more involved than a JH test. While going to training groups and training days definitely helps. Most retrievers seem to know the difference in a hunt test day. Some well trained dogs in heeling, sitting, marking, handling during the week get their dander up at the actual test. The excitement level for a dog at a test multiplies 10 times. Definitely hold the dogs collar in JH as suggested. Just when you believe the dog is steady he'll break and look back smiling. It's not a race to get a title. Enjoy yourself and your dog.
 

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I have run hunt tests for a long while. And some people run their dogs directly in SH, but many regret it!

It usually is not a training problem where the dog is not trained to perform the skill, it is the event itself. Take a well trained dog and put a group of fellow dog owner sitting/ standing around the test area. Add two or three 'holding blinds' where your dog has to work his way through with you, while other dogs are being run ahead of him. Your dog can smell the birds, gun powder, hear whistles and commands being yelled, and guns going off....and he gets to sit behind a blind while all this goes on. Usually, an inexperienced (hunt test dog) is about out of his mind, as he comes up to the line for his first run. Thankfully, in the JH level you can bring him to the line on lead and hold him so he does not break on the gun shot of the first bird...of course if your first test is a SH....this would not be true your pup cannot be on lead when you come to the line and you cannot touch him at the line....and if he breaks...your out!

For me...running JH test teaches the dog how to run in Hunt Tests...!
 

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Why do you need to skip stakes? AKC allows for double staking. If you believe your dog will be more challenged in SH, put the dog in both JH and SH. JH you most likely get a ribbon, but you and dog gain experience in both stakes. SH might not get a ribbon; or maybe you do. still line time in both will help you gauge where you are. As a newbie handler you are also part of the equation, more line time for you is a good thing too.
 
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Assuming your dog is ready......I spend most of my HT career working at them, but when I wasn't working and only had a dog or two I'd double stake them. They loved more birds and kept me from getting bored, plus I met more people in the gallery, the marshals, and the judges. The more you do it, the less stage fright you experience, or at least that was true for me. And stage fright makes to dog nervous, which is not a good thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you all for the information. I never thought about him losing his mind because of everything that is going on. That makes a lot of sense. We will be going to the junior stake for the first test or 3 and then progress to SH. I didn’t know you could run them in both JH and SH on the same day. I may do that later on for sure.
 

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Agree with all the above posts. I am still a newbie. With my current dog, I started with only showing in Junior a time or two, then double-staking in Junior and Senior while I picked up the last ribbon or two in Junior. Most of the Senior tests I've been in have had a water blind down the shore. They are usually short, but your dog will be out if you can't get him in the water and keep him there! Run Junior your first weekend and watch the Senior test. If you think he can do it, double stake the next time. If not, finish Junior and keep training for Master and Senior.
 

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I skipped Junior with my 2 most recent dogs. They were ready for Senior when I ran them, and both went 5/5, with really good performances. It takes some discipline on the trainer's part. I remember wanting to run them when "they might be ready", but I resisted the urge to do so. Glad that I did!

Double staking a youngster is a bad idea, in my opinion. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Dogs definitely get excited at tests and trials. It's a 2 edged sword in that heightened awareness makes great performances possible. But, it can also overcome the self control that you have worked so hard to instill in them. Even experienced dogs can get too "high" at a trial sometimes. With a young, less experienced dog the greater chances of acting up during 2 tests on the same day or weekend can unravel a lot of training quickly.

Good luck with your dog! I hope you have as much fun as I have!
 

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Nothing wrong with going directly to senior or even master stakes if both dog and handler are ready. For a dog that’s not ready entering any level is a bad idea. Remember you can’t correct anything at a test and a dog will learn that real quick.
I would much rather spend the time training to a higher level than going to a bunch of events to get a junior or senior tile.
I would definitely recommend going to watch an event. If you volunteer to pitch in and help they would probably let you run as test dog.
 

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Skip junior. But read the rule book and maybe take judging class. Probably be dropped at line if you don't. Tip ,Make sure you can do a blind running between two trees.
 

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Way back in the early days of Toller entry into the AKC, we had a handler triple stake a dog named Halsey. The dog had already completed in the full NAHRA program. He completed JH, SH, and MH all the same day. There's a long and involved story about Nancy White, the owner, but the short of it was that she simply enjoyed competing and since Halsey had proven that he could do it, she did it on a lark.
 
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