by Mike Aldrich, Executive Field Representative
Hunt tests were designed to evaluate the abilities of various types of dogs by testing them against a standard. Committees that were comprised of representatives of the parent clubs of the breeds to be tested designed these tests. An example of this would be a representative from the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America on the Pointing Breed Advisory Committee. Dogs would be tested at various levels and when the requirements of a level were met, the dog would be awarded a title. In the case of the sporting breeds, these titles would be the Junior Hunter (JH), Senior Hunter (SH), and the Master Hunter (MH). The sporting breeds include spaniels, retrievers, and pointing dogs.
Getting started in hunt tests is as easy as doing what your mother always told you to do when you were a kid before you could go out to play after school. That is “do your homework.” Assuming you have a dog you want to enter in a test, join a local dog club that relates to your specific breed or type, such as a spaniel, retriever, pointer, etc. Check on the AKC website for clubs in your area and contact that club’s representative. Attend club meetings and training sessions if they have them.
Next, attend an AKC Hunt Test Seminar. These seminars are listed on the website. This will give you a list of upcoming seminars and where they are to be held. These seminars will provide you with the standards that dogs will be judged on, the requirements to acquire a title and other related information. It is of the utmost importance that one understands the rules and regulations before entering an event. Also on the website, you can download all the rules and regulations or you can write the AKC and request that a rulebook be send to you. The online store will also have videos on hunt tests.
Last would be to attend a hunt test and observe as many dogs as possible. With spaniels and pointing dogs there can be some walking involved so be sure to wear the proper footwear. Also in these two types of tests there will be some game killed by official gunners. It is mandatory that a blaze orange article of clothing be worn in order to follow these dogs. A cap is not enough; a hunting vest or jacket is preferable. Go to more than one event before you enter for the first time. For retriever hunt tests all dogs will be handled from the same site. All observers are requested to wear dark clothing that one might use while duck hunting. The most often worn attire is a camo shirt or jacket but it is not mandatory. There will be a lot of shooting so ear protection is suggested.
Committees and judges will set up tests to simulate hunting conditions as close as possible. Clubs choose individuals for judges that have been involved in these events and achieved success. It is important that judges be experienced not only in competing with these dogs but also in training and hunting of them. With experienced judges quality testing will be achieved and the end result will be a title that one can be proud of.