You’ve played ball with your Retriever about a million times in your backyard or at the park, but do his fetching abilities automatically mean he’d make a good hunting companion? Not necessarily. The only way to really know is to participate in a Retriever Hunting Test.
Ever since the first AKC retriever hunting tests were held in 1985, the focus has been on how well your dog retrieves birds under all types of conditions. You don’t compete against other handlers and dogs; each dog is assessed based on his own merit (as opposed to competing in a Field Trial where a winner is chosen). There are three hunt test levels – Junior, Senior, Master, and titles can be earned at each level. Judges score dogs on their natural ability to mark and remember a fall, on their hunting style, perseverance or courage. They are also scored on learned abilities such as steadiness, control, response and delivery.
This non-competitive environment creates a very warm and communal atmosphere where everyone encourages each other to succeed. Even though you have to remain quiet during the test, you should hear the round of applause afterward! It’s not to be missed.
First, we recommend you get familiar with the various terms used in Hunting Tests. See the glossary here.
The next step is to find a local AKC club who gives Retriever Hunting tests, which always take places on weekends. Go to one, or several, to see how they work. We also recommend getting a copy of the rules and regulations, and attending one of our Hunting Test Seminars so you can learn about the standards that your dog will be judged on, the requirements to acquire a title, and other related information.
You’ll start out with the Junior Hunter test, which tests your dog’s potential as a hunter, his desire to find birds and his ability to point long enough for you to reach them. After passing the Junior test, you can then continue on for Senior and Master Hunter tests, which involve significantly more control and your dog is evaluated against more advanced standards such as marking, perseverance, steadiness, control, response and more.
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