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Retriever Hunting Tests

Join In The Fun

If you would like to join the fun of retriever hunt tests, this introduction will help you get started.

What does your dog have to do?

Retriever hunt tests are offered at three test levels. Junior, Senior and Master. Beginner handlers and dogs should start at the junior test level. Any dog that is an eligible breed, is AKC registered and at least 6 months old, can participate.

As you may have seen from the junior retrieving hunt test video, dogs in the Junior level (most basic) are required to retrieve 4 birds total during a test. 2 birds must be retrieved from land and 2 from water at distances up to 100 yards on each retrieve.

Your dog’s performance will be evaluated based on these four abilities:

1) Marking – is the dog’s ability to make a mental note of the location of the downed bird when allowed to see the fall. A dog will retain that in memory until he is sent out to retrieve. Proficiency can be shown by reaching the area of the fall and systematically hunting it out, or moving directly to the bird.

2) Style – is measured by its eagerness to locate and retrieve in an enthusiastic manner. They should appear happy and excited yet obedient and alert in pursuing the fall.

3) Perseverance – is shown by determination to stick to it and complete the job.
There should be a willingness to face rough cover with no hesitation and should demonstrate systematic and aggressive searching.

4) Trainability evaluates a dog’s steadiness, control, response and delivery.
A dog should not break or leave the line until the handler gives the command.

How does my dog earn the title of, Junior Hunter (JH)?

Each of these abilities are rated on a score of 1-10. To receive a qualifying score (pass the test), a dog must receive qualifying scores of at least 5 in each of the 4 categories. The overall score must equal 7 or above. A total of 4 qualifying scores (4 passes) must be earned to be awarded the Junior Hunter (JH) suffix title. At the time the 4th pass is recorded on your dog’s record, an official title certificate is automatically mailed to the owner of record where the letters JH are incorporated into your dog’s official registered name.

Why should I do it?

The retriever hunt test is an excellent outdoor activity for you and your dog to enjoy while also getting to meet some great people. Fellow retrieving people have developed lifelong friendships creating a sense of community within the sport. Many have grown accustomed to seeing their friends at events or making new ones. The enjoyment of watching these wonderful dogs perform is what helps bring people together. When you enter a hunt test with your dog it is a partnership between you and your hunting buddy. When you prepare for a hunt test with your dog, you further develop your relationship by reinforcing your role as a working partner. There is tremendous satisfaction for the owner or handler when seeing their dog’s success! There are some great resources and references available on how to begin training and preparing your dog for the junior test. Basic obedience such as sit, stay, come, heel will be needed in the early stages.

How can I see what a test is like?

Attending your first hunt test as a spectator rather than participant is a great way to see what a hunt test is all about. It will provide you a good understanding on what will be expected of you and your dog.

All AKC hunt tests are conducted by AKC retriever clubs throughout the year and can be found by using the AKC Event Search. Be sure to use these quick, easy steps –

  • click on the state(s) you are looking for
  • click “Performance Events” click “Hunt Tests click “Retrievers”
  • enter your date range – both a start and end date
  • scroll down and hit “Retrieve” button

The calendar will provide you all details about the upcoming hunt test such as location, date, times, name of the host club, judges, directions, etc. Spectators can attend for free. Participants who have dogs entered are required to pay an entry fee per dog entered to help defray the cost of hosting the event. All this information is contained in what is called a premium list.

Can I join a local retriever club?

Besides attending a test, you should also get to know your local retriever club. You may want to consider becoming a member. To learn what club is near you, take advantage of the AKC Club Search and Directory.

  • select club type: Hunting Test
  • select a state

Some clubs will hold training sessions or fun days to encourage new participants. They will also conduct AKC Judging Seminars often in classroom like settings. All seminars are listed online and are presented by AKC Field Reps. These seminars are open to anyone who would like to attend, not just judges.

My dog is ready to run and retrieve now what?

Once your dog is ready to be tested, you will need to enter an upcoming test in advance and by the closing deadline. For entry information refer to the host club’s Premium List which is accessible thru the AKC Event Search.

Resources and Contacts to Remember

For anyone looking to become involved in AKC Retrieving Hunt Tests, it is important to get familiar with the Regulations & Guidelines for AKC Hunting Tests for Retrievers.

If you need assistance, please call the AKC Performance Events Department 919-816-3908 or send us an email at:

The AKC has a team of representatives in the field who can help you with questions and who can offer their expertise and assistance in how to get you and your dog started. Please read about what they do and who they are by viewing The Role of An AKC Field Representative.

Thank you for your interest in AKC Retrieving Hunt Tests! We hope to see you join in the fun with your dog out in the field!